Everton (2) 2 Arsenal (1) 1
Goodison Park, Goodison Road, Liverpool L4 4EL
Saturday, 19th December 2020. Kick-off time: 5.30pm
(3-4-3) Bernd Leno; Rob Holding, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mohamed Elneny, Dani Ceballos, Bukayo Saka; Nicolas Pépé, Eddie Nketiah, Willian Borges da Silva.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Rúnarsson, Cédric Soares, Shkodran Mustafi, Joe Willock, Sead Kolašinac, Emile Smith-Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Nicolas Pépé (35 mins)
Yellow Cards: Kieran Tierney, Joe Willock, Mohamed Elneny
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 58%
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant Referees: Scott Ledger, Simon Long
Fourth Official: Paul Tierney
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Michael Oliver; AVAR James Mainwaring
Attendance: A maximum of 2,000 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
With no Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this evening due to a calf injury, we are starting with Willian up front, playing in a 3-4-3 formation, which is going to be extremely difficult here at Goodison Park tonight. Let’s go!
Everton started very much in the ascendancy, with Arsenal being pushed back firmly into their own half, which was a worrying development, so early in the match. We were very nearly one down after fifteen mintues, when Michael Keane hit a thirty-five yard shot which flew just past Bernd Leno’s right-hand post, and a minute or so later, we somehow managed to break out of our half when Kieran Tierney made an impressive thirty-yard run before crossing the ball into the penalty area for Eddie Nketiah to run onto, but all his good work was undone by a clearance from Abdoulaye Doucoure. After twenty-two minutes, we went one-down when a ball from ex-Gunner Alex Iwobi was headed towards the goal by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but unfortunately Rob Holding diverted it past Bernd Leno into the goal. In reply, Eddie Nketiah capitalised on a mistake by Jordan Pickford, but sadly his effort went wide of the mark. We started to come back into the game; Dani Ceballos did well on the right-hand side before he was the recipient of a crunching tackle by Ben Godfrey, and despite all of our efforts in trying to get back into the game, the home side took control of the match yet again, and started to come at us relentlessly. Penalty! With ten minutes to go before the half-time break, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was brought down with a clumsy collision by Tom Davies in the penalty area; Nicolas Pépé stepped up (in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and he introduced the ball to the back of the Everton net with a cool stroke of his left foot. Kieran Tierney was booked for a challenge on Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and the subsequent free-kick from Gylfi Sigurdsson went wide of Bernd Leno’s goal, thankfully. Literally, on the stroke of half-time, an Everton corner found the head of Yerry Mina and the ball clumsily went into the back of the Arsenal net after some messy touches from Bernd Leno in a valiant attempt to keep it out of the goal, to no avail sadly.
The second half began, as expected, with the home side performing strongly (having gone into the break a goal ahead), and shortly after the restart we did manage to hit the frame of the goal after fifty-one minutes, when a David Luiz strike (via a corner) was deflected by Tom Davies onto the woodwork and off and into open play. We certainly have made a decent fist of things since the break, with good passing, good movement with probing balls into the Everton penalty area. Despite all that, two substitutions were made within five minutes of each other; Gabriel Martinelli for Nicolas Pépé and Alexandre Lacazette for Eddie Nketiah with fifteen minutes left of the match remaining. And so the formation changed, and the more we tried, the less successful we became. Slowly the home side started to come back into the match, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Gylfi Sigurddson getting close to scoring, but thankfully Bernd Leno was on the spot to save our bacon yet again. During the five minutes’ imjury time, all the action was in the Everton half, with Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette being desperately unlucky not to score, but time ran out and it was not to be, sadly.
Fourteen points from fourteen matches, and of those games, we have lost eight. We are also five points off the relegation zone; these terrible facts speak for themselves. And we have Manchester City on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup (or whatever it is called this week) and Chelsea in the Premiership on Boxing Day. There is very little confidence in the side, the defending oscillates between poor and non-existent, the midfield is indecisive, and the strikers are not firing at all. Although we had fifty-eight per cent possession in the game here at Goodison Park tonight, it’s truly not much good if you don’t do anything with it, is it? How on earth Mikel Arteta is going to square the cirle with this squad of players? And we have a white-hot derby match on Boxing Day to contend with as well. Either way, it’s going to be the most difficult job of his managerial career, trying got put this train back on the rails, and quickly too.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Manchester City at the Emerates on Tuesday, 22nd December at 8.00pm (Carabao Cup). Victoria Concordia Crescit
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.