Arsenal picked a good place to showcase the determination, belief and class required to produce another Premier League title challenge. Mikel Arteta’s team were confronted by an obstinate Everton with zero ambition but one piercing move and stylish finish from the substitute Leandro Trossard sufficed for a first win at Goodison Park in almost six years.
It was another galling afternoon for Sean Dyche as his side succumbed to a third 1-0 defeat in three home matches this season. A struggling Everton have lost four of their opening five games for the first time since 2005-06 and the manager can be thankful that the wantaway owner Farhad Moshiri is unlikely to contemplate another change at the top.
Everton’s performances do not warrant such talk, overall, but their woeful run of results would have undoubtedly tested Moshiri’s patience back in the day when he had the resources and ambition to demand better.
Dyche seemed intent on a goalless draw from the outset. It was Arsenal’s patience that was ultimately tested here and they passed as comfortably as the move that brought victory. From a short corner, too. Everton won the corresponding fixture from a more direct corner last season in Dyche’s first game. The contrasting approach speaks volumes.
Arsenal had lost four and drawn one of their previous five visits to Goodison but there appears more substance to Arteta’s team this season, and it was required to maintain the confidence and composure to eventually break Everton. There were boos after the final whistle for only four minutes of time being added on. The truth is, the hosts would not have threatened an equaliser no matter how long the referee, Simon Hooper, played.
“There is massive work to be done, as I said at the end of last season,” the Everton manager said. “I thought we would have had more points on the board than we have because the performances deserve more but the table doesn’t lie. You can’t give the ball away as often as we did today. We were not effective enough.”
There was a notable absence from the Arsenal side as Aaron Ramsdale was replaced in goal by David Raya for the first time since the Spaniard’s loan move from Brentford. The debutant could not have wished for a gentler introduction, spending the entirety of the game as a virtual spectator as Everton sat back and allowed Arsenal to dominate possession.
Had Dyche calculated that his team could absorb pressure, close the gaps that Arsenal look to exploit and kill the spectacle, he was proven correct by a tedious first half. There was sympathy for Beto, Everton’s recent signing from Udinese, who was completely isolated on his home debut by both the gameplan and his teammates’ tendency to lose possession almost immediately.
The only incident of note before the break was the VAR decision to disallow a strike from Gabriel Martinelli. It was the only time Arsenal managed to breach a well-organised Everton defence, but another VAR intervention that was open to interpretation.
A Beto challenge on Gabriel Magalhães sent the ball sailing towards the Everton goal, where Eddie Nketiah came from an offside position to collect. The impressive Fábio Vieira then released Martinelli behind the converted right-back Ashley Young and the Brazilian found the far corner with a pinpoint finish.
VAR, however, decided that Beto’s touch was accidental and the celebrations inside Goodison switched from the away corner to the home sections as the breakthrough was ruled out for an offside against Nketiah. It was a reprieve for Everton and a relief for Amadou Onana, who had let Beto’s ball run through to the otherwise anonymous Arsenal striker in the correct belief that he was off.
Arsenal were otherwise comfortably contained before the interval. Injury was added to insult for Martinelli when he hobbled off with a muscular problem moments later, to be replaced by Trossard, and the visitors spent the remainder of the half searching in vain for a way through the nine royal blue shirts encamped deep inside their own half. The interval brought welcome respite for the spectator and time for Arteta to work on a solution. His players delivered.
There was greater urgency, better movement and combinations from the visitors as soon as the contest restarted. Everton players were suddenly dragged out of position as Arsenal overloads on both flanks brought an overdue threat to Jordan Pickford’s clean sheet.
The England goalkeeper denied Martin Ødegaard after the Arsenal captain collected Ben White’s incisive pass and cut inside Jarrad Branthwaite. The young Everton centre-half produced a fine clearance to prevent Trossard’s dangerous low cross reaching Bukayo Saka, while the commanding James Tarkowski stopped Nketiah’s drive into the box with a pristine tackle.
But the pressure was increasing, and finally told when Arsenal produced an exquisite move from a corner and Trossard applied the finishing touch it deserved. Vieira and Ødegaard combined to release Saka towards the right‑hand byline. Saka pulled the ball back at pace towards the Belgium international who steered an unstoppable first-time shot beyond Pickford and in off the far post. It was no more than Arsenal deserved, and the reward for a gruelling slog.