For a few minutes, before they flooded back on to the Holloway Road, Arsenal’s supporters savoured this trip down Easy Street. They reminded themselves of who sits top of the league.
They serenaded the returning Emile Smith Rowe. Behind Aaron Ramsdale’s goal, one fan provided a drum roll between each pass and each cry of Ole.
Down below, Arsenal led Everton 4-0 and all that was left to do? Prolong the pain for Sean Dyche’s side.
It was some mood swing. Only an hour of so earlier, the air had been toxic and tense in north London.
Dyche had barely emerged from the tunnel when abuse began being hurled his way.
Arsenal had been frustrated by Everton before Oleksandr Zinchenko changed everything
It was Zinchenko’s fantastic assist for Bukayo Saka that got Arsenal rolling in a 4-0 victory
Frustration started to boil over inside the first few minutes, as Everton hunkered down, hit Arsenal on the break and used every opportunity to play this game at their pace.
As venom rained down, one member of the visiting bench even turned to dish out a few verbals of his own. Everton were on the wind-up and it was working a treat. Arsenal were disjointed; they struggled to carve out a clear opening for 40 minutes.
And then everything changed.
Oleksandr Zinchenko, a left back in old money, found himself near the right flank after collecting the ball in central midfield and weaving away from a couple of challenges. He stayed there, received a pass from right back Ben White, feigned to drive inside before sliding the ball into the feet of Bukayo Saka.
All of a sudden, Everton’s excellent defensive shape had been sliced open and with three devastating touches, Saka had rifled the ball home.
As simple as that, as brilliant as that. As ludicrous as that. Zinchenko is meant to be an inverted full-back. This felt more like watching football through a mirror.
That goal, five minutes before the break, eased Arsenal into their groove and opened the floodgates. Then, 10 minutes from full-time, Zinchenko closed the show. Another cute through-ball put another team-mate in behind.
Zinchenko could prove to be Arsenal’s most crucial weapon as teams test their patience
This time, Eddie Nketiah fed Gabriel Martinelli for the Brazilian’s second goal of the night. Cue the drum roll and the songs and the return of Smith Rowe. Arsenal moved five points clear of Manchester City and their game in hand had passed without a hitch.
How different it could have been without Zinchenko’s itchy feet.
‘We needed a magic moment there and Alex and Bukayo produced that, and then I think the team grew,’ said manager Mikel Arteta.
‘He (Zinchenko) brings something different to the team. His mentality and his quality to do certain things allows us to be unpredictable and to generate a lot of threat every time we are in ball possession.
‘He’s played those kind of games against low blocks 200 times and that’s very helpful… you have to produce those magic moments and take that initiative. To have that mentality (of): “I’m going to do it on the pitch, I’m not going to wait for someone else to do it.”’
Arteta has bristled at recent suggestions that his side have problems breaking down deep defensive lines. But make no mistake: a month after beating Arsenal, Dyche’s Everton again made the league leaders look rather ordinary for 40 minutes.
Sean Dyche’s side were well in the game before Saka’s goal opened up the floodgates
No player had more key passes or touches during Wednesday’s game than Zinchenko
Opposition teams have, without a doubt, cottoned on to the importance of crowding out Martin Odegaard and doubling up on both Saka and Martinelli.
Unfortunately, taming a wild left back is not quite that simple – at least not without opening up space elsewhere. And so, in this title charge, when more teams will test Arsenal’s patience, Zinchenko could prove their most crucial weapon.
Come full-time on Wednesday night, no player had made more key passes than Zinchenko (two). No one had more touches than the Ukrainian – his tally of 110 was more than double that of any Everton player.
Only William Saliba (108) made more passes than Zinchenko (95) and, as Arsenal enjoyed nearly three quarters of possession, the 26-year-old spent most of his time in midfield, controlling the game, conducting Arsenal’s attack.
Contrast that with Jorginho, who came off after 45 minutes of wayward passing and self-flagellation. And with Kieran Tierney, whose late cameo reinforced a few vital points: he would improve almost any side in the Premier League. In traditional terms, he arguably remains Arsenal’s best left back. But this side don’t really play with one. And that helps explain why they are five points clear.