ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
LONDON • Just when it seemed Arsenal had discovered the resolve and momentum to propel themselves into next season's Champions League, they reverted to being, well, Arsenal.
The old flaws of recent years - weak defending and character in particular - returned at Goodison Park to dash Unai Emery's hopes of reclaiming third place and tighten their grip on a top-four finish.
Everton were more comfortable and deserving winners than yesterday's 1-0 scoreline suggests.
Phil Jagielka, a late inclusion in Marco Silva's starting line-up, pounced early to give the hosts a third consecutive Premier League victory and their second in successive home games against a member of the "Big Six".
The Portuguese manager's side were dynamic, industrious and resilient in every department, while Arsenal were found wanting on every score.
They have recorded only one away win in the league since November and, with only two of their remaining six matches at the Emirates Stadium, the biggest obstacle to their chances of rejoining the European elite is obvious.
Emery's latest attempt to remedy the sequence was as ineffectual as his team.
NULLIFYING THE GUNNERS
We got one goal, but could have had a few more. They're a very good team and have proved that all season, but it's nice to beat one of the so-called bigger boys. I'm not normally a match-winner, but it was good. They're the best goals, tap-ins from two or three yards out.
PHIL JAGIELKA, Everton's match-winner, savouring his goal.
BAD DAY AT THE OFFICE
It was a disappointing result. We played okay, but we didn't have many chances to score. We conceded an unlucky goal at the beginning of the game from a throw-in and it was difficult to play against a deep defence.
BERND LENO, Arsenal goalkeeper, lamenting his side's slow start to the game.
Jagielka was summoned into the starting line-up only minutes before kick-off after Michael Keane fell ill during the warm-up.
The 36-year-old has endured a frustrating campaign on the sidelines, with injury and heightened competition restricting him to only three league starts, but that was forgotten as he swept Everton into a lead their first-half display richly deserved.
The breakthrough reflected much of the opening 45 minutes - direct and effective by the hosts, weak and careless from the visitors.
Lucas Digne, who was also feeling the effects of a virus before kick-off, launched a long throw into the Arsenal penalty area that Jagielka won comfortably.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin won the second ball with a diving header that deflected back to the veteran defender and, onside and unmarked, Jagielka beat Bernd Leno with a close-range finish to become the oldest player at 36 to score in the league this season.
The early setback for Arsenal continued their record of conceding in every league game on the road this season, the only club in England's top-four divisions to do so.
But, while Everton were given the licence to dictate proceedings in the first half, they were also helped by Emery's 5-3-2 formation and his decision to omit Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the starting line-up.
The introduction of the duo at the start of the second half, and the switch to 4-3-3, was the manager's admission of his own mistakes.
The brittle defending and lack of movement were, however, entirely the responsibility of his players.
The Gunners improved as an attacking unit after the interval, but the Toffees were the brighter, stronger and more dangerous unit throughout.
Only their failure to land a second blow on Arsenal's glass jaw kept the contest alive longer than it should have been.