In a highly entertaining Premier League game at the Emirates Stadium this evening, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal picked up their second victory in a row by defeating Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton 3-2, moving them above the Toffees and into 9th place.Everton took the lead after just 49 seconds when Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored an overhead kick following a set-piece, but Arsenal found an equaliser on 27 minutes through Eddie Nketiah, who finished beautifully following an excellent cross from substitute Bukayo Saka.
The Gunners then moved ahead just 6 minutes later when top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slotted home, only for Ancelotti’s side to equalise on the stroke of half-time, Richarlison bundling the ball over the line following some calamitous defending.
It took Arteta’s side less than a minute in the second half to nudge ahead again though, as Aubameyang rose to head a Nicolas Pepe cross in, and despite some late pressure, the Gunners held firm to take all three points.
Here are 3 talking points from Arsenal’s win over Everton.
#1 Arsenal’s attacking verve can’t mask their defensive flaws
This was a huge win for the Gunners however you look at it; Mikel Arteta had registered his second Premier League victory as Arsenal boss a week ago when his side thumped Newcastle 4-0, but after going behind early on, this was always going to be a much tougher test.
It was a test that Arteta’s side indeed passed, but the attacking verve they showed – Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka were again excellent on the flanks, Eddie Nketiah showed a poacher’s instinct for his goal and looked threatening throughout, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang proved once again why he’s so highly regarded – was somewhat marred by some poor defending for Everton’s goals.
Both of the Toffees’ goals came from set-pieces. The first from Dominic Calvert-Lewin was made possible by some truly diabolical defending; first Sead Kolasinac bizarrely decided to dash forwards, playing Everton’s forwards onside, and the marking from both David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi was painfully slack.
The second goal was equally bad, made possible by more awful marking that allowed Richarlison to find himself free to poke the ball past Bernd Leno in the box. And in all honesty, if it wasn’t for Leno – who made some tremendous saves in the second half – the result of this game could’ve been very different.
The question then becomes all about what Arteta can do to shore up Arsenal’s defence going forward, particularly in what will be a pivotal 2020-21 season for him. In the very least, it should be painfully clear now that Luiz and Mustafi aren’t a good enough central partnership, even if Saka and Hector Bellerin are looking like excellent choices for the full-back berths.
Judging on today’s game though, if the Spaniard can make his defence as tough as his attack is excellent, he could be onto something special.
#2 Everton’s midfield asks a lot of questions that Ancelotti needs to answer
Everton could probably count themselves unlucky to come away without a point from this game; the Toffees took an early lead, had 17 shots to Arsenal’s 9 and enjoyed 49% possession of what was an even contest, but in the end Carlo Ancelotti’s side will have to rue what could’ve been. To say they put on a great performance however would be false.
While forwards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison were impressive, and the backline of Dijibril Sidibe, Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate and Leighton Baines were relatively solid – outside of a couple of shaky moments – Everton’s midfield simply didn’t look good enough for a side who have Champions League aspirations going forward.
Alex Iwobi once again flattered to deceive on the right, showing again why Arsenal had no issues in selling him; Gylfi Sigurdsson drifted in and out of the game on the left, and Fabian Delph and Morgan Schneiderlin just didn’t affect the game enough in the centre, with Delph in particular allowing Arsenal’s attackers too much room on multiple occasions.
If the Toffees really want to move forward in the 2020-21 campaign then, this is an area which Ancelotti needs to invest in, big time. Everton’s scattergun approach to transfers needs to stop – did they really need Iwobi, for instance? – and while the return of Andre Gomes will help, the truth is that they probably need an entirely new midfield to compete with the Premier League’s upper echelon.
#3 Can Arsenal claim that last Champions League spot?
It seems crazy to suggest that Arsenal – who are in 9th place in the Premier League table following this win – could sneak into the Champions League spots this season, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Mikel Arteta’s side are on 37 points – just 7 away from 4th placed Chelsea – and while their defensive flaws were on show today, they’ve certainly got the talent to go on a strong run in their next few games.
The Gunners take on West Ham, Brighton, Southampton and Norwich in their next 4 games, all of which should sound winnable for Arteta and his squad. If they can indeed take 12 points from those matches, it’d give them tremendous momentum going into their trio of crunch matches in April with Wolves, Leicester and Tottenham.
Given the shaky form of the other big sides chasing 4th place – Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United – as well as the inexperience of Wolves and Sheffield United at this level, it shouldn’t sound like an impossible goal for Arteta, not when he has the Premier League’s joint top scorer at his disposal in the form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Sure, the Gunners have their flaws, and they were certainly on show in today’s game, but then again, so do all of the sides chasing Champions League football. Keep winning tricky games like this one, and anything is possible for them.