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Arsenal 0 - Everton 1: yuck

The Gunners played probably their worst match of the season at an inopportune time.

Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Arsenal put in probably their worst performance of the season, falling 1-0 to Everton at Goodison Park. The dreaded new manager bounce helped reinvigorate a struggling Toffee side that hadn’t won a match in the Premier League in three months. They’ll probably win a handful more, too, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they don’t win another match all season.

It’s wild how much of a bogey ground Goodison Park has become. Arsenal have lost four and drawn once in their last five trips, facing Everton teams that sat, on average, 13th in the table at the time. There’s really no way to sugar-coat it. That’s plain awful.

There’s not all that much insightful to be said about the performance. Arsenal were off the pace all afternoon, misplacing passes, and shooting like they’d never kicked a ball before. The poor quality of the pitch, apparent even from the broadcast, probably didn’t help things. But that’s a weak excuse for a bunch of 3’s and 4’s out of 10.

The weird thing is Arsenal still did just about enough to snatch a draw. And they would have done it if they’d properly been awarded a penalty for a trip on Gabriel Magalhaes. The contact on him was far more significant than other incidents given as fouls at other points in the match. But that’s the way it goes. Sometimes you don’t get the calls.

Arsenal are good enough this season to overcome not being at their best (see e.g. the Leeds match) or good enough to overcome not getting the benefit of the calls (see e.g. a fair handful of matches). But they aren’t good enough to overcome a poor performance and not “getting the bounces” as it were.

You can add to my gripes the way the Neal Maupay - Alex Zinchenko incident in second half added time was handled by simply cautioning both players when Maupay’s conduct, for me, was clearly worse. It had no influence on the outcome of the match but was a case in point example of how David Coote was not up for the task today. That’s the Sean Dyche bet, isn’t it? Set his teams out to kick, foul, shithouse, and perform every manner of football Dark Arts and dare the referee to get it right.

If you couldn’t tell, I really don’t like Dyche as a manager. And Neal Maupay is fast approaching the same territory. I hope they both step on Legos every morning for their rest of their lives.

When they weren’t kicking the back of ankles or swiping at faces, Everton did what Newcastle did — double and triple teaming Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli — to great effect. Mikel Arteta and Arsenal will need to work out an answer for what to do against clubs that use that same tactic. The solution might be as simple as Martin Ødegaard and Granit Xhaka not having terrible games at the same time.

It also might be having the fullbacks push further forward into the interior channels to take the space created by the defense going so wide. Any time Ben White tried to do that, he gave up the ball trying to be too cute with his flicks and passes. It was a second poor performance in a row from the Arsenal right back, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Takehiro Tomiyasu get the start ahead of him next weekend.

On the other hand, Mikel Arteta might put Ben White back out there as a show of confidence in his fullback. In his postmatch remarks, the Arsenal manager said that he loves his team even more than he did before the loss. White has more than earned the right to have an off game or two, but he needs to turn it around.

Jorginho did not impress in his Arsenal debut. For now, I’ll put it down to unfamiliarity with his teammates and the system. Mikel Arteta said the substitution for Thomas Partey was precautionary because the Ghanaian hadn’t trained all week due to his rib injury. Leandro Trossard was pretty good off the bench, but like the rest of the team, seemed to have left his shooting boots in London.

There really isn’t any one thing in particular to point to as why Arsenal lost. They just weren’t up to their usual standard. Until today, they’d passed every exam set them, so the smart money is on them bouncing back and continuing that trend. They’ve still got a little bit of wiggle room in the title race, but it just got narrower. On to the next.