After 30 minutes of the game yesterday I glanced over to the touchline. Sean Dyche was there in his technical box, stood still, arms folded, looking on. I couldn’t see his face from where I sit, but I could make a pretty educated guess as to what the expression was: pleased.

He’d sent his charges out in to the North London evening air to be difficult to break down. He’d done exactly what we all expected; be compact, tuck in the centre halves and full backs, frustrate Arsenal and try to make the most of any counter attacking opportunities afterwards. We all knew it and with a third of the game gone it looked like it was working.

Everton rarely caused any threat throughout this encounter, save for a few attempts that Ramsdale ably coped with, but this game wasn’t going to be decided in the Arsenal box. It was going to be decided at the other end of the pitch. I think in the ground we as fans all felt that too and so when it’s ticking ever closer towards halftime and the deadlock hasn’t been broken, you start to worry about a galvanised Everton if they get in to halftime at 0-0.

But this Arsenal team has found ways of scoring from nothing this season and they maintained that knack with the first goal. In truth I can’t really remember Pickford making loads of saves before Saka slammed the ball home with his weaker right foot. Well, I say ‘weaker’, but this kid doesn’t seem to have a weak foot, because he’s got a couple of right-footed goals this season and the way he struck that ball to open our account was even better than I could do on my strongest foot. But then again I am not even in the same universe of ability as Saka is. This kid is operating on a different plane and when you have someone who can provide moments of magic like that, you give yourself every chance of winning football matches.

1-0 is always a precarious scoreline though and so for us to get the second before halftime, I think made a huge impact on the narrative of this game, because it was basically done at halftime. The flag went up and that killed my vibe a bit in terms of the celebration I’ll have to admit, but when it was being checked by VAR for saying the offside call was incorrect, suddenly the ripples of excitement started to build. Then when it was given I remember looking around to those people in Block Five that I go with and mouthing to a few “we never get decisions like this!”. That’s obviously a partisan home fans response to any contentious decision, because of course we have had plenty of VAR calls go our way this season and in previous seasons, but in the moment it still feels like a surprise to see them double check the monitors, etc.

So as the halftime beers were being sunk, there was a distinct lack of worry about the second half, as a result of that Martinelli goal. The second half would be a case of ‘how many’ rather than ‘will we do it?’ and that’s pretty much how it panned out. We dominated the ball, controlled possession, never really gave Everton a sniff and both Odegaard and Martinelli added to their goal hauls this season to further improve the ol’ goal difference ratio. In the end, it became a game that felt so much more easier than those first 30 minutes.

Arteta even had time to make plenty of subs to give other players some minutes, which made me wonder whether he’ll do much switching around on Saturday. We play Bournemouth at home and it feels like there is now some room for a little rotation. Trossard for example, felt like the perfect player for this game and played well in that central role, whilst floating across the pitch. I think his inclusion has also activated Martinelli to hit form too – the Brazilian has four goals in his last three games now. That’s the kind of run we need to keep seeing if we’re going to stand a chance of even competing for the title until the end.

The inclusion of Jorginho for this game made sense too; we were always going to have more ball and if it means we can ease Partey back in to the side then that’s all good. Partey came on in the second half to get more minutes and I wonder if Arteta will now look to start him against Bournemouth, having done a good job of easing him back in to the team.

Those are two obvious changes that can be made at the weekend, but other than that you wonder who the manager would want to rest, because there are so many that are undroppable at the moment. Take Zinchenko, for example, who I thought had another good game after a couple of performances that weren’t at the incredibly high bar he’s set at times this season. I thought he was very good last night and Tierney came on towards the end, but he can’t really do what Zinny does, so I’m not expecting Arteta to give him game time on Saturday. Maybe Tomiyasu can come in for White, but again White has looked good in recent matches and so I doubt Arteta will make that change.

Players who absolutely have nothing to worry about in terms of rotation are the likes of Ramsdale, Saliba, Gabriel, Xhaka, Odegaard and Saka. Those guys are the bedrock of this Arsenal team and whilst I can tell you options for rotation that you’d probably agree with me on, if I told you I think that some of those players won’t play at the weekend, you’d probably give me some very funny looks indeed.

But we do have quality players waiting for game time. Smith Rowe got on the pitch last night and that was lovely to see. Nketiah was a sub who came on, as was Fabio Vieira. In a multitude of positions we have players who I would have no problem seeing start in any game right now and that is a testament to the great squad building work that Arteta and Edu have been doing. I haven’t even mentioned that Gabriel Jesus is now back in training and so hopefully we’ll get to see him in the next week or two.

Things are looking rosy right now. There’s still a long way to go, City will still be favourites for the title and I’d expect nothing less, but we are playing our part in making this title race interesting and each win brings us closer towards that positive potential ending to the season we are all craving.

I’ll catch you all tomorrow. Have a good one.