Another Arsenal Premier League match, another disappointing result. Today’s 1-0 loss to Everton was the first time the Gunners had lost to the Toffees at the Emirates. It’s tough for me to get worked up about it at this point, and I think it’s because I’ve written the league season off. All the eggs are in the Europa League basket, so as long as Arsenal show up against Villareal on Thursday, I’m fine.
Arsenal didn’t play badly today. They weren’t great, either. They played fine. Probably well enough for a draw, maybe well enough to get all three points on a different evening.
Everton didn’t play well, either. They created very little going forward. Their goal was on an absolutely horrendous error from Bernd Leno. An error so poor that, for me, it’s the final straw in losing the #1 keeper spot to Mat Ryan. Since joining the club, Bernd Leno has done more than his fair share of earning points for the team, but he’s in a really poor run of form. Arsenal cannot afford a poor keeping performance in the Europa League.
Arsenal should have had a penalty but had it taken away when VAR ruled that a thread of Nicolas Pépé’s shirtsleeve was offside. The line drawing is absurd. It’s completely arbitrary. Today, it really looked as if the line drawn on Pépé was incorrectly placed. There was also no consideration given to phases of play. Surely the ball going to another player who then carried it back away from goal before being fouled starts a new phase. Arsenal get and convert the penalty, the game plays out completely differently.
The match also plays out differently if Mikel Arteta picks Gabriel Martinelli to lead the line over Eddie Nketiah. Nketiah was fine (I guess), but the drop in quality from Alexandre Lacazette / Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the middle was dramatic this evening. Martinelli would have provided dynamism and much more of a threat. He is always looking to shoot, and when you have 3 shots in the entire match as a team (one from Martinelli, by the way) a “shoot first” guy helps. If you don’t shoot on frame, you can’t score.
It’s almost not worth mentioning the decision to bring on Willian down a goal. He adds nothing, but Mikel Arteta keeps giving him minutes. I’d try Reiss Nelson at this point simply because we don’t 100% know that he’s not going to contribute anything.
I’m ready for this Premier League season to be over. And it’s starting to look like the players share that sentiment. I don’t blame them. So long as it doesn’t affect their ability to play well in the Europa League.