The first half was back to the Arsenal of Arsene Wenger. Some great attacking play and some extremely dopey defending. Key point, the half was a lot fun.
We went a goal down inside a minute. A ball into the box came off the back of Luiz’s head, Calvert Lewin dropped an outrageous overhead kick and scored. A lot of finger-pointing going off, one of the big mistakes was wondering what the fuck Kola was doing wrestling Mina into the box breaking the offside trap. We were also slow, we weren’t alert, it was standard Arsenal.
Kola had a nasty clash about 14 minutes later, he went off with his arm in a makeshift sling with blood coming out of his mouth. Saka came on, probably how most wanted the game to start. The young left-back made an impact almost immediately. Xhaka slipped him in down the left, Saka moved the ball forward and whipped in a perfect cross for Eddie to guide a volley across Pickford’s goal. Brilliant to see him score after so many criticised Lacazette not starting (same people that have been complaining the Frenchman should have been dropped weeks ago).
We controlled possession in the main. Most of our problems came from Richarlison. He has so much power, he can shoot, cross, dribble, but Mustafi mostly did well with him on his own.
Iwobi had the best chance, blazing over in customary Iwobi fashion. He was subbed after 60, I do not miss him.
We took the lead when David Luiz slipped Auba in with a defence-splitting pass that was unbelievably sexy. The sharpshooter from Gabon should have cut the ball across the box to Eddie, but he wasn’t having any of that, he took the shot himself and it was inch-perfect.
The half meandered on for 5 minutes because of the Kola injury and we couldn’t keep it together. A ball cleared the area and was volleyed into the ground, spinning up, Mustafi lost out to Mina, the onward header wasn’t dealt with, everyone was asleep bar Richarlison, who prodded the ball under Leno.
The second half started off in spectacular fashion, Ozil slipped Pepe down the right, he cut back, found Auba with a precision cross, the striker heading down into the ground back across Pickford’s goal. Carlo’s face was a picture, barely had the chance to sit down.
The narrative of the second half was a messy one. Everton consistently found Richarlison out on the left, and his dangerous balls into the box were an absolute nightmare to deal with. Calvert Lewin was inches away on numerous occasions from equalising. He found himself 6 yards out with only Leno to beat, the German spread himself and the ball bounced off him.
Mustafi was a bit of monster in the second half. He took control of a horrible 45 putting his head, legs and body on the line to keep Everton at bay. Especially important as Saka’s head dropped after a number of bad touches, some Theo like collapsing on the ball under zero pressure, and some car crash passes to imaginary friends.
The two best chances came when a looping long ball over the top saw Bellerin slide it into the Everton forward line, Leno was quick to it, 15 years from his line he slid into a tackle and made the chance. There was also a horrendous setpiece that ended with a Lewin header that grazed past Leno’s far post.
The fans hung on for the last 5 minutes, sung loud and proud, and we took the 3 points.
Mikel’s first back-to-back wins in the Premier League. The fans vocal and onside. The players smiling at the end of the game.
The performance in the second half was a big mess at times. We made silly mistakes, we struggled with possession and we rode our luck. But that’s football, we needed a bit of good fortune after the nightmare run of horrible decisions and moments we had at the start of Arteta’s tenure.
I’m sure he’ll be working with the players to address some of the clear problems. We gave up possession too easily in midfield under pressure. We also didn’t deal with Richarlison. He’s a fantastic player, a bully, but time and time again, we allowed long balls out to the left to end in a cross or a very close chance. Mustafi was mostly on his game which was useful because Hector didn’t appear to be.
Another slight annoyance is some of the very cheap turnovers we allowed from throw-ins. We shouldn’t be losing possession there, but we did on numerous occasions. I also thought there were a few times when we weren’t even offering options.
Arteta was happy, mostly because Everton had a week to prepare and we had 3 days. A very important bit of information, particularly for a side that are a lot more physical than us (Arteta paraphrased).
‘The way we reacted and played for 65minutes after Europe was exactly what I wanted. They kept going and going.’
He also said Auba is the most important player and that he had questions over his ability to do the physical side of the job when he started, but now they are answered, and he wants to keep him at the club. It was a towering performance from the captain today. Two brilliant goals, but more importantly, his defensive duties were integral to keeping the outcome respectable. He loves mucking in and he’s playing like a proper captain. I was very impressed.
Dani Ceballos also had a very positive game. He was a little all over the place in the first half, he played some searching balls and kept the ball moving well, but he also made some silly mistakes, playing passes that didn’t need to be played or losing the ball in possession. The second half he was much better. He was an enforcer, making some brutal tackles and refusing to hide.
Bernd Leno was back to his best. He made some incredible saves, controlled his box well and made some very high-risk decisions that paid off. People might critique that he’s overused statistically, but the best keepers in the world keep teams in games. We haven’t had on that does that in years. God bless the German.
Also, worth noting that Mesut was also a beast. Ran himself ragged, made some great passes and tried to slow the game late on. Granit Xhaka was also brilliant, his probing balls and some ambitious Hollywood passes really opened the field. You really can’t know those two for effort and application.
There was some criticism of the subs. Arteta moves late in the game, a very Wengerish trait, and sometimes it’s not entirely clear what he’s up to. Taking off a flagging Ceballos for LT to strengthen a midfield being overrun made sense though, and you could see what the intention of Mesut for Matteo, more energy, aggressive pressing higher up the pitch. It didn’t really help, but I think that was just the nature of the game. I think a lot of people thought Papa or Nelson could have helped down the right where we were being absolutely savaged. Fair comment really, but the outcome was a win, so sheath your swords.
Overall, it was a great win. Not an ideal performance by a stretch, but some good attacking play, three very well worked goals, and a good response from going a goal down. That’s three wins in 7 days. Also notable that the fans are feeling it. They sang loud, they supported the team and helped us see it through. I think people can see Arteta is slowly moving the club forward, this is a team that was dead a few months ago and now they’re fighting like dogs until the end. Arteta was never going to fix everything right away, his main job has been to make us harder to beat, which we are. Now we’re starting to rack up points. Loads to address, but I’m feeling good about where we’re heading. The plan is clear.
A massive home game against the Greeks in the week. Let’s keep the positivity rolling and move to the next round and the chance of winning a cup.
See you in the comments. x