Arteta's Arsenal edge past Ancelotti's tenacious Everton by the skin of their teeth
Updated: Feb 24, 2020
By Daniel Finton (Deputy Editor)
Arsenal's 27th match of the Premier league season saw them squaring up to in form Everton under the stewardship of multi-Champions League winning manager Carlo Ancelotti. Prior to the game, Everton sat just two-points ahead of the under-performing Gunners. The last five fixtures between the two had seen the Gunners win three, draw once and lose once.
Having a game in hand, Mikel Arteta’s men had a chance to leapfrog to 9th in the table, equal on points with Burnley. A win of any margin would see us just above the clarets on goal difference, given the fact that their's is -6 and prior to the match ours was +2.
The Gunners did manage to leapfrog to 9th and overtake Burnley with a highly contested and nervy 3-2 victory
Arteta once again did not shy away from making tough decisions in regards to his team selection. Both Lucas Torreira and Alexandre Lacazette missed out on starts once again, making way for Eddie Nketiah and Dani Ceballos, despite the Frenchman scoring in our two previous fixtures. Nketiah pressed well throughout the game, whilst also netting a goal and smashing the cross bar late in the second-half, justifying his inclusion. Ceballos starting over Torreira made a bit more sense given the loanee from Real Madrid’s very impressive performance against Newcastle last weekend.
Sead Kolasinac was also reintroduced into the starting XI after returning from injury, at the expense of Bukayo Saka. Many questioned this decision, given the 18-year-old’s recent performances, but I, for one, understood it. Saka has been playing a great deal of football as of late, far more than he is used to and resting young, break out stars is necessary to avoid injuries and accommodate for inevitable inconsistency.
The first half was a high-pressing, goal scoring extravaganza or sorts. Kolasinac came off for the young Englishman, Saka, in the 18th minute, through injury. This appeared to spur us on, as we began to create chances down that left hand side.
Both of Everton's goals came as a result of a comedy of errors from the Arsenal defence. Calvert-Lewin, the high scoring, high-flying, Englishman scored an acrobatic effort in the first minute due to a mistake from David Luiz, seeing the ball bounce off his right shoulder and right into 22-year-old striker’s path. Richarlison scored at the very end of the half after innumerable errors, including one from Bernd Leno, who failed to show the assertiveness he showed in the second period.
Our goals were beatifully contstructed, and both stemmed from that threatening left hand side. Nketiah’s finish came as a volley courtesy of yet another Saka assist from an excellent wide delivery. Aubameyang’s lead taking goal came from a Thierry Henry-esque finish after a classy through ball from David Luiz.
Our defence, who've been performing so well as of late, cost the potent attack at the crucial moments. Errors from two set pieces against the Toffees saw Carlo Ancelotti’s men come into the second half level, despite the fact the xG suggested we should have attained a comfortable lead at the break.
Fortunately for Arteta, Arsenal remain the only unbeaten side in Euorpea's top five (along with some random Italians) due to the defence returning to its resolute self in the second period. Though there were some hairy moments, with Richarlison looking particularly dangerous down the left, we did manage to deal with this on the whole. Aubameyang managed an early second-half goal, just twenty-four seconds into the second forty-five, with his third headed goal under Arteta from a Pepe cross.
Everton pressed well in the second forty-five, but not as effectively as they did in the first. Leno pulled off a brilliant save from a close range, with Calvert-Lewin's effort that was practically under the Germans chin it was so close. Leno also came about 20 yards off his line to brilliantly swipe the ball from Richarlison when he had a really good chance to slide past Bellerin for an equaliser.
The toffees applied an abundance of late pressure partly due to sloppy passing from the likes of Torreira and Saka, who understandably looked fatigued in the second period.
However, the positivity remained. The gunners managed their third win of the week. Despite their tenacity, Ancelotti’s blues were wasteful in front of goal and failed to take their chances.
In his post match interview with Sky, alongside Bernd Leno, Aubameyang stated that it was “a very tough week” due to the congestion of fixtures, and it is impossible to disagree. After three hard worked wins on the trot, we have Olympiacos at home this Thursday. Another must win match for Arteta.