Yes, Everton were dire, but Arsenal’s game-plan was perfect

So, in theory one of the youngest squads in the division should have learnt lessons last season from finishing second in a league they mostly topped. Logically despite their broken hearts they should be better for the experience.

One of those learning experiences is Goodison Park, a venue where silly points were dropped in the last campaign.

While our opponents in February benefitted from the bounce of a new manager, in reality we were guilty of showing up with the wrong attitude, not earning the right to play, a lack of sleeves rolled up for a fight, arrogant players plagued by complacency.

Yesterday we dominated on the blue half of Merseyside so much that it’s hard to fathom this could be a fixture where costly points were dropped, you can’t help but think if only we approached this stadium in Feb in the same way we were now.

If you didn’t watch this game, it’s hard to describe how one sided it was and how losing 1-0 flattered Everton.

We scored what I call an Arsenal goal, one touch passing, clever movement off the ball, Evertonians looking like statues,

Another 5-10 minutes of the match goalless and the home side may have found confidence in our struggles to break down a Blue Wall.

Yet that’s the only place any comfort could be found, the hope we were having one of those days.

I truly can’t recall too many displays in the Prem where a home side showed so little ambition.

The Toffees have had poor sides before, but there’s still characteristics you associate with them.

One of the oldest arenas in the UK, it’s renowned for its atmosphere, the People’s Club inspired by their role of underdogs.

Instead, the host’s supporters were mostly silent, almost embarrassed that in 2023 this is the football they offer.

Even the basic things never materialised. Physically we were not bullied, there was no catalogue of set pieces to defend, even in the closing moments, you waited for the ball to at least be bombarded in the air …. still waiting.

All of those attributes were Sean Dyche’s skills at Burnley, yet the tactics he produced this weekend were truly gutless.

The audacity of him to complain that only 4 mins of added time was given when he spent the entire 90 refusing to play.

You can defend, be direct and yet still show character.

Think of how many times we used to lose at Bolton and Stoke.

Mr Wenger would question their principles, but what they did worked for them. There was a personality.

For the desire Everton showed against us, they may as well have gone out to attack and go out swinging, at least die on your sword.

You won’t lose your job losing to Arsenal 1-0, but you will if you are asking customers pay to watch that brand of football.

Yet, listen to our manager and it’s clear we had a part in that.

I have often accused Mikel Arteta of over-complicating matters. You don’t need 70 different tactics in one match, there was zero need to loan Raya and he has a blind spot over Havertz.

Yet yesterday the Spaniard spoke in beautiful simplicity in how he would stifle the Everton threat.

He wasn’t being wise after the event either. Post match he acknowledged our poor record on this ground, and it was clear lengthy chats had aspired of why this was.

Yes of course, the more ball you have, the harder it is to be hurt but our boss spoke about what areas to play in, when and when not to engage.

Everton’s strengths may have been their height, so our set pieces were purposely taken short and mostly on the ground.

As a former player in Liverpool, Arteta is aware how the emotion from the stands can inspire, so he took the emotion out of the afternoon by slowing down the tempo.

The influx of corners and free kicks never came because we were not conceding fouls in silly areas.

It all sounds obvious, but it actually takes great man-management to convince your team to go away from home, play your way, and stop your opponents from even attempting their game plan.

It was great coaching.

How often did we know what we were facing at a Britannia or Reebok and still get undone by what we were worried about?

Everton away is not an easy game to control for 90 minutes.

Not an easy crowd to take the emotion out of.

We did that with maturity and by reading the game.

It’s scary the improvement against the same team compared to months ago.

Arsenal are growing up.


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Tags Everton v Arsenal


  1. How could Nketiah be offside if Gabriel did not kick the ball forwards, but sideways. Insane rule that is based on ignorance. Whoever made that rule should be sacked for not doing their job decription properly. Makes a mockery of the game.

    1. That’s true. Also, this is similar to the back pass rule where the keeper is allowed to collect the ball that deflects off his own teammates.

  2. Agree with the article and I thought we played well, but we do have to be more potent in making chances in games like this because we could easily drop points in spite of the level of control. Trossard’s shot comes off the post and doesn’t go in, we may have won anyway, but we may not have.
    I think arteta’s playing very safe, we’re controlling the play but not taking many risks at all because we don’t want to face counters. I think we’re a bit too balanced towards safety atm when we could be more expansive at times. Could be an issue of form, but it’s something I hope to see change over the season, so that these dominant performances *are* reflected in the scoreline

  3. I bet Arteta and the coaches watched the results of other games, then decided to play safe due to our bad record at Goodison Park

    West Ham could’ve won against Man City, Liverpool were struggling against Wolves and Spuds were lucky to get three points from Sheffield. There is almost no easy game in EPL nowadays

    Arteta’s tactic might not look exciting for some people, but it was safe and I believe we’ll win plenty of games with it

    1. Gai, I bet Arteta is becoming more matured in his decision making to enable Arsenal win games.
      Pathey and JTimber is injured and the coach has found a way to not allow Arsenal lose games. I guess many fans wouldn’t bet on Raya playing against Everton. But I remember saying on this platform thatArteta wouldn’t sign a top class keeper like Raya only to put him on bench for cup games alone.
      I am happy Arteta is now using his Epl experience to determine tactics that could win us games even if it doesn’t please the fansbor entertaining as long as we have 3points to show for it. I am optimistic of what we can do in UCL God helping us to avoid injuries.

  4. I agree that there’s an improvement in game management from the coach and players. Many fans are hoping for the quick,risky and high tempo game we played last season but I doubt it will happen. The truth is,as entertaining as we were,that kind of football is just unsustainable over an entire season.As Dan has said,our play is more matured,and controlled. If my memory serves me right,many times last season we would have large spells,mostly in the second half when we would inevitably run out of steam because of how we played.

    And indeed towards the end of the season, a number of players looked tired.Our approach this season is more like a marathon whereas last season it was more like a sprint.We are now having significantly more possession and that has it’s advantages-whether you think of it as negative or positive possession. Opponents can’t score if they don’t have the ball. If we played this way in the Europa League last season,we’d probably have gone deeper in the competition. There’s also a lot more rotation rather than Arteta using just 13 players. This will benefit us in the long run as it keeps everyone match-fit. Only ESR has yet to play(without counting Elneny and Cedric for obvious reasons) and I hope he does get time in the CL . Overall,there are encouraging signs that lessons have been learned from the mistakes of last season.

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