Arsenal’s ambitions are to win the Premier League and we haven’t said that for a while. Everton are the kind of team that get cheered wildly when they win a corner and we have been saying that for far too long.
What we got at Goodison Park was a clash of style, ambition and need. Arsenal wanted all three points. For Everton, one would have doubled their season’s tally. All this added up to a poor, anti-climactic game which had hardly anything going for it save for the fact it wasn’t the worst top flight game of the afternoon.
A piece of quality won it, at least. Leanardo Trossard – another to come through the finishing school – has found himself on the outside of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal team looking in so far this season and was only on he field because of an injury in the first half to Gabriel Martinelli.
His was a lovely goal with 21 minutes left, though, and it was one Arsenal badly needed. Arteta’s team have not been at their best so far this season and that’s a dangerous thing indeed when you are trying to keep in touch with a Manchester City team that wins just about every game it plays. This, then, was a goal as important as it was well-taken.
Short corners never used to be a thing at Arsenal. These days they are so very common and when they work as well as the one Arteta’s players put together here then it’s easy to understand why.
Leandro Trossard scored the winner for Arsenal as they beat Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park
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A succession of passes moved Everton’s players out of position and out of the penalty area and when Martin Odegaard played Bukayo Saka to the byline, his cut back was side-footed across Jordan Pickford by Trossard’s left foot. Taken first time, the shot had some cut on it and looked at first as though it may swing across the far post and wide. Instead, the ball caught enough of the upright to bounce back in to the goal and Arsenal had a lead they never looked like giving up.
With Arsenal’s own goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale replaced for this one by David Raya, it would have been interesting to see if the switch was justified. As it was, Raya hardly had a thing to do. Everton were just about anonymous as an attacking force and it’s clear this is going to be their problem as this season advances.
Sean Dyche’s team scored twice in drawing at Sheffield United just before the international break but they are the only goals on the Everton ledger after five league games. That is something that will have to change if Everton are to nudge upwards in the table and indeed if Dyche is to survive what may yet be a change in ownership at the club.
Arsenal’s record at Goodison Park is alarmingly poor but here at least they tried to force the issue from the outset. Indeed much of the first half hour of football was played in the Everton half.
The home team’s tactics when they didn’t have the ball were identifiable. Stay in shape and work hard. Largely, it worked. Arsenal chances were thin on the ground in the opening period. When Dyche’s team did have the ball, however, things were more muddled. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford seemed reluctant to play the ball along. Instead there were some uncomfortable moments for Everton as they passed the ball around in their own penalty area before inevitably succumbing to the inevitable and clearing it up the field, only with less sense of calm or purpose than their goalkeeper may have shown.
Nevertheless, Everton remained in the game and that was the most important thing for a team without a league win this season.
Arsenal -without the dropped Kai Havertz – were not at their best. They stuck to their principles, looking to work angles on the edge of the Everton penalty area but the home defence was stoic and eager for work and most routes to goal were closed by those in blue.
Arsenal did have the ball in the net in the 20th minute only for the VAR officials to call it offside. It was a close one, Eddie Nketiah coming from deep to lay the ball off to Fabio Vieira who then played Martinelli through to score. The VAR lines showed the call to be desperately tight but this time – unlike when Manchester United had a goal chalked off at the Emirates a fortnight earlier – Arsenal did not get the benefit of considerable doubt.
It had been a neat and incisive piece of play by Arsenal, probably their best of the opening half. They also may have had a claim that the ball had reached Nketiah from an Everton player. That would have ruled him onside. But Neto’s intervention was clearly judged to have been non-deliberate. Confused? Well, you probably aren’t the only one.
Soon after Martinelli left the field with what appeared to be a hamstring injury and as such Arsenal’s task became a little harder. There were a couple of half chances thereafter in the half as a Declan Rice shot was blocked and another from Ben White was held high by Everton goalkeeper Pickford.
Everton themselves didn’t muster a shot on goal until after all of this. A strong run forward by Abdoulaye Doucoure ended with him in a heap in the Arsenal penalty area just after the half hour. He hadn’t been touched, as it happened. But when the ball was recycled, another midfielder in the shape of Idriss Gueye did manage to deliver a shot from distance that Raya saved comfortably down to his right.
Everton’s foray continued to be limited in the second half also. More pleasingly for the home team, so did Arsenal opportunities. One raking pass from Aleksandr Zinchenko to substitute Leonardo TRossard opened up Everton but the Belgian – who ran on to cross low – was called offside. Zinchenko then drove for goal and appealed for a handball against James Tarkowski even though the Everton defender’s arm was tucked close to his body. That one didn’t even go to VAR.
Arsenal didn’t look like scoring, in truth. But then with 21 minutes to go, they did.
A short corner from the right was worked through Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard and then Bukayo Saka and when the England winger pulled the ball back Trossard side footed the ball across Pickfordand n to the far corner off the post with great skill.
In a poor game, this was a lead Arsenal deserved as much for intent and territory as much as anything else. Everton just hadn’t offered enough and even though Arnaud Danjuma had volleyed over from 18 yards just before the Arsenal goal, they now had a real mountain to climb.
With increased need came an increased risk, of course. And when Everton were caught with numbers forward in the 77th minute Arsenal broke. Odegaard may have passed left to Saka but went alone. Pickford saved that one but may not have had a prayer with Vieira’s follow up had Vitalii Mykolenko not intervened with a superb block.
In to the final ten minutes and Everton were offering very little. They were, at least, still in the game. They didn’t create a chance, though, and though the home support seemed upset at referee Simon Hooper’s decision to add on only four minutes at the end, the protests seemed rather pointless. An equaliser had hardly been coming.
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