Arsenal kept their winning streak alive, somehow beating Everton 2-0 with a leaky back line and after a mess of a first half.
Arsenal had a scare in only the second minute of the game, when Dominic Calvert-Lewin slipped past the Gunners’ back line and into the box; Petr Cech grabbed the ball from the Everton striker’s feet and saved a likely opening goal. Arsenal’s insistence on playing out from the back nearly cost them two or three early in the game; only the offside flag and silly fouls from Everton kept the Toffees from scoring.
But as sloppy as the Gunners were in defense, they were sharp on the counterattack, forcing Everton keeper Jordan Pickford into a save at around the ten-minute mark. That was the closest they came to scoring in the first half hour, though, and it did nothing to shore up their shaky defense. Somehow they kept the Toffees off the scoresheet, through a combination of good play from Cech and the occasional Everton mistake.
At that point, our iffy back line became our injured back line—Sokratis tried to play on after taking a hit above his right knee during a corner, but eventually couldn’t continue. He limped off the field with seven minutes to go until halftime, replaced by Rob Holding.
Arsenal had two good chances in the dying minutes of the half, with Alexandre Lacazette getting his feet tangled and losing the ball in the box and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hitting the crossbar, but this game went into halftime somehow still scoreless.
The second half started as the first had gone, but just as NBC’s commentary team began to fall back on tired narratives, Arsenal figured it out. Lacazette got the ball from Aaron Ramsey, took a controlling touch as two Everton defenders closed in, and then threaded a curler between them and into the top corner of the net.
Lacazette with a sublime finish to give Arsenal the lead against Everton. 1-0 pic.twitter.com/5W8aKYMNId— Terje (@TerjeMedia) September 23, 2018
The Gunners got their second three minutes later—Mesut Özil broke free and took the ball up the right side of the pitch and passed it to Ramsey, Ramsey flicked it on to Aubameyang, and Auba lofted the ball neatly over Pickford. The goal was very offside, but no Toffees or linesmen noticed. As a makeup call for the handball penalty that the refs missed earlier in the half, we’ll take it.
Aubameyang doubles the lead for Arsenal. A mile offside but the goal still stands. 2-0 pic.twitter.com/0yrWoxMfe9— Terje (@TerjeMedia) September 23, 2018
Cech continued to make his case for man of the match with a save at about the seventy-minute mark, and the game paused a few minutes later to make sure that everyone was okay after Shkodran Mustafi and Richarlison knocked heads outside of Arsenal’s box. Although the team was more comfortable with a two-goal lead, the defense was never even close to solid, and they were lucky not to have given up a goal or three or four at that point. To their credit, the Gunners seemed to have put the first half out of their minds, and they continued to pressure Everton in their search for a third goal—perhaps worrying that they might need it before the end of the game.
Everton threatened again with five minutes to go, but Cech (and the crossbar) kept the Toffees off the scoresheet once again, and as the stoppage time ticked away, Arsenal took their sweet time regrouping for free kicks and corners. Weirdly, in one of their worst defensive games of the season and with almost their entire midfield out of position, the Gunners picked up their first clean sheet of the year.
Arsenal will get two days to work on their defending before facing Brentford FC on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup. Their next Premier League match is against Watford on Saturday.