Tactical Points from Arsenal's dire defat at Goodison Park
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
Another frustrating, insipid display against a side who weren’t very good either, but a lack of energy, luck, and everything in between meant we left the Goodison Park empty-handed:
• With Aubameyang out, the line-up was as expected as it gets and it was key to get the likes of Willian and Saka involved between the lines to break Everton down.
• The first half was as lifeless as it gets. There was just no intensity or pressing without the ball from both sides although Arsenal saw much less of the ball. With no Rodriguez, Everton’s threat comes mainly from the aerial prowess of Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the box from crosses. And that’s how Arsenal ended up conceding the first goal with nobody closing down the cross into the box.
• After getting the equaliser, it was up to the away side to take the initiative and control the game but things just ended up back the way it was. This was perhaps a great opportunity to kickstart a revival after scoring in the first half (for the first time in a while I might add) and having ample time to win the game but the lack of confidence was very much evident.
• And then came the sucker punch, a set-piece goal that gave the home side the advantage just before half time to lower the confidence even further.
• As we have seen in the last couple of games, there is usually a marked difference in tempo between the start of the second half and the first. The desire to win the ball back is much more, keeping possession much better and getting the forward players more involved when they have the ball.
• And against Everton, Willian and Saka started to come deeper to receive the ball and looked to make the difference and the attacking threat looked more potent than it ever was in the first.
• Willock was also brought on in another to get some more movement in the final third and he seemed to offer something different either by running beyond the forwards or by providing an additional aerial presence in the box.
• One of the most disappointing aspects of this game was Eddie Nketiah. While he needs clear-cut chances to show his ‘fox-in-the box’ attributes, his hold up play and ball retention leaves a lot to be desired.
• This issue is something evident from the Europa games as well in that he just doesn’t like to play with his back to the defender but instead prefers to drop deeper, receive and turn and take his time in releasing the ball. This approach is fine if it’s in the opposition half, similar to what Firmino does but when the team is looking to get out of their half, he has to hold the ball against the defender and get others into play. His approach of dropping deeper seems to just slow a lifeless attack even further.
• With the hectic festive period coming up, it was crucial to get the win to not just release the pressure but build up some kind of momentum and kickstart our league campaign. The team has to make its luck rather than hoping things will just change one day.
• Make no mistake, changing the manager achieves nothing and this cycle of underperformances will continue irrespective of who’s on the touchline. The backroom staff has changed, executives at the top have changed but there’s only one thing remaining for a culture refresh- the players. We have certainly signed a lot of players in the last couple of years but haven’t shipped out the existing ones to ‘refresh’ things. This has to happen soon or this cycle of perennial mediocrity will continue to haunt the club.