This weekend always looking like a “swing weekend” with Arsenal and Manchester City both playing away at grounds they have both struggled at in recent years. And as it turned out both teams lost 1-nil.
We predicted on Saturday morning that it was going to be a tough trip to Everton and that is eaxactly how it transpired.
Sean Dyche was always going to make his Everton side hard to break down. As predicted he packed the midfield and went with a very solid 451.
Everton worked their socks off defensively. Their players showed an intensity and attitude that has not been seen all season. We became victims of the “new manager bounce”.
Dyche’s team pressed superbly.
Alex Iwobi and Dwight McNeil put in a fantastic defensive shift, which saw Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli doubled up on every time they received the ball.
One weakness of the way Mikel Arteta sets us up is that the full backs do not really get around the wingers. This means we can then not take advantage of the space created when the wingers are double marked.
We certainly miss Gabriel Jesus’s movement when teams defend so tightly. He drifts left and right and finds that space. It just is not Eddie Nketiah’s game.
Everytime the ball went inside, Everton smothered us.
Abdoulaye Doucour, Idrissa Gueye and Amadou Onana ensured that Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard saw very little of the ball. Again doubling up on our creators.
Dominc Calvert Lewin also dropped deep, helping out his midfield whenever Thomas Partey received the ball.
Where ever we looked, Everton were doubled up on us. Our passing was not quite sharp enough, not quick enough. And we were just enable to take advantage of the free man.
As predicted on the morning of the game, Dyche put out a side that had a lot of players 6ft+. Set pieces were always going to be a threat and that is how they scored.
We never really got fully going and had one too many looking off the pace. But we can not take anything away from Everton.
Dyche set them up brilliantly and their players played to his plan for 90 minutes. I imagine that is how Everton will play for the rest of the season. Hard to beat and grind out wins.
There will be some frustration around. There always will be everytime we do not win a game. Some have gone OTT. Toys thrown out the pram. The same people that have spent much of these season silent, not posting, then only pop their heads from under a rock when they have negativity to share.
They will probably be trying to find a way to blame the transfer of Jorginho. Moan about our transfer deals in January. Mykhailo Mudryk or Moises Caicedo would not have made a difference on Saturday.
These people are best left ignored.
We are still top of the league. I still do not expect us to win it. Manchester City are still favourites.
I had always said that I will not consider us as having a proper chance until we are above Manchester City following the game on 15 February.
City’s defeat means that 3 points against Brentford guarantees is still being ahead of City after we face them.
Dust ourselves down and we go again against Brentford.
I expect them to set up simialr to Everton. Hard to break down and look for set pieces. Almost every team we play between now and the end of the season will play like that.
As we saw in the match day blog, stick with the team! We go again.
Saturday, 4th February 2023. Kick-off time: 12.30pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Jakub Kiwior, Rob Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Leandro Trossard, (Jorge Luiz Frello Filho) Jorginho, Fabio Vieira, Matt Turner, Amario Cozier-Duberry.
Yellow Cards: Oleksandr Zinchenko
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 70%
Referee: David Coote
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts, Mark Scholes
Fourth Official: Andy Madley
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR John Brooks; AVAR Darren Cann
After our disappointing FA Cup match last week, it is good to be back to our bread-and-butter Premiership games again. Today we are at Goodison Park, which in recent years have been quite a tough place for us to ply our trade, despite Everton’s lowly Premiership position of late. Our new signing, Jorginho, is on the substitute’s bench today along with our other new boys Jakub Kiwior and Leandro Trossard. It should be quite a competitive match here in Liverpool this afternoon against the Toffees.
