Arsenal’s record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on his debut and Aaron Ramsey hit a hat-trick in a swaggering 5-1 rout of woeful Everton on Saturday.
Aubameyang vowed to emulate Arsenal legend Thierry Henry after arriving from Borussia Dortmund for £56 million ($ 79 million, 63 million euros) this week.
While it is too soon for such lofty comparisons, the Gabon striker certainly made the perfect first impression at the Emirates Stadium.
Aubameyang, recovered from an illness that had placed his debut in doubt, capped an exhilarating first half from Arsenal with a composed finish to put his side four goals ahead.
Ramsey had opened the scoring and Laurent Koscielny increased Arsenal’s lead before Ramsey struck again to make it three goals in the first 19 minutes.
Aubameyang’s lively debut was aided by three assists from Henrikh Mkhitaryan in his first Arsenal start.
Wales midfielder Ramsey completed his treble in the second half and the only angst for Gunners boss Arsene Wenger was the sight of goalkeeper Petr Cech limping off injured.
Sixth placed Arsenal are now five points behind fourth placed Chelsea, who face Watford on Monday, in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top four finish.
Wenger had bemoaned Arsenal’s defending in their wretched 3-1 loss at Swansea on Tuesday, but the two changes he made were both attack minded as Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan came in.
Aubameyang replaced misfiring France striker Alexandre Lacazette, who has only one goal in his last 12 appearances.
Lacazette had been Arsenal’s record signing until the Aubameyang swoop, but while he has struggled to live up to expectations, Aubameyang quickly set about repaying his hefty transfer fee — with help from an old friend.
Mkhitaryan was making his home debut after arriving from Manchester United as part of the deal that sent Alexis Sanchez to Old Trafford.
Mkhitaryan rarely showed his best form with United, but he and Aubameyang had formed a deadly double act during their time at Dortmund and they were back in the groove as Arsenal took a sixth minute lead.
When Aubameyang slipped a pass into Mkhitaryan, the midfielder whipped over a superb cross that invited Ramsey, timing his run perfectly, to slot past Jordan Pickford from close-range for his first goal since October.
– Aubameyang joins party –
Mkhitaryan went close to doubling Arsenal’s lead moments later with a fierce strike that whistled wide from the edge of the area.
Lethargic Everton were unable to stem the tide and Wenger’s men didn’t have to wait long to claim their second goal in the 14th minute.
Shkodran Mustafi met Mesut Ozil’s corner with a header towards the far post, where Koscielny stooped to head home from close-range.
Everton’s dismal display was ruining Sam Allardyce’s 500th match as a Premier League manager and there was worse to come in the 19th minute.
Afforded time and space by Everton’s statuesque rearguard, Ramsey unloaded a 25-yard strike that took a deflection off Toffees debutant Eliaquim Mangala on its way past the wrong-footed Pickford.
With Arsenal threatening every time they went forward, Aubameyang, who also scored on his Bundesliga debut, was able to join the party in the 37th minute.
Mkhitaryan’s pass split the Everton defence and, although Aubameyang looked offside, the linesman’s flag stayed down as the debutant clipped a deft finish over Pickford.
It was another remarkable goal blitz from Arsenal, who scored four times in the first 22 minutes of their previous home league game against Crystal Palace.
Everton’s capitulation made it a depressing return for Theo Walcott, who was subbed midway through the second half of his first return to Arsenal since his January transfer.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin got one back for Everton with a 64th header, but there was still time for Ramsey to strike again with a low finish from Mkhitaryan’s pass in the 74th minute.