Arsenal took care of business at Goodison Park with a professional, 1-0 victory over a woeful Everton side. It wasn’t a scintillating performance full of attacking dazzle, but it was effective. The Gunners controlled the match, choked the life out of the Toffee’s attack, and Leandro Trossard got the necessary goal from a well-worked corner routine.
Gabriel Martinelli thought he’d put Arsenal in front midway through the first half when he opened his body and fired home a Thierry Henry-esque finish into the far corner on a break. Unfortunately, Eddie Nketiah was slightly offside to start the move. And to add injury to insult, Martinelli looked to tweak his hamstring on the break and had to be subbed off.
It was a strange offside call, one that was technically correct by the letter of the Law but felt wrong and not in tune with the spirit of the Law. In the Arsenal half of the pitch, Gabriel Magalhaes went to play a square ball to William Saliba, Beto stuck out a leg to deflect the pass, and it caromed straight up field to Nketiah. It was a deliberate attempt to play the ball from Beto, to be sure, in the conventional understanding of what deliberately trying to play the ball means. But “deliberate play” has a specific, defined meaning in the Offside Law, and Beto attempting to intercept a pass does not fit under that definition.
Arsenal stayed patient, didn’t try to force the play, and while they didn’t generate the volume of chances you’d like to see, capitalized on a set piece for the game-winning goal. Mikel Arteta’s side have scored 16 goals from corners, the most of any team in the Premier League. This one was taken short, worked around, and eventually played to Leandro Trossard, who opened his body up to curl a shot off the far post and into the net.
The Gunners completely shut down the Everton “attack” on the afternoon. They did it mostly by possessing the ball (75% in the match) and snuffing out attacks in the middle third. Arsenal are so good at closing down opposing teams from the edge of the attacking third to the halfway line, forcing turnovers, and stopping attacks before they start. It’s a Declan Rice specialty — he reads the game so well to put himself in the right places to intercept passes and break up the play. Arsenal held the Toffees to just 0.3 xG for the game.
David Raya, picked over Aaron Ramsdale to start today, hardly had anything to do. He commanded his area well, claiming crosses and balls into the box. And he’s really good with his feet, definitely better than Ramsdale. Fabio Vieira, Arteta’s other change to the starting lineup, had a solid game. He could have had an assist or two. I don’t think his performance was so good as to wrest the role away from Kai Havertz, who played well as a substitute.
Arsenal still aren’t firing on all cylinders and haven’t reached the dominant level they had last season. But they’re still unbeaten on the season, claiming 13 of 15 points on offer. They got the Goodison Park monkey of their backs, too. As much as anything else, dropping points to poor teams like Everton kept Arsenal from the Premier League title last season. Even though the win wasn’t pretty, they won. They didn’t do that last season. That’s progress. They’ll find top gear soon.