We got stuck in Everton toffee today.
And this isn’t the best for our top four hopes – however, I believe we can still get top four.
However, this game wasn’t really the best, and Everton outmuscled, outfought, and bullied us.
Without disrespecting our previous manager, this was a performance reminiscent of the latter days of Arsene Wenger.
Though I feel our current head coach, Mr. Emery, got things wrong today.
The team selection featured a 3412, with Elneny and Guendouzi in the middle, and Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Lacazette up top.
But then Everton started off pretty well, and was energetic, fresh, and pressing us hard.
Their defender Michael Keane was ill in the pre-match warm-up, so veteran Phil Jagielka started in his place. And it paid off for them, since he ultimately got the winner after 14 minutes. Everton had a move on our right-hand side, and via a cross we couldn’t clear the ball, with Jagielka poking in from close range.
After this, we looked pretty limp, and didn’t really create nor impact the game.
Everton went close again via Calvert-Lewin and Sigurdsson, and overall were sharper and more up for it.
The second-half saw some changes, since the first-half was woeful. Ramsey came on, as did Aubameyang, and this did alter things somewhat. Ramsey was able to match their fight and pressing, and we had some chances early on. Ramsey couldn’t control a poor punch from Pickford, and Mkhitaryan went close too.
However, Richarlison showed some good width, and he was a major factor in them bothering us.
Sigurdsson had some chances for them, but couldn’t convert. And Calvert-Lewin was a constant threat to our backline.
Iwobi came on later in the game, and did provide more attacking drive. But ultimately, it wasn’t enough, and Everton was deserved winners. They certainly were too sweet for us to handle, and they chomped down on us like a toffee.
I anticipated in my preview that Everton will be up for this, and we needed to match their desire and commitment.
And this is exactly what happened. We were limp, and lacked the mental attitude to handle Everton. Everton simply closed us down, marshalled us, and was more energetic.
Another factor is that Emery’s tactics and selection were off. Keeping the three at the back was fine. But given the injuries we have, playing Guendouzi and Elneny in the middle wasn’t on. They were being outmuscled and dominated by Everton, and we should have started with a midfield three.
Moreover, the attacking players weren’t very active. Ozil as the captain didn’t really feature much. And Lacazette tried to create, but was being surrounded and brought down often by their defenders. An early challenge from Kurt Zouma on him was a sign of things to come – for the rest of the game.
Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles were also poor, with the latter giving the ball away often and even not taking throw-ins properly. Throw-ins are rudimentary footballing skills, and it’s like trapping a ball or saying “time” to tell a teammate that he has space to play in. It was one of the worst performances I’ve seen in a while from him, which is a shame since I genuinely believe he has England national side potential.
Emery has made some solid decisions this season – but one aspect of being a tactical tinker-man of sorts is that it can backfire if things go wrong. And they did today.
This defeat was a mix of Everton’s good tactics, our bad tactics/selection, and a lack of Arsenal energy.
This doesn’t mean that our top four chances are shot. But it is an untimely blow, and we need to pick ourselves up for the Napoli and Watford games. A certain Mr. Deeney would love to put it into us, for sure.
Where there any positives here? I feel so. Mustafi, the much-maligned defender of ours, I feel was reasonable throughout. Sokratis, sans suspension for a silly reason, was OK too.
And Iwobi was troubling them somewhat after he came on as a sub.
Aubameyang was muted, but I feel it was more due to his deployment. He is like a neo-Henry in some ways, since he often plays out wide and comes in, and in fairness gets in good crosses. But I feel this game, and the tempo Everton set, didn’t suit him.
In summation, this was a bad day at the office – though we can redeem ourselves via two immediate good days. Napoli and Watford are those opportunities.
Leno – 7
Mustafi – 6
Sokratis – 6
Monreal – 5
Maitland-Niles – 4
Kolasinac – 4
Guendouzi – 5
Elneny – 5
Mkhitaryan – 5
Lacazette – 6
Iwobi – 6
Aubameyang – 5
Ramsey – 7
Emery – 4 – “El Jefe” has saved us with his tactics in several games. But then he got it wrong today since Everton exploited our weak midfield.
Man of the match
I feel he can be a “die Mannschaft” keeper for years to come and has looked very solid this season. He’s not at the level of de Gea, Ederson or Allison yet – but he’s been better overall than Lloris and Kepa.