Both teams were fiercly competitive right from the kick-off; indeed it was Everton’s Vitaliy Mykolenko who committed the first foul of the day on our captain Martin Ødegaard within a couple of minutes of the start. Arsenal looked very good at this point in the match, stroking the ball around, finding their players well, with not too much interference from the home team. Gabriel Martinelli was briefly found in space on the left wing but after he knocked the ball back to Oleksandr Zinchenko, the resulting shot went straight into the arms of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. There was a great chance for us to open the scoring when Bukayo Saka set up Thomas Partey, but he did not catch his shot properly and Jordan Pickford saved easily. Bukayo Saka got a free-kick for an accidental sharp poke to the eye from Idrissa Gueye, and after some treatment, he continued playing. However, the home side woke up and started to put us under pressure when a corner found the head of Amadou Onana but fortunately Ben White was on hand to clear the danger; the consecutive corner found James Tarkowski but his header was deflected behind for a third corner, which went nowhere, thankfully. This trio of corners saw Everton press us back into our own half, but Aaron Ramsdale was on hand when needed, to stop any chance of a goal. Just before the half hour mark, there was some great movement on our part, and eventually the ball found Eddie Nketiah, who blasted the ball up and wide with only Jordan Pickford to beat. We have to start getting a grip on this match, as the home side are exploing gaps in our midfield and on the wings, and although we play well when we possess the ball, it is when we lose it and our inability to get it back is the problem today. Five minutes before the break, Bukayo Saka met a cross from the left wing with a volley that sent the ball running to the far corner of the goal. Somehow Conor Coady was on hand to poke the ball away, and in injury time we were fortunate not to concede a goal when a Seamus Coleman cross found Dominic Calvert-Lewin whose spirited header went wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s goal. We really have to impose ourselves more on this game in the second half.
Everton started the second half proceedings in this cauldron of noise, and again the home side came straight out of the blocks at us, with Idrissa Gueye hitting a shot from the edge of the penalty area and it took a wicked deflection; Aaron Ramsdale was initially wrong-footed but readjusted himself to dive the right way and palm the ball away for an Everton corner. Wake up, chaps. Granit Xhaka was set up for a shot on the edge of the penalty area but he was met by three Everton players, who successfully blocked his shot. We started to pass the ball around, but the home side were getting their defenders in the way to stop us progressing further, which is a concern. An Everton cross to the back post was met by Oleksandr Zinchenko, who coolly chested the ball back to Aaron Ramsdale, and a few minutes later, Eddie Nketiah ran down the left wing, crossed it to Martin Ødegaard, who whacked the ball high into the stands. Just before the hour mark, Mikel Arteta made a double substitution when the new boys Jorginho and Martin Trosssard replaced Gabriel Martinelli and Thomas Partey, but then disaster struck, when James Tarkowski headed the home side ahead from close range that gave Aaron Ramsdale no chance to save his effort at all. We had a penalty appeal turned down when Gabriel was sent tumbling just inside the penalty area by a shove from Neal Maupay before he clumsily fell into Idrissa Gueye. There were some fierce tackling taking place this afternoon, none more so than by Amadou Onana, who was rightly booked for an extremely late lunge on Ben White. After a messy exchange in the Arsenal six-yard box following an Everton corner, Fabio Vieira replaced an ineffective Martin Ødegaard, and we broke out quickly deep into the Everton half. Leandro Trossard hit a superb shot from the left wing which was parried by a diving Jordan Pickford, and although we do have our moments, we do not appear to have enough in the tank to grab a vital goal, and with the home side sitting deeper and deeper as the game ebbs away, it is going to become more difficult to do anything about it. Ben White was replaced by Takehiro Tomiyasu with six minutes of the match remaining, and as hard as we are trying to score, it does not appear to be our day. In the first minute of injury time, Oleksandr Zinchenko received a ball on the edge of the penalty courtesy of a Fabio Vieira corner, but his left-footed shot went just over the bar. There was an unsavoury incident between Oleksandr Zinchenko and Neal Maupay, which resulted in both players receiving yellow cards after a minor fracas involving quite a few players from both sides; it mattered not, as referee David Coote blew the whistle to bring the game to a close a minute or two later.
