Arsenal edged out Everton 3-2 in a thrilling Premier League game on Sunday. Mikel Arteta's side went up against an in-form Everton team with the hope of continuing their good run of form. Similarly, Carlo Ancelotti's Everton came to the Emirates Stadium looking to stay withing touching distance of fifth-placed Manchester United.
The match was intense and fast-paced with a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a goal from Eddie Nketiah proving to be just enough for Arsenal to pick up the three points. Here are three tactical observations from the game.
#1 Arsenal torment Everton's right flank and vice-versa
Arsenal's attacks were heavily reliant on their left-hand side and similarly, Everton targetted Arsenal's left flank. Considering how open the game was, there was plenty of space for both sides on the wings and this side (Arsenal's left and Evertons' right) of the pitch, in particular, was the primary attacking channel for both sides. After Sead Kolasinac was subbed off for Bukayo Saka, Arsenal came alive on the left-wing. The in-form youngster whipped in a great cross for Nketiah to finish for the equalizer. This came after he got the better of Alex Iwobi and Djibril Sidibe on Everton's right.
Arsenal's second came from David Luiz slicing the Everton defence apart; the Brazilian played an accurate through-ball between Sidibe and Yerry Mina and Aubameyang latched on to finish. The Gunners tormented Everton on this side and two of the three goals came from the Toffees failing to defend their flank properly.
Similarly, Everton had a lot of joy playing behind Saka and Aubameyang. Sidibe got forward repeatedly, linking up with Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson. The visitors had 17 shots compared to Arsenal's nine and had they been more clinical, the Merseyside outfit could have walked away with a positive result.
#2 Set-piece woes
Both of Everton's goals came from set-pieces. Arteta's side were poor in defending corners and free-kicks. There was a clear lack of communication between the defenders which cost the home side on two occasions. The first goal was extremely bizarre with Kolasinac's error in judgment rendering the offside trap useless. Such an error was unnacceptable on the part of a side harbouring hopes of finishing in the top four. The second goal came from a corner which Arsenal failed to clear and the ball fell kindly for Richarlison to tap-in.
Arsenal's defending from open-play has greatly improved over the last few months but they still look vulnerable from set-pieces. The players seem unsure whether to follow a zonal marking system or a traditional man-marking system. This is something Arteta seriously needs to look at.
#3 Xhaka and Ceballos as a double-pivot
Granit Xhaka was one of Arsenal's best players against Everton. The Swiss midfielder's revival under Arteta has been integral to Arsenal's improvement as a whole. Xhaka made 75 passes, the highest in his side. Defensively, the Swiss attempted two tackles, made one clearance and two blocks. He dictated the tempo of the game from his best role and looked confident in possession.
His partner, Dani Ceballos also had a good game. The Spaniard has a complementary skillset to Xhaka and sought to utilize this positively. Ceballos' press-resistance was useful in the midfield as Everton played a high line. Xhaka would break the first Evertonian line with a pass to Ceballos and the Spaniard would break the second line with his dribbling or quick passing. This partnership looks promising, especially against sides that Arsenal can dominate at home. Ceballos brings more attacking impetus than Lucas Torreira and should start in such games.