Welcome to That Sums It All Up – Arsenal’s 1-0 loss to Everton was just a bump in the road…

Full-time. Sean Dyche’s Everton 1-0 Arsenal. Let me be clear – this was NOT the game I envisioned writing about in my first piece. I suppose you’ve always got to start somewhere! Anyway, I’m Alfie, and welcome to my brand new column on Gunners Town – That Sums It All Up. What EXACTLY am I going to be writing about? Well, the clue’s in the name. Thanks again to Tony Adams, Martin Tyler and Everton (oh the painful irony) for providing the iconic title-winning moment in 1998. Every week, I’ll be putting pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) in an attempt to ‘sum up’ all things Arsenal. We’ll predict and preview, report and review, discuss and analyse, and do everything in between. Because, much like Paul Ashworth in Nick Hornby’s ‘Fever Pitch’, Arsenal is on my mind 24/7, so why not translate some of those thoughts into written word?!

That Sums It All Up Photo

The iconic Tony Adams celebration after scoring in a win vs Everton at Highbury to win the 1998 Premier League title.

Anyway, let’s get on with today’s business. The topic in question is that of Everton’s 1-0 victory over Arsenal. Mikel Arteta’s top-of-the-table side travelled to Goodison Park to take on a winless-in-eleven Everton. It also just so happened to be Sean Dyche’s first game in the dugout. The short of it is this: Dyche got his team playing football in a well-drilled, disciplined, and committed manner; a manner in which we haven’t