It’s hard to find new ways to write a reasonably enthusiastic review after another loss and another poor performance. Just where the 2-1 loss in the Everton v Arsenal game fits into the greater scheme of things is hard to say because, after a while, it becomes difficult to apply any sort of objective analysis.
No Mari or Aubameyang (injured) and Balogun didn’t even get a cameo on the bench in the Everton v Arsenal fixture. Nketiah was again out in the lead role but fluffed two really good chances, which reinforces my opinion that he isn’t the answer to the Gunners’ striking woes. The selections are starting to appear more random at times and Willian’s inclusion is starting to smell like nepotism when he has failed to deliver so often.
Arsenal are so short off the pace that they are now looking to rescue their season by avoiding the relegation zone. That sounds like an exaggeration but I assure you, it’s not. If the clubs below them start gathering points, the Gunners could be in the bottom three by the first few weeks of the new year.
Arteta’s team has taken 5 points out of 30, which shows the size of the crisis ahead and even the introduction of Martinelli and Lacazette failed to get the miracle that the manager and fans needed. In a way, it’s good news that the supporters are again excluded from attending because life is probably difficult enough without the added pressures of hearing the fans’ opinions directly and uncensored as the players head off the field.
So this tragic run of form continues, exhausting everyone from the coaching staff, to the players, the fans, and of course, Arteta himself. The Spaniard must be as confused as anyone as to why his promising season is in tatters, but it is a relatively simple job to pinpoint the problems.
Arsenal have too many weak elements, too many players that fill the same role, not enough quality or strong characters. Luiz, despite all his faults, continues to appear as if confidence and swagger alone will pull the team through.
The incredibly passionate Tierney always gives a battling and heartwarming performance but watching Arsenal these days is like watching a collection of ornithologists politely and respectfully surveying the vista whilst quietly making notes.
As the first whistle blew, it was clear within ten minutes or so that Everton were working from the same page, whereas Arsenal couldn’t even find the intro. It’s stressful watching your team go forward only to run out of ideas down the channel and head back from whence they came.
If this is something employed in the players’ training, then it needs to be removed just like the excitement that is absent from watching this tosh! Willian, who according to Edu, needs more time, continues to stroll around the pitch and give the ball away frequently.
The fact that the striker, take note of the term, has had one shot on target in 11 matches underlines how ineffective he has become. He no longer deserves his place in a side that has several individuals treading water and at best, are only just doing so.
The Pluses and Minuses:-
Looking around the pitch, Luiz looked comfortable with himself and added misplaced confidence to the proceedings of the Everton v Arsenal game. Maitland-Niles embarked on a personal battle with Richarlison which supplied the only genuine entertainment and Pepe worked his socks off to make something happen. When he wasn’t trying to break through Everton’s defensive lineup of four centre-backs, he was battling hard to recover the ball by getting back to defend and he isn’t getting enough praise for that in this shambolic outfit.
With Arsenal looking like they were still working out a complex design on route to goal, Everton just played their football to their collective strength as if it were second nature. Without Gabriel and Mari, the defence looked light and the decision to give Rob Holding game time ahead of William Saliba is becoming more questionable by the day.
At least, Bellerin and Holding finally ended their unconvincing partnership, and late in the Everton v Arsenal match, I came to realise that Maitland-Niles will be an Arsenal player for some time if the club has any sense because he showed his worth in place of Bellerin. He had great desire and energy amid the debris of another fruitless fixture, against an Everton side punching above their weight and who I still think will miss out on the top four slots.
Arsenal found themselves in the familiar position of being behind when Alex Iwobi found Calvert-Lewin, though his header bounced off Rob Holding’s leg (22) and into the goal past a wrong-footed Leno.
Luiz was out of position and had Holding been on the other side of the Everton man, then he may have choked the supply chain but this is Holding’s fundamental problem. Lauded as the new Tony Adams, he lacks spatial awareness and a defender’s instincts. The insistence of three in defence may yet cost Arsenal more games and ship more goals but it does depend on the available personnel and their quality.
Maitland-Niles managed to provide an opportunity to get Arsenal back on terms when Davis couldn’t resist the temptation to put a heavy foot on the makeshift winger in the area. The camera rarely lies and AMN, who had been rolling around in agony clutching his bent leg, opened his eyes to see if he’d been rewarded a BAFTA, instead, he gratefully received the penalty which Pepe put past Pickford (35).
Against all odds, this first-half performance had got a goal but it wasn’t over. Calvert-Lewin (him again) drew a save from Leno and the resulting corner met Mina’s head at the near post (44). Holding, at around six feet four, should surely have paid attention to the towering Mina and yes, I’m putting more blame on Holding! One also suspects the contact took Leno by surprise because he was falling backward with his arms flailing in all directions.
The second half of the Everton v Arsenal game was a huge improvement but once again, the final ball didn’t live up to expectations. There followed a series of occasions where Arsenal players couldn’t find the right pass and it was under or over hit. Arsenal’s best chance came when the irrepressible Luiz hit the post and it felt like he might be the only answer if a recovery was likely.
No Smith Rowe again, which is something Arteta needs to consider, preferring Willock and the later additions of Lacazette and Martinelli felt like one last gamble before the casino closed. Until Arteta can ignore his loyalty to players like Willian and Holding, this team isn’t going to be able to turn the corner. Until he gives his young creative guns a chance to shine or heaven forbid, brings back Ozil, they are going to be turned over by ordinary teams.
Everton were nothing special but they managed to break Arsenal with minimum effort, what does that tell you? They had no desire to thrash Arsenal by four or five goals but probably could have and settled for shutting doors. Oh, dear Arsenal, where do we go from here?