Arsenal managed to take all three points against Everton on Sunday. It was not a vintage performance from Mikel Arteta‘s men and Carlo Ancelotti may feel hard done. However, the Arsenal performance showed improvement by the side while highlighting areas of persistent weakness.
Gunners Win Shows Some Weakness, Overall Improvement
Same Old Weaknesses For Arsenal Against Everton
For all the good that Mikel Arteta has done at Arsenal, they proved against Everton that there are some persistent problems at the Emirates. Namely, the defending. Dominic Calvert-Lewin‘s opener proved as much.
First, Sead Kolasinac showed poor positioning during the set piece. He followed his man despite the rest of the defence holding an off-side trap. That allowed Mason Holgate to remain on side to flick on the ball to create the chance.
Second, Granit Xhaka covered Calvert-Lewin in the build-up. The Swiss captain has shown good form since Arteta’s arrival but covering dangerous players on set pieces is not a strength of his. Instead, one of David Luiz or Shkodran Mustafi should have gotten the assignment.
Xhaka simply didn’t cover the striker properly and left Luiz in no-man’s land as he attempted to cover two players on the play. That allowed Calvert-Lewin to bag the opener.
The second goal was much more a result of luck but the Gunners’ defence faltered a few other times in the match. Good thing that Bernd Leno brought his best game on the day else Everton, who out-shot Arsenal at the Emirates, would have gotten at least a point.
What more is there to say about the Arsenal defence? They are simply not the calibre of a top-four side at the moment and need reinforcements in the transfer market.
Progress In Other Areas
Mikel Arteta has delivered progress in other areas, however, despite the continuation of errors at the back. He is getting the best out of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang despite the striker playing from the left wing. Aubameyang’s brace is proof enough of this.
Mesut Ozil is also quietly going about his business in midfield. Although he isn’t getting the old numbers of goals and assists, his silky-smooth passing has tied the midfield and attack together nicely since the new year.
The key difference has been an intangible change in attitude and emotion around the club. Under Unai Emery, the players and coaches seemed less than united and a bit fatalistic, leading to poor performances as well as results.
Under Mikel Arteta, Arsenal play with more belief and, like against Everton, have the ability to grind out results and earn three points. The tenacious Toffee efforts on the day would have surely been too much for the Gunners earlier in the season.
However, there is a culture shift beginning to take shape in the red half of north London.
Results Slowly Improving
In isolation, many matches under Mikel Arteta seem less than promising. However, a big-picture view yields improving results to go with the feel-good factor at the club. The Arsenal win over Everton is the latest example.
Since Arteta took charge, the Gunners have lost just once. That was a narrow 2-1 loss to Chelsea in which Arsenal held the lead yet lost the match late. The loss came at the end of December, making it nearly two months since the north Londoners tasted defeat.
There have been a lot of draws. For example, the club dropped points against the likes of Burnley, Crystal Palace and Sheffield United. In recent games Arsenal, playing much the same football, have beaten Newcastle United and now Everton in the league.
Add to that a victory over Olympiacos in Europe and Arteta’s men are on something of a hot streak. They’ve played much the same football but the belief and confidence of the players is now seeing them capture all three points instead of dropping two or even three.
What’s Next After Arsenal Beat Everton
Arsenal will have a chance to continue this good run and build valuable momentum in the lead-up to the end of the season. The second leg against Olympiacos awaits on Thursday followed by a weekend devoid of a match due to Manchester City‘s involvement in the Carabao Cup final.
Depending on the new date [TBD at the time of writing] that may come before or after a clash with West Ham United, who are languishing near the foot of the table. Two of those matches are imminently winnable and taking the result on both days would do much to continue to propel the confidence in the squad.
After the win over Everton on Sunday, Arsenal are just four points off of fifth-place Manchester United who occupy the presumed final Champions League place. There is also all to play for in the Europa League as well.
Two roads to a Champions League return are available to Mikel Arteta. Should the recent results hold, as the performances have, Arsenal could very well take advantage of one of them this season.
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