Arsenal began their season in scintillating style with an emphatic 6-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park. The players turned what looked to be a potentially tricky opening fixture into a cakewalk and sent out a message of intent to their doubters.
The game was effectively over by half-time courtesy of three goals before the break and the Gunners put the Toffeemen well and truly to the sword with three further strikes in the second half. Louis Saha's injury time reply was barely consolation for the home fans, most of whom had left the stadium long before the final whistle.
Last week, I suggested that the players needed to hit the ground running in the early games of the season. Yesterday, they did just that. It was a magnificent performance. The team attacked with fluency and style and they defended in numbers. The new formation that had been trialled during the pre-season looked to be highly effective as Everton were simply cut to ribbons by wave after wave of crisp, incisive passes and tireless Arsenal running.
The pick of the goals was arguably the first by Denilson. Some excellent work by Nicklas Bendtner on the right saw the Dane beat two men and then slide the ball inside to Cesc Fabregas. The Arsenal captain simply helped it on its way into Denilson's path and the Brazilian hit a beautiful curling shot into the top corner of the net. It was a goal that would have lit up any game.
The second and third strikes came from the central defensive pairing of Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas. Both players managed to lose their markers at set-pieces and exacted the maximum punishment on the Everton defence by heading home with strength and accuracy.
With the game effectively over as a contest by the break, the only concern for Arsenal fans was that the players might take their foot off the gas in the second half and allow the home team back into the match. As it was, there was nothing to worry about. The Gunners were even better in the second half and added three further goals - two from Fabregas and one from Eduardo.
Last season Everton had a decent tilt at breaking into the top four and only finished nine points behind the Gunners. Yesterday though, particularly in the second half, the gulf in class looked far wider than last season's standings suggested. The home team were outplayed in every department. To have said that they were made to look ordinary would be generous. They were actually made to look a complete shambles by an Arsenal side that passed the ball the way Arsene Wenger's teams are renowned for and took their chances with merciless efficiency.
It would be hard to pick out individual players for particular praise because it really was a superb all-round team performance. That said, early impressions of Thomas Vermaelen were extremely favourable. He was forceful in the tackle and displayed excellent timing and positional awareness. Though he is only six feet tall, he showed plenty of competitiveness in the air even against taller opponents. His goal just before half-time was the perfect way to announce his arrival but fans will be more heartened and impressed by what he brought to the defence.
As fabulously enjoyable as yesterday's performance was, it is important not to get too carried away with the result. Certainly, the players sent a strong message to the critics who suggested they would only be making up the numbers in the Premier League this season but nothing is won on the first day of the season. It was a performance to savour but already thoughts are moving ahead to Celtic's Parkhead on Tuesday night and the first leg of the Champions League qualifying round.
The Celts will be going into the match on the back of an impressive away win of their own this weekend and the Gunners will have to show the utmost professionalism and a steely attitude to get a result in what will be a cauldron of an atmosphere in Glasgow.