Arsenal is getting used to winning, but it didn’t come too easy once again. The Gunners got up to the 6th place in the Premier League after defeating Everton (0:2) and getting their first clean sheet this term. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, but it was all worth it at the end.
Arsenal’s performance was far from good, but second half beauty by Alexandre Lacazette gave the team a glimpse of energy to reach their fourth consecutive win in the league. But how did it all happen?
It was a tough start of the game as Everton were in almost full control of the pitch. Marco Silva’s men did what they needed to and found a way to counter-press effectively. All efforts to build-up an attack was quickly frustrated, and the Londoners found it hard to pass the middle line. But that’s exactly what Everton’s players did. They created some chances and caused trouble to the distracted defence, putting them under pressure in their own half. This resulted in some defensive mistakes that could’ve cost Arsenal going down, but the main man Peter Cech didn’t let that happen. The Gunners seemed all over the place and were often caught unprepared and exposed. Their passes weren’t perfectly measured, and they couldn’t reach the ball at the right moment. They tried to go up front with speed runs on the left flank, just to find themselves trapped in the middle. It was difficult for the team to make the transition from midfield to attack as their perfect crossing was missing and the Magpies defenders managed to intercept, counter-attack and outran their (once again) highly positioned opponents to combine well in the final third.
Granit Xhaka didn’t get any support from Mesut Ozil (how surprising) and the captain Tom Davies was able to make a long-range pass to Calvert-Lewin, who was left uncovered right behind defenders’ backs who were positioned high.
Nacho Monreal didn’t have time to react and that left a gap on the right. Calvert-Lewin made a run deep in the box whilst the defenders had no chance to reach him. But Petr Cech was there to tackle Dominic and get the possession back.
In here, Arsenal’s defensive line wasn’t well positioned and left Cenk Tosun to go behind it, receiving an airball from Sigurdsson. Not only couldn’t prevent Tosun from going deep in the box but hey left Richarlison uncovered, sneaking behind Bellerin’s back and available to receive the ball.
There might have been different goal scorers, different tactics and so on, but there is one thing we constantly see in Arsenal’s performance – it’s second-half improvement. As I’ve mentioned before it seems like Unai Emery has full control on the dressing room and his team talk game is going strong. The manager is always looking for a solution and he often finds it in a half-time substitution, just as it was against Everton. After an ugly first half, it looked like he was tempted to change Lacazette for Iwobi, but an obstacle appeared. The Frenchman was the one that gave the lead to the Gunners. He found himself in the box, scoring a perfectly curled strike into the top right corner, leaving no chance for Jordan Pickford to react. The opening goal came at the right time so the Gunners can find their style of play and calm down. Everton’s counter-press wasn’t as effective as it was during the first half and a creative touch from the attacking line made Arsenal get onto their feet. Laca’s partner in crime Aubameyang doubled after a great team effort, combining with Ozil and Ramsey, although to be fair enough there was an offside (not given).
This was a great team effort. They build-up the attack perfectly starting with a long ball from Bellerin to Lacazette. In that split second Ozil’s off the ball movement was outrageous and he went up front so he can receive the ball.
After losing the possession for a second, Laca got it back and with a short pass gave Ozil a chance to run towards the box. You could notice that Keane and Kenny allowed Ramsey to go behind the defensive line, whilst Aubameyang was sneaking on the left too with Lucas Digne missing from his position.
The Arsenal players combined perfectly (almost) with Ozil passing to Ramsey, who slipped, but somehow managed to give a great pass to the all-alone Aubameyang who made it 2:0.
There’s a guy that put an unexpectedly solid performance and he’s not even a starter. After Sokratis got injured and had to be changed in the 39th minute, the only option to replace him was Rob Holding. He is yet to start a game in the Premier League this season but had a great impact to this weekend’s win coming in as a sub. He seemed ready enough to contribute well and picked up the pace of the game immediately.
Holding made six clearances (more than any of his teammates) and he had a passing accuracy of 86%. He also sent 3/4 accurate long balls and helped his team protect the goal.
Holding managed to send some accurate long balls. In here he was trapped by three Everton players after winning a defensive duel with Walcott. He saw an opportunity in a long-range pass on the flank to Aaron Ramsey who was ready to receive the ball with no one covering him on the left.
Man of the match
It’s a no-brainer that Petr Cech is the well-deserved winner of the MOTM award. The 36-year-old proved the critics (including me) wrong with his fascinating saves that were the main reason Arsenal managed to get the 3 points. Although the struggle with the ball at his feet was still there, the defensive mistakes were offset by his performance and he showed why he is still Unai Emery’s first choice for the goalkeeper spot.
Richarlison had some good chances during the first half but Cech pulled out two great saves to keep the scoreless result and ended up with 6 saves for his first clean sheet this season. He positioned himself well in almost every situation and was clearly determined to keep his goal no matter what.
The fans finally got what they were moaning about – it was Lucas Torreira’s first start this season and it might have gone better, but at the end of the day he did what he was there for. His creativity and energy disappeared after he received a yellow card in the 14th minute and he became a lot more cautious in his defensive duels and tackles, but he was focused enough to escape from the mediocrity.
The Uruguayan is not the only player that lack confidence. Тhere was something missing in Ozil’s and Ramsey’s performances too. Emery played the German on the right and Ramsey in the middle of the midfield, and maybe that’s not the spots that they feel most comfortable at as they needed to go out of the zones they are used to play at.
Everton’s rising star
It’s fair to say that no matter the scoreless match for Everton, there was a player that stood out and performed expectedly good. The young Brazilian star Richarlison started for the Toffees after being suspended for 3 games because of violent conduct. And there was an immense difference in Everton’s style of play. The team was more confident, energetic and created more chances thanks to the 21-year-old. He was always there to take advantage of the highly positioned defensive line and exploit the gaps left by Bellerin and Mustafi. Although the youngster tried reaching the goal from the right (which is not his main position) and he did it equally well.
There is nothing right with the defensive line in here. Although it looks like Xhaka and Bellerin are kind of in control of the situation, Richarlison’s decision making made him escape on the left, while Walcott was distracting their opponents. It resulted in Bellerin being late and the Brazillian shooting with only Cech’s experience helping Arsenal keep the clean sheet.
While all three – Bellerin, Torreira and Mustafi making wrong moves, Richarlison dribbled past Lucas absolutely undisturbed. He reached the edge of the box and looked decided to give it a try to the bottom right corner.
I am just going to add what Petr Cech said after the game:
“What we lacked in the past – I would say the ‘Arsenal way’ was more important than getting the points sometimes, and this is not how you win the league”.
Yes, it might be frustrating for the supporters who fell in love with Arsenal’s beautiful style of play long ago, but at the end of the day you have your 4 consecutive wins in your pocket and that’s all that matters.