Tiring Arsenal Struggle Over The Line

Online Editorial: Everton defeated at the Emirates… but only just

Tiring Arsenal Struggle Over The Line

One thing that came out of this game was that sides who have their midwinter break over the second weekend of this new fangled idea, and then face teams that missed the initial weekend in their first game back, have an advantage over their opponents. And Arsenal were not only hampered by having played a Premier League game last weekend, but the trip to Greece in midweek. Against a far fresher Everton, this made it a remarkable, albeit slightly fortuitous triumph.

At least Arteta’s most used players can have something of a rest for a fortnight. Even the most regular of the first team will surely only play one of the two matches against Olympiacos and Portsmouth, before West Ham visit on the first Saturday in March.

The opposition in the three league matches after the Hammers are Brighton, Southampton and Norwich. All teams below Arsenal in the table and three of them in danger of relegation. Arteta’s team really have to try and take the 12 points on offer here to add to the six gained against Newcastle and Everton. The table then, will look far healthier and give Arsenal some meaningful matches in April and May.

Beating Carlo Ancelotti’s side was crucial in this respect, and at the end of it all, the result excuses what was a performance evidently influenced by recent efforts in the final 30 minutes of the game. The home team’s task was not made any easier by allowing a goal against before two minutes were up, as they failed to deal with a fairly simple free kick into their penalty area, exposing that balls in the air are an area of weakness that needs to be worked on.

The starting eleven saw Sead Kolasinac replace Bukayo Saka, as much as anything to give the 18 year old a break. I was told that Saka is currently collecting £3,000 a week in wages, less than 100th of the club’s highest player. Hopefully, his value will be recognized in negotiations soon and he can be tied down to the club for the long term. Kolasinac suffered a shoulder injury with the game still at 1-0 and Saka replaced him. A surprise selection saw Eddie Nketiah retained from the win against Newcastle, even if he’d struggled a bit in that match. Alex Lacazette returned to the bench after scoring the winner on Thursday evening. It was Saka and Nketiah that combined to level the scores after a peach of a cross from the left back, set up by Xhaka, was met by Nketiah who administered an excellent touch to guide the ball past Jordan Pickford. Aubameyang followed up with a goal from a David Luiz through ball which was reminiscent of Thierry Henry, so good was its placement. 2-1 and things were looking much better.

Sadly, it couldn’t last until half time, as deep into injury time, Everton bundled the ball over the line after a failure to clear a corner properly. Bernd Leno hardly covered himself in glory and home fans were left hoping a Mikel Arteta half-time team talk could improve things. Once again, a ball in the air proved his team’s undoing.

Whatever was said during the interval had immediate effect as before many were back in their seats, the Gunners were ahead. A decent cross by Pepe was met by Aubameyang’s head and guided into the net. It took him to 17 goals in the Premier League this season, joint first with Jamie Vardy. His value to the club is obvious and they really need to try and persuade him to extend his deal by a couple of seasons. The remainder of the game was hard work. Yes, Nketiah did hit the bar after Everton made a hash of playing the ball out, but Everton had two genuinely excellent chances to make it 3-3, and on another day, would have left with a point. As Arsenal flagged, they were less able to restrict space, allowing Everton to produce greater danger in the final third. Saka was evidently spent as he started to give the ball away more often than expected.

Ceballos was replaced by Torreira and Ozil by Guendouzi bringing fresh legs to proceedings, but it would be difficult to argue that the Gunners were doing anything more than hanging on as the clock gradually eased towards full time. Credit to Everton and Ancelotti for the way they approached the game, finding space, stretching the play and getting the ball forward with pace and purpose. It was highly untypical of what we generally see at Arsenal home games from the visiting club, and Arteta’s team only just shaded the amount of possession. I have no doubt the experienced Italian has identified the areas where he most needs to strengthen and that the club’s owner will support this in the transfer market next summer.

Of course, this isn’t the case at Arsenal, which is why the extra £40m they can make from Europa League participation next season is significant, and why yesterday’s victory was so key. One quandary Arteta has is how much he can continue risking Saka in every game. One assumes Kolasinac will be out for up to a month, and as we know left back options are currently thin on the ground, given that both Tierney and Kolsinac are in the treatment room. Perhaps it’s worth fielding Maitland-Niles there for the odd game, as I have a memory of him playing in the position previously.

Interestingly, Arteta was late attending the post-match press conference. A long session of teacup throwing in the dressing room? No – the head coach himself oversaw a post-match session for the players that started the game on the bench (with the exception of Saka) on the pitch involving mannequins and full-size goals, apparently doing some work on positioning. Perhaps he saw something in the match that he was keen to get across, and there’s little question that these players will be seeing more gametime in the next two fixtures. It shows Arteta is not too concerned about convention and does things his way. And if the hacks have to hang around for an extra 20 minutes, so be it.

As for the 90 minutes that proceeded it, in the short term, the result was more important than the performance, but given the respective freshness of the two sides, the mistakes made and the drop in defensive intensity are understandable. Arteta doesn’t have enough fit players to rotate as much as he’d like, nor arguably the quality. But even if Arsenal were fortunate, they fashioned three goals and hung on for over 45 minutes to get a crucial win. I have no doubt they will be exhausted, but three wins in a row is exactly what we want to see after so many draws. Credit to Arteta and his players for producing them.

