Following their disappointing result over Manchester United last week, Arsenal were keen to put the record straight with a victory over out-of-form Everton.
There were a few changes made to the side that lost to United a few days prior; Kieran Tierney came in in place of Nuno Tavares, Alexandre Lacazette finally replaced the misfiring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka returned in place of the injured Emile Smith Rowe and Granit Xhaka made a hugely ahead-of-schedule return to the first team in place of Mohamed Elneny.
A fixture of Arsenal’s recent performances has been their fast start and eventual stuttering, however, they never once looked like they got out of first gear.
Everton were all over Arsenal right from the off and the few chances that Arsenal masqueraded forward were typically nothing chances, the most memorable of which resulted in Thomas Partey hitting his effort into the upper tiers of the Gwladys Street End.
Everton found themselves on the end of two rather controversial VAR decisions too. First was Ben Godfrey, who’s deliberate stamp onto the face of Takehiro Tomiyasu, went outrageously unpunished by the VAR team and Mike Dean; the second, was a superb header from Richarlison which gave them the lead, only to be ruled out for a minuscule offside infringement.
It was a particular injustice as Arsenal took a surprising and thoroughly undeserved lead as Kieran Tierney’s superb cross met Martin Ødegaard on the half-volley, who buried it in the bottom left-hand corner.
In the second-half, Everton began to attack with more gusto. They were victim to a lot of theatrics from the Arsenal team, plainly playing for time and trying their utmost to take the sting out of Everton’s attack.
Richarlison drew them level, but was once again called out for an offside call, which resulted in Everton really starting to take the game to Arsenal.
They were eventually rewarded. Aaron Ramsdale saved an initial shot from outside the box, but Richarlison rose highest to loop the ball over the grounded goalkeeper to draw the home side level, no more and no less than they merited.
Arsenal really struggled to get themselves back into the game, as they finally decided to try and attack.
Eddie Nketiahw as inexplicably brought on for Gabriel Martinelli, but the English U23 star was denied his chance at a redemption goal by the post, after Martin Ødegaard’s ball found the substitute at the back post.
Everton then dealt Arsenal a hammer blow. A superb effort from Demari Gray sunk Arsenal in the worst way possible. A superb effort that would be worthy of any Goal of the Month award.
Arsenal had a chance in the dying seconds of the game to draw level. Eddie Nketiah’s wonderful run resulted in a through ball, which Gabriel Magalhães dummied to allow substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubmeyang to side-foot the ball…wide.
The jeers from the Everton fans were drowned out by Mike Dean’s whistle.
It was arguably one of the worst performances from an Arsenal team in recent history. Only the tepid 0-0 draw with Vitória S.C. in the Europa League could possibly match this game.
Arsenal were awful in pretty much every area of the pitch. There was little to no attacking intent, the performance was dreadful and the team’s attempts to equalise or put the game to bed were as uninspired as series 8 of The Big Bang Theory.
Mikel Arteta, will likely come under intense scrutiny for many of his decisions, none more so than the fact that his teams seem uninterested in putting the game to bed after taking the lead.
A recurring feature of Arsenal’s play, which was also seen against Manchester United. Arsenal are simply not good enough to defend a slender advantage in the same way that Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea can, so why does the Spaniard insist on sitting back when taking the lead?
Another baffling decision was the introduction of Eddie Nketiah. Nketiah played well, but for a player who doesn’t play on the wing, has refused to sign a new contract with the club and who tanked the team’s only chance to make some money on him in the summer, it is truly bizarre how he was brought onto replace the injured Gabriel Martinelli while the £72m man Nicolas Pépé sits on the bench.
Arsenal looked turgid, uninspired and their play-acting and theatrics reminded one of a bottom of the table team defending their first lead in 6 months, rather than a team desperately clawing for the European places.
Arsenal need to respond against Southampton, anything less than a resounding win is unlikely to get the deserved critics off the manager’s back.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
4.) Ben White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney (Tavares 65’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
5.) Thomas Partey
35.) Gabriel Martinelli (Nketiah 71’)
8.) Martin Ødegaard
7.) Bukayo Saka
9.) Alexandre Lacazette (c) (Aubameyang 85’)
33.) Arthur Okonkwo
16.) Rob Holding
17.) Cédric Soares
20.) Nuno Tavares
25.) Mohamed Elneny
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
19.) Nicolas Pépé
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
30.) Eddie Nketiah
1.) Jordan Pickford
23.) Séamus Coleman (c)
13.) Yerry Mina (Holgate 31’)
5.) Michael Keane
22.) Ben Godfrey
16.) Abdoulaye Doucouré
24.) Anthony Gordon (Iwobi 87’)
11.) Demari Gray
14.) Andros Townsend (André Gomes 66’)
15.) Asmir Begovic
2.) Jonjoe Kenny
32.) Jarrad Braithwaite
4.) Mason Holgate
8.) Fabian Delph
21.) André Gomes
17.) Alex Iwobi
25.) Jean-Philippe Gbamin
20.) Cenk Tosun