In a second matchup with these two teams in just over two months, many will have noted it took under a minute for this game to be more interesting than the first occasion. Everton shot out of the gates to catch Arsenal starting slow and got an early lead, but Arsenal managed to compose themselves get back into it.
Controlling a good chunk of the possession until later in the game when Arsenal were forced to absorb a lot of attacking pressure, Leno was called into action on multiple occasions to save the day. A handful of great saves and a clearance well outside of his own box made him a big portion of Arsenal’s success. Each team controlled stretches of the game, but in the end, Arsenal were able to make more from the moments they controlled to get a win at home and make it three in a row.
Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ceballos, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Nketiah
Martinez, Sokratis, Guendouzi, Torreira, Nelson, Saka, Lacazette
A lineup that was relatively unchanged from the matchup last weekend that saw Arsenal thrash through Newcastle, 4-0, was selected again by Arteta to face Everton. The only major change was Saka getting a rest for Kolasinac who was again fit for selection.
It was a topsy-turvy first half. Arsenal started the game conceding a goal 1-minute in. After giving up an early free kick, Luiz was unable to deal with the ball im allowing Calvert-Lewin the opportunity to put away an acrobatic finish. Some will question if it was dangerous play with Luiz’s head nearby, but I feel as though that would have been a harsh ruling of the bicycle-kick.
Arsenal composed themselves for a bit and gained some control but a momentary scare on the break. Everton worked it for an Alex Iwobi shot that was put a little high and wide. After that, Arsenal continued to possess the ball, but lacked many chances and an end product.
A frightening collision on the left side of the field as Kolasinac collided with Sidibe and appeared to have a potentially, serious shoulder injury putting an end to his return. Saka on. 10 minutes later, Saka adds to the evidence that he might be irreplaceable in the lineup as he makes an inch-perfect cross to Nketiah who completes the attack with a tidy volley using the instep of his foot to guide it home. 1-1.
After the goal, Arsenal looked to continue the momentum they had carved out for themselves. 32′ minute they got their reward. Luiz draws defenders to him as he carries the ball into the midfield, down the left side, and splits the lines to play Aubameyang in behind the Everton defense. From there it was a tough finish, made to look all too easy for Aubameyang. Sidibe was clearly caught too tight and taken out of the game with the impressive Luiz pass. 2-1 Arsenal.
As the half was coming to an end Richarlison flew into a tackle late on Ceballos that had VAR checking for a red card. Moments later, a corner kick not fully dealt with by Arsenal was put back into the box and turned into the net by none other than Richarlison. Not the ideal way to end the half.
Level 2-2 at the half.
After finding themselves level at the half, Arsenal wasted no time in making things right. For the second time in this game, a goal was scored in under a minute. This time it was Aubameyang scoring his second goal off the game off a Pepe cross. Everton were too willing to give Aubameyang space in the back and were punished for it as Pepe played in a ball to find Aubameyang’s head on the penalty spot. A great finish and display of composure as Aubameyang took a real shot from Sidibe for his troubles. Arsenal back in the lead 3-2.
From then on, the game went back and forth with a lot of it being played in the middle portion of the pitch. Teams battled to try and get something going but were unable to create anything too threatening. Everton made the first move of the second half bringing on the recently, recovered Andre Gomes and Bernard to try and add a little extra to their attack.
Given this was the third match of the week for Arsenal, legs were always going to be a potential concern for the Gunners and as we moved toward the 70’ minute, some technical skills began to let a few players down. Arsenal were nearly punished when Saka stumbled over the ball in the midfield leading to a quick Everton counter. Fortunately, Leno was up to the task as he deflected Calvert-Lewin’s shot away from danger.
That was the first of a few big saves from Leno to keep Arsenal in the lead. Moments later he would be called into action again as Calvert-Lewin looked to curl a shot to the back post. He failed to get enough curl on the ball and Leno made a nice save keeping his body in front.
In the 76’ minute, Arsenal brought on Lucas Torreira for Dani Ceballos to help lock down a midfield that was beginning to look out of gas and a little overrun and a second sub in the 82’ minute bringing on Guendouzi for Ozil. Ozil acquitted himself very well with a handful of deft touches, wiggling escapes in the midfield, and passes to find people in the attack. In the 5-10 minutes leading up to his substitution he could be seen leading the defensive press almost as though he was at the point playing our number 9 role. Great to see him back in the lineup and helping the midfield.
Arsenal could have put the game away in the 85’ minute as their defensive press forced Everton into an error in their own defensive third. Nketiah shifted the ball onto his right foot and hit a curling, rocket easily past Jordan Pickford only for it to smash off the crossbar and be cleared. Feeling fortunate after the let off, Everton played a great through ball past a stretched Bellerin that would have seen them in on goal, but Leno made a wonderfully timed “keeper-sweeper” move to clear the danger.
It was clear after this point that Arsenal were looking to see the game out as they absorbed a lot of second half shots and danger. Everton’s last gasp effort came during injury time on another set piece. Calvert-Lewin, again, worked himself into a good spot and had a free header that just went wide.
Final score 3-2 Arsenal. 3 straight wins for the Gunners and they still remain unbeaten since the new year. Next up – 2nd leg at home versus Olympiacos.