We may well have had seventy per cent posession, but it just was not our day on Merseyside this afternoon. Make not mistake about it, we were poor overall at Goodison Park, and although this was only our second defeat in the Premiership this season, at this stage it is one that we could well do without, especially as Manchester City are playing Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow afternoon. Anyone can (and will) lose a match, but it will be more important to see how we bounce back from this against Brentford next Saturday, and the following Wednesday against Manchester City. It’s going to be a bumpy ride from now until the end of the season.
MATCH REPORTRemember 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: Brentford at the Emirates on Saturday, 11th February at 3.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. 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
I asked a very simple question to the She Wore WhatsApp group.
Would you have wanted Arsenal to sign any of the players Chelsea bought at the same price?
Wesley Fofana – At the time it felt like a lot of money for a talented young central defender who had spent a year injured. As it turned out, his injury issues continued. Would not have him ahead of William Saliba or Gabriel. We are not Manchester City and can not afford to spend £71m on a back up defender.
Marc Cucurella – Cost nearly twice what we paid for Oleksandr Zinchenko, half the player.
Raheem Sterling – Not the profile of player we are signing. He has peaked and is now on the decline.
Kalidou Koulibaly – Always felt he was massively overhyped. There was a reason he had been linked to Premier League sides for half a decade (or more) but never made the move. Like Sterling, best days are behind him.
Benoît Badiashile – Would have provided good cover and competition for Gabriel. Plenty of experience for someone only 21. £34million looks a good price. Kiwior a similar profile at half the price.
Carney Chukwuemeka – Very talented player. A btec Jude Bellingham. That is not a bad thing, Jude will become one of the best in the world. £16million could look a steal if he develops. We have Charlie Patino.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – He was done as a top player when we got rid. Not sure why Chelsea fans celebrated signing him so much. They already want to sell!
David Datro Fofana – Never seen him play. Signed from Norwegian team Molde. Any new Arsenal striker needs to be better than Eddie Nketiah. Do not think he is.
Andrey Santos – 18-year-old central midfielder. Charlie Patino, Catalin Cirjan, Marcelo Flores, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand, Ethan Nwaneri. We have plenty of young midfielders. Unless he is better than all of them, it would be a waste of £11million.
Joao Felix – We were right to not sign him whilst we pursued Mykhailo Mudryk. Would have made no sense signing both. Chelsea have got both, we got neither. Think if he was stil on the market we’d have moved for him following the Mudryk deal breaking down. Would not be surprised if he joined us in the summer.
Gabriel Slonina – We have Karl Hein as the “young, 3rd choice keeper” option. Hein is also home grown. Also Arthur Okonkwo out on loan.
Denis Zakaria – Would have been a good option for a season long loan to be cover for Thomas Partey.
Mykhailo Mudryk – I wanted him. But a fee rising to £88million is just to rich for my liking. Glad we stepped away. Longer explination in a blog last week.
Christopher Nkunku – We could have signed him a few years back but opted for Nicolas Pepe. Been very good for RB Leipzig the last 18 months. But he plays off a big central striker. We do not play with one. Could he develop into an out and out centre forward and be the cover for Gabriel Jesus? Or maybe return to playing outwide as competition for Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli? A lot of money for a player who I am not sure where he would fit into our team.
Noni Madueke – England you international who has suffered a serious ankle injury this season. £28.5m is big money for an attacker with just 20 goals in 80 games in Holland. Saka, Martinelli, Trossard and Smith Rowe all better. Same level as Reiss Nelson.
Malo Gusto – In Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu, we have two brilliant right backs for Arteta’s system. Spending £30m on another right back would make no sense.
Enzo Fernandez – No one had heard of him before the World Cup.
Chelsea have spent over £600m this year and none of their signings scream out “we should have got him at that price”.
Badiashile and Chukwuemeka are the two main men that would have suited us. But with the signing of Kiwior and development on loan of Patino, we have similar options.
Denis Zakaria is a player I have always liked and I think he would have been a good signing to be that Thomas Partey back up.
Mudryk could become a world class player, but they have paid a world class fee for someone who only has potential.
Finally Nkunku is a player I have always liked. In another system he would have been a good signing for us. But we do not play a system that suits him.