Everton beat Arsenal 1-0 in a Premier League match at the Goodison Park today. It was Arsenal’s 7th defeat in the league this season and they are now at the 4th position in the league table with 63 points in 32 matches. The Gunners, alongside the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United will fight for the two remaining places in the top 4, as Liverpool and Manchester City are assured of the top two spots.
Phil Jagielka scored the winner for Everton in the 10th minute, as the Toffees notched up their 13th victory in the league. They are now at the 9th position on the league table with 46 points from 33 matches. Everton have now beaten both Arsenal and Chelsea in the last month or so, besides drawing with Liverpool.
Having said that, we will now take a look at the 3 primary reasons behind Arsenal’s defeat today:
#1 Insipid performance of the midfielders:
Arsenal started with a 3-5-2 formation, with Sokratis, Nacho Monreal and Skhordan Mustafi starting as the three center-backs, while Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac played as wing-backs. Matteo Guendouzi, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Mohamed Elneny started in the midfield, and Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette played as the two forwards.
However, the Arsenal midfield struggled to cope with their Everton counterparts. Andre Gomes, Idrissa Gana, Richarlison and Bernard dominated the proceedings in the midfield with their timely interceptions and astute passing and did not allow Arsenal to play their free-flowing football.
Arsenal missed the presence of Granit Xhaka in their midfield and struggled to win back possession in the middle of the pitch. Elneny had a very ordinary first half and had to be substituted after the half time. As a result, there was not enough supply of balls to the forwards, and the link-up play was almost absent.
Arsenal needed at least one of their midfielders to play box-to-box, but none of them could do so. On the other hand, Andre Gomes had a fantastic match for Everton and played box-to-box. The former Barcelona player, who is on loan at Everton, was almost omnipresent on the pitch and remained the mainstay in Everton’s midfield. It was his 25th appearance for the club, and one should not wonder if he moves to a bigger club next season.
#2. Substitutes failing to make their mark:
Unai Emery introduced Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang in the second half and took off Kolasinac and Elneny. Kolasinac was given a torrid time by Everton’s right midfielder Ricarlison and he surely needs to work on the defensive aspect of his game.
Ramsey, who is set to leave Arsenal for Juventus at the end of the current season, struggled to make his presence felt in the middle. The same was true about Aubemeyang, who has scored 22 goals for Arsenal so far this season. The Gunners also changed their shape to 4-4-2, with Monreal shifting to the left-back position and Maitland-Niles remaining as the right-back.
However, all those changes meant little as Everton held on to their lead and continued to have the better share of exchanges. They could actually have scored a few more goals, had their forwards like Gylfi Sigurdsson not been profligate.
#3. Mesut Ozil struggling as a forward:
Ozil has played more or less regularly for Arsenal in their last few matches but had a really poor game today. He started the match as a forward, but could hardly do anything of note. He was a peripheral figure in the final third for the majority of the match, and it was quite evident that he was not enjoying his new role in his 17th appearance for Arsenal this season.
He should have been much more comfortable playing as an attacking midfielder. Emery could have started with Lacazette and Aubemyang as the two forwards, and play both Ozil and Mkhitaryan in the midfield. That would have allowed Arsenal to create more chances for their forwards.
However, Emery decided to start Elneny, and his decision backfired to some extent. It seems that Arsenal are yet to find the perfect balance in terms of finalizing their starting eleven, and might have to pay the price by not being able to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League.