Arsenal saw off luckless Everton with two goals in as many second-half minutes from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but their 2-0 victory owed as much to the heroics of goalkeeper Petr Cech.
The stopper was easily Arsenal’s man of the match after a string of first-half saves to keep things level, but Marco Silva’s side were undone by two classic counter-punches and left ruing a string of missed chances.
Despite a host of injury concerns, Unai Emery made only one change to the starting XI that beat Newcastle 2-1 last weekend, with Lucas Torreira earning a first Premier League start – replacing Matteo Guendouzi.
Everton made two changes to the line-up that fell 3-1 to West Ham at Goodison Park. In defence, Keane had recovered from his head injury and was fit enough to take the place of Mason Holgate, while Richarlison made his awaited return after serving a suspension following his dismissal at Bournemouth. He replaced Tosun up front.
Injuries to Seamus Coleman and Phil Jagielka gave young Tom Davies a chance to captain his side at the Emirates and he led a swarming midfield that prevented Arsenal from settling.
In front of a swathe of empty seats at the Emirates, Arsenal were almost caught out in the first two minutes when playing a high line and Dominic Calvert-Lewin bore down on goal, but instead of laying the chance on a plate to Richarlison, he either failed to spot him or ignored the Brazilian, and Cech was equal to his shot.
Opposite number Jordan Pickford kept it goalless with an excellent point-blank stop to deny Nacho Monreal after a dangerous cross from Hector Bellerin caused panic in the Everton box after 12 minutes. Monreal did not get a clean connection, but the England man deserved plenty of credit for a stunning stop.
Arsenal were almost caught out after 20 minutes when Richarlison showed good strength, galloping on to a long ball from ex-Arsenal man Theo Walcott, and Cech was again called into action.
Both sides looked dangerous going forward and following some intricate passing with Lucas Digner, Richarlison turned Lucas Torreira before curling an effort the wrong side of the post.
Moments later, ex-Arsenal man Theo Walcott was brought down by Sokratis on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. It produced a yellow card for the Gunners’ centre-half and also a fizzing Digne free-kick, which Cech palmed over the bar.
Shkodran Mustafi looked to be the Arsenal centre-half who was struggling, as Sokratis had to clear up after his defensive partner on a couple of occasions. Yet it was Sokratis who was forced to come off injured after 38 minutes, following his slide-in on Walcott and Rob Holding replaced him.
Walcott was often guilty of not tracking back and Arsenal’s best opportunities continued to come down the left flank. Aubameyang had a couple of one-one-one chances with Jonjoe Kenny and twice got the better of him as half-time approached, but Lacazette was guilty of getting his feet tangled up and his first touch was poor, then Aubameyang’s cross bounced back off the top of the crossbar with Pickford thanking his lucky stars.
At the other end, a raking, cross-field Gylfi Sigurdsson pass gave Richarlison another good chance, but Cech, who was by far the busier keeper in the first half, made a fingertip save.
Pickford was equal to Aaron Ramsey’s half-volley early in the second half, but all too often, the home side were guilty of giving the ball away needlessly in what was a thoroughly sloppy display.
Mesut Ozil, Aubameyang and Lacazette are better with the ball at their feet, but the service from Granit Xhaka and Torreira to was modest at best and the longer it went on, Everton looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
Arsenal had claims for a penalty when Aubameyang attempted to nod the ball into the path of Ozil and the ball struck the hand of Kenny, but it was unseen by the officials.
And against the run of play, Arsenal went in front in the 56th minute. Lacazette had done little to that point, but after Davies lost out to Ramsey, the Arsenal midfielder’s neat pass allowed the Frenchman to curl a stunning shot past the stranded Pickford into the top corner.
Everton lost their composure and with their full-backs pushing too high up the field, just as they had done against West Ham last week, they were caught out two minutes later when giving the ball away cheaply. It left a three-against-one opportunity to the Gunners and Ramsey put Aubameyang in for a simple tap-in.
However, replays showed that the Gabon striker was a yard or two offside. It was hardly what the Toffeemen deserved for their industrious display.
The goal was Aubameyang’s last contribution as he was replaced by Alex Iwobi, who had looked so lively in Arsenal’s 4-2 Europa League win over Vorskla Poltava on Thursday.
However, he had few opportunities to shine and as Arsenal sat back, Everton looked for a consolation.
Keane’s header brought another fine, low-down save from Cech with five minutes remaining and but for the over-worked stopper, Arsenal would not have managed to keep their first clean sheet of the season.
With a bench that looked lightweight and a midfield that were at times overrun, it is clear that Unai Emery still has plenty of work to do if Arsenal are to challenge for a top-four position.