The Gunners were hammered a blow to their title aspiration by the Everton defeat, thus ending their 14 games unbeaten run with the 2-1 loss at Goodison Park. Going into the game Arsenal should have been full of confidence following back to back wins in the League and in Europe (1-4 win over FC Basel).
Arsenal took the lead through their talismanic forward Alexis Sanchez with the aid of a deflected free-kick but the Everton had plans of their own as they rallied back to turn the screw against Arsenal with two headed goals to claim an unexpected win.
With the defeat it means Arsenal missed out on the chance to close the gap on Chelsea in the title race and our local rivals now host Sunderland today as clear leaders.
Here are the possible lessons from the Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at Everton….
SANCHEZ CAN’T WIN ON HIS OWN
The Chilean gave Arsenal the lead outside the box as midfield player Francis Coquelin was fouled in the area. Sanchez converted to give Arsenal hopes of extending their unbeaten run in the season before the worst happened few minutes before the intermission. Among the Arsenal players Sanchez looked the liveliest and seems to carry Arsenal on his shoulder. Unfortunately for him it was a game his partner Mesut Ozil failed to come on board as he missed two chances in the game after being played in by Sanchez. With the trio of Sanchez, Oxlade and Walcott firing in recent weeks, it was no surprise as the trio got the nod ahead of Iwobi and Giroud including the hat-trick hero against FC Basel, Lucas Perez, but its Sanchez that redeemed himself with a decent performance as Chamberlain and Walcott did not give enough to get Arsenal something in the game.
ARSENAL MUST IMPROVE DEFENSIVELY
The side must improve in the long run defensively as tougher test awaits in the season with Bayern Munich in mind. There is need for the Arsenal side to maintain full concentration at the back to keep their title hopes alive in the season. Arsenal might have gone on an unbeaten run this season prior to the Everton defeat but the defence could not keep a clean sheet even with the presence of Arsenal reliable Mustafi. It has to do with the desire of the players and the understanding that defensive stability will be key in the title race. The positioning at the back has not been that effective and that is why the caliber of Petr Cech was beaten twice in the Everton goals. There is need for increased concentration if at the back if Arsenal will not bid their title aspirations goodbye for yet another season.
ARSENAL WERE OVERPOWERED PHYSICALLY
The hosts threw everything they had into the game after going 0-1 down in the 20th minute of the game. Everton players exerted themselves in their bid to overturn the deficit, which paid off as the game turned physical. With the likes of Aaron Lennon, Gana Gueye and Enner Valencia who were very strong, Arsenal found it hard to deal with the opposition as they were content on their ability on the ball. It was Lukaku’s show of strength against Gabriel that resulted in the corner kick for the winning goal. The ease at which Barkley left Sanchez standing showed were the physical strength lay as Everton profited to bring themselves back in the game with a goal before half-time.
ARSENAL NEED MORE WORK RATE
In a game like this where the tempo is high, work rate will be key. Players like Tevez and Essien and even Kante will cherish such games in an attempt to assert themselves in the game. Everton had tireless Gueye Gana pulling the strings in their midfield pivot to deny Arsenal some space in transition while, Lennon had his own plans in tandem with Enner Valencia. The likes of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley combined pretty well with the latter flashing a shot across the face of goal which went out for a goal-kick. Sanchez was the last man standing trying to force openings in the opposing defence while some of his team mates were content in passing the ball around without incision.
ARSENAL NEED A NEW SIGNING
The Everton game had exposed some of Arsenal weaknesses in the charge for the title along with Chelsea. Players like Walcott and somewhat Oxlade-Chamberlain have proven they are not enough for Arsenal to win the league so a reinforcement is imminently needed. Earlier in the season I wondered why Joel Campbell (of all people who was one of the best player in pre-season) was allowed to go on loan at Sporting while Serge Gnabry was left alone after a decent performance at the Olympic Games in Rio particularly against top sides like Nigeria and Brazil in the tournament. With a hat-trick against San-Marino, Wenger might have been wondering why he let Gnabry leave the squad.
Wenger must go for Draxler or fix something for Arsenal in the transfer window so that Arsenal can compete efficiently in the course of the season with one trophy (EFL Cup) lost already. Gunners we need a new signing and Wenger must admit it and splash the cash in January.