Result: Everton 2-1 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 19 December 2020
Venue: Goodison Park
Arsenal: Leno, Holding, Luiz, Tierney, Maitland-Niles, Saka, Ceballos, Elneny, Willian, Pepe, Nketiah
Subs: Runarsson, Bellerin, Cedric, Mustati, Kolasinac, Willock, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Lacazette
Rob Holding’s own goal and a header by Yerry Mina piled pressure on Mikel Arteta as Everton beat Arsenal 2-1 at Goodison Park.
While Nicolas Pepe did hit the net from a penalty, the Gunners produced another toothless display that turns the volume up on the alarm bells that are already ringing at the Emirates.
Mikel Arteta was forced to shuffle his pack with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang picking up a calf strain that meant he stayed in London. Interestingly, he opted to keep Alex Lacazette on the bench which meant Eddie Nketiah led the line with Willian and Pepe working the flanks. In the absence of the Gabon international, Rob Holding took the captain’s armband for the first time. He was partnered in the centre of defence by David Luiz who replaced the suspended Gabriel. Otherwise, it was the same side that started against Southampton. The bench – now made up of nine players – included Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe.
This was not exactly a rip-roaring, all-action affair from the get-go. It took until the 15-minute mark for either side to attempt an effort on goal; Keane unleashing from 30-yards. It flew past Leno’s right-hand post.
Another seven minutes of tentative sparring passed before the home side mounted another attack of note. Of course, they scored. A cross from the right by ex-Guner Iwobi was met by Calvert-Lewin whose header flicked off Holding and bounced past a helpless Leno.
The initial effort was definitely going wide, so it was ridiculously harsh on us. When your luck’s not in, blah, blah, blah. If there was a criticism it was that we didn’t put enough pressure on Everton in the build-up with Davies given all the time in the world to play in Iwobi. (0-1)
The Gunners battled back into things and should have equalised three minutes later but Nketiah made a hash of his shot after Tierney found him free in the box. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long for our equaliser.
On 33 minutes, Maitland-Niles attempted a cross that was cleared back into his path and as he collected the loose ball, Davies, who clearly hadn’t seen our right-back’s dart into the box, cleared him out with a clumsy hack. Referee Andre Marriner had no qualms about pointing to the spot.
Saka tried to persuade Ainsley he should take the spot-kick but by the time he was on his feet, Pepe had put the ball down. The Ivorian sent Pickford the wrong way. (1-1)
We really should have seen out the half and regrouped in the dressing room but this Arsenal side seem incapable of making life easy for themselves. Just before the break, Leno made a flying save to deny Calbert-Lewin only for Yerry Mina to head home at the near post from the resulting corner. (1-2)
Given our awful run of form, it really felt like a do or die moment for Arteta’s players. We came out determined and nearly equalised on 53 minutes when Luiz, pouncing on a loose ball after a Pickford fumble, bounced a shot against the post. Close, but no cigar.
We continued to pen in the Toffees but the closest we came to an equaliser was an ambitious free-kick by Saka that went well over.
Buoyed by energetic runs down the left flank by Godfrey and Richarlison, the 2,000 home fans in the Gwladys Street stand found their voice. Arteta reacted by sending on Willock for Elneny and Martinelli – his first game time since March – for Pepe.
We upped the tempo again briefly only for Willian to kill off any momentum with a shot from the edge of the box that was lashed over so wildly you couldn’t help but laugh. Somehow the Brazilian stayed on the pitch.
A deflected shot by Iwobi and a Willock header represented half chances for both sides inside the final 10 minutes. The home side didn’t seem overly fussed about trying to extend their lead, they knew we were so toothless that they could afford to let us have the ball.
We continued to huff and puff all the way through seven minutes of additional time. Pickford got down low to cut out a Saka cross and Lacazette, on as a sub, attempted a tame header. You sensed we could have played for another five days without scoring.
A few weeks ago, we were joking about surviving the drop. Right now, you wouldn’t bet against us being relegated.