A controversial Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goal condemned Everton to their second defeat of the season in a close encounter at The Emirates.
The Toffees created enough chances of their own in the opening 45 minutes and were more than a match for Arsenal, both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison failing to convert.
But they were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when the hosts struck twice in two second half minutes. Alexandre Lacazette’s rasping effort was followed hot-on-the-heels by Aubameyang’s neat finish, although the visitors have reason to feel hard done by with the striker receiving the assist in an offside position.
Missed chances see promising performance go to waste
Not since Roberto Martinez’s swaggering Everton side visited the capital in December 2013 have the Toffees looked like matching and potentially overcoming Arsenal on their own turf.
Everton played the hosts off the park in the first 45 minutes of that 1-1 draw and were unfortunate to go behind before Gerard Deulofeu deservedly equalised. While it might be a stretch to say the same of this sunny September afternoon, Everton were at least more than a match for the hosts who have for so long been used to seeing 11 blue shirts arrive in North London with the white flag already waving.
Not only did Marco Silva’s side stifle Arsenal’s attack but even found the time to launch their own forays into the oppositions’ penalty area (Sam, it’d be worth tuning into BBC2 tonight, about half 10). Calvert-Lewin had the perfect opportunity to repay Silva’s faith, having debuted for the mis-firing Cenk Tosun at The Emirates, but was smothered by Petr Cech.
Richarlison was a thorn in Arsenal’s side for much of the opening exchanges and engineered no less than three good opportunities for himself, twice forcing decent saves from Cech.
Theo Walcott too was denied by his former teammate when put through on goal. For so many years Evertonians have lamented defeats away to Arsenal when they’ve barely had a sniff around their penalty area, never mind their goal, but on this occasion it was the lack of composure and quality in front of goal that will frustrate the travelling Blues on their way home.
Linesman’s cock up can’t hide defensive frailties; but Silva needs time
Arsenal – on the other hand – held their nerve. Once the chances came their way early in the second half, they had the personnel to make it count.
Everton’s rear-guard had held up well enough over the 90 minutes, but against such quality opposition you cannot afford so many opportunities. Struggling to clear the ball, Lacazette needed just one touch to set himself before a beautifully curled shot stuck Jordan Pickford’s left-hand post before rippling into the net.
Defenders can always get tighter, especially once an attacker is in the area, and a smart defender will show a predominantly right-footed left winger onto his left foot. But the finish was simply unstoppable.
Aubameyang then effectively finished the tie minutes later, despite receiving the ball in a clear offside position. The well-placed linesman should have spotted the Gabon international, and if he didn’t you have to question why. Everton were certainly hard-done by on this, but the whole situation was avoidable: from Kurt Zouma failing to deal with his clearance and gifting it to a red shirt to Michael Keane bizarrely appealing for offside in the first initial phase of play.
As we know all too well, you can’t afford to gift opportunities to your opponent, especially those with the finishing prowess of Arsenal’s attack. We should give Silva the benefit of the doubt when it comes to criticising his back five; he has after all utilised different personnel in every game so far, be it because of suspensions or injuries. But assembling a solid back line which can keep clean sheets will ultimately be his greatest challenge and one which, should he fail, may well eventually cost him his job.
Is Richarlison the answer to striker woes?
With Everton wasting chance after chance at The Emirates (9 shots, 6 on target), it’s not just the defence that’s failing to function. The Toffees had 16 attempts against West Ham and 11 against Huddersfield, yet have scored just twice in these three games.
Tosun was dropped for this afternoon’s game but the alternatives available to Silva mean the Turk will undoubtedly be back in the starting line up before long. However there have been some calls for Richarlison to be given his chance in a central striking role, some of them mere desperate shouts having long scraped the bottom of the barrel. But this piece by James Piercy puts a more than decent case forward for a Brazilian experiment (two words which would make most men quiver outside the context of football):
After the 21 year-old made his debut for the national side in this position, could Silva do any worse? (there’s no need to mention Niasse).
Wretched run against Arsenal continues
Since Andrei Kanchelskis netted the winner at Highbury in 1996, Everton have now visited Arsenal on 25 occasions without coming away with a victory.
The Russian was the last player to score a winning goal against Arsenal away from home, in a 2-1 win for Joe Royle’s men. Feels like a long time ago doesn’t it? That’s because it is. 22 years and counting.
More unwanted records than your mum’s attic
Speaking of unwanted records, it’s obvious from our long run without a win at Arsenal that we’re pretty rubbish when we play them. In turn, Arsenal are simply sweet on playing The Toffees.
According to Opta, Arsenal are just three games away from notching 100 top-flight wins against a single side in the history of the English football league. Well, we’ve always been a team of firsts haven’t we. May as well add this one to the roll of honour alongside having giant testicles as a match day mascot and being the club with more red cards than any other in Premier League history (91).
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 23, 2018