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15
comments

  1. markymark

    Feb 26, 2020, 11:12 #116566

    Interesting to see how the Germans are handling the Premier top 5. Shows to me that if Arsenal went on a run they are as currently as good as anyone outside of Liverpool and City . The Foxes have built up too many points to drop out now but would not otherwise be featuring. Big big decisions to be made season end as no one would blame PEA going to a club with almost guaranteed title credentials either in Spain , Germany or Italy. If Mustafi and Xhaka keep up their present form and composure they could now be sold for reasonable money

  2. Goonhogday

    Feb 25, 2020, 20:17 #116565

    Did anyone read Henry Winter’s article today in the Times about if fanzines die out? The Gooner got a lot of plugs in the article.

  3. Nos89

    Feb 25, 2020, 1:05 #116564

    The solution to keeping Saka fresh is using Mari on the left of a 3 man backline, or use Xhaka at LB for the odd game as he did very well there last season for a few games. Cellabos and Torreira/ Guendouzi could hold the fort in the midfield if arteta doesn't want to disturb a consistent unbeaten formation. We mostly had a 3 man backline in the latter stages of the game as Hector was so far out of position, mustafi covered him way too often, but with good effect.

  4. John F

    Feb 24, 2020, 23:22 #116563

    I have got a feeling that Everton will end Liverpool's run.

  5. ArsenalMagna

    Feb 24, 2020, 21:50 #116562

    *Correction, Fabianski left on a free - similar to what he would have gone for if we had sold him though!

  6. ArsenalMagna

    Feb 24, 2020, 21:45 #116561

    As for the match vs Everton, really delighted to see us dominate the game for longer periods, despite the exhaustion. We won't always be able to press high, but we're getting better at keeping control of the game and winning the ball back quickly for longer periods. Think the starting XI vs Portsmouth should be Martinez, M-N, Socratis, Holding, Tierney/Xhaka at LB, Torreira, Guendouzi, Willock, Nelson, Martinelli and Nketiah.

  7. ArsenalMagna

    Feb 24, 2020, 21:39 #116560

    And that, fellow Gooners, is why we sold the goalkeeper we used to call FlappyHandski… Also, the FA need to do something about Mane's diving - great a player though he is.

  8. John F

    Feb 24, 2020, 20:27 #116559

    He hardly inspires confidence does he Mark telling the team they are like a gun with no bullets. Maureen behaves like a sulky little boy who has lost his action man.

  9. markymark

    Feb 24, 2020, 19:56 #116558

    The honeymoon is definitely over at the Spuds sites. Lots of bitter anti Mourinho stuff. They all now wish they had Carlo

  10. CORNISH GOONER

    Feb 24, 2020, 19:19 #116557

    Phew - I can now get back on here after a stressful few days of failed "log ins". Our electricity down here is, as far as I know, acceptable so I assumed I had been knocked off due to being economically inactive, of uncertain income etc. & therefore failing to meet UK Government points requirements which I am sure The Gooner will want to adhere to. Thought the match was good, too much negativity from the Pundits, the Toffee goals could easily have been disallowed on another day. Have to admit Auba was brilliant but, odd one out here I guess, I do enjoy watching Ozil. Is he THAT expensive if we are paying our unlucky perma- sick note Kola £200k as has been suggested? Eddie N's finish was classy also - Everton strikers please note - you don't have to take the opposition's heads off in order to score. Anyway, one less thing to worry about - I just have to make sure that I don't get tricked into venturing up into England anytime soon until that virus is sorted. Sleep well!!

  11. markymark

    Feb 24, 2020, 18:58 #116556

    3 matches in 7 days , 3 wins on the trot and I believe no losses in 10 games. I’d done a bit of confidence building to myself if I’m honest thinking that you need to put a 120% when turning things around to even start looking a proper team. They are now getting payback . Sure there will be highs and lows and obviously we are not blowing anyone away quite yet but it’s good solid stuff. I still think Burnley away wasn’t half as bad as some posters across the social media would have us believe . I’d almost guarantee that one or two teams above us might implode so watch this space

  12. gooner.ed

    Feb 24, 2020, 11:16 #116555

    PROBLEMS LOGGING IN TO COMMENT ON ARTICLES... Received this from the webmaster: "There is an issue logging into the comments section on the main site. This due to a change on the forum authentication script which has added extra security In a recent update. As a workaround if a user is already logged into the forum and they attempt to login to main site it will work. Otherwise they will get a login error." - So people, to test this, I logged into the forum, left that page open, then re-opened this one and was able to successfully log-in and comment here. Final comment from our webmaster - "I am looking into a solution." - so bear with us folks, and in the meantime, use the prescribed method!

  13. Paulo75

    Feb 24, 2020, 11:01 #116554

    All about the result yesterday as you mention. A hard watch in the last half an hour with Saka in particular looking fatigued and sloppy in possession due to the recent schedule. Arteta's influence looks to be taking root now as effort levels and results improve in tandem.

  14. Exiled in Pt

    Feb 24, 2020, 10:57 #116553

    Massive win and a game we would of probably lost before MA took over. It is a concern having to play Saka so regular but the moment he came on we looked so more dangerous . Lets hope they do not muck about with his contract . If they can keep this momentum going , could be an interesting finish to the season ..

  15. GoonerRon

    Feb 24, 2020, 10:31 #116552

    Any match after a long EL away trip is all about the result, not necessarily the performance, even more so when our opponent is so much fresher physically. Of course, I would have preferred us to control the game in the second half but in the end we dogged it out, had our keeper do what he should do and make saves and got the three points. We were the most wobbly we’ve been for a while from set pieces, but Everton are a real handful and have serious strength aerially so not too surprised. Two big games coming up to keep our season alive on three fronts and to keep the winning momentum going.