Familiar Arsenal Failings Fuel Everton Fightback

Arsenal's Nketiah and Lacazette in disbelief at missed header.
Arsenal have lost their last three away games / Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Monday night saw the many Arsenal failings that fans of the North London club had hoped were in the past. Coming into the game with no wins in eight league games, Everton were struggling. Blues fan sentiment was almost unanimously in favor of manager Rafa Benitez’s dismissal. So much so, that a walkout had been scheduled for the 27th minute of the game. But someone forgot to send the script to the players.

Everton Pounce on Arsenal Failings 

Arsenal came into last night’s game at Goodison Park off a damaging defeat at Old Trafford last Thursday. The Gunners had shown signs of marked improvement over the last couple of months, but when faced with a fellow “big six” opponent, they fell short. Therefore, a game against struggling bottom-half Everton was just what the doctor ordered. Early on though, the same issues that plagued the Gunners at Old Trafford reared their ugly heads.

In windy and rainy conditions, Everton came out the blocks flying. Pressuring Arsenal players, the Blues took advantage of poor control and pedestrian ball movement. From early on, the Gunners looked disjointed. With no demonstrable target man up top, and a midfield duo of Granit Xhaka – fresh off a 3-month injury absence – and Thomas Partey – in the worst form of his career – the Gunners looked lost and overwhelmed. After Everton’s Richarlison headed goal was brought back for offside, Arsenal were lucky to go in at halftime 1-0 up, thanks to a classy volleyed finish from Martin Odegaard.

Arteta Struggles To Move Arsenal Forward

Arsenal fans would have hoped that a strong halftime talk from Mikel Arteta would see their team more composed in the second half. Unfortunately, the second half presented much of the same out-of-sync, sloppy performance as the first half. In addition to poor use of superior possession – 64% to Everton’s 36% – this game highlighted Arsenal’s lack of potency up front. 

The statistics paint a clear picture of a team that craves possession, but does nothing with it. 82% pass accuracy is nice, but consider how many passes were forward and consequential. 10 shots is ok, but 3 on target is tawdry. Buoyed by the home crowd, Everton grew in confidence. Arsenal rode their luck defensively, saved once again by VAR, which ruled Richarlison offside (by millimeters) once again. But in the 80th minute, the Brazilian would finally score. From an Arsenal throw-in, the Blues snapped up possession, and from a crossbar rebound, Richarlison headed home to go level. From there, the last period of the game was frenetic.

Nketiah, on for an injured Martinelli, should have scored for Arsenal. But missed chances from three yards out seem to be a Gunner special these days. Then, in the 92nd minute, Everton broke. Andres Gomés glided past Xhaka, who couldn’t afford a second yellow, before passing out wide to Demarai Gray. Cutting inside from the left, Gray unleashed a wonder strike from outside the 18-yard box. Arsenal’s Ramsdale could only stand and watch as the ball ricocheted off the right goal post and in. The Gunners would have one more chance, however. In the dying seconds, Nketiah drove forward and passed into the box, finding Aubameyang. But in typical recent fashion, the skipper couldn’t even hit the target. Game over.

Arsenal fans will not only be concerned with the result against Everton, but the manner of defeat. Scared, insecure and unfocused, the Londoners looked as if they were playing with 10 men. Arteta should be very worried. Not about his job, which is under no threat by all accounts – but about the consistent inconsistency that plagues his team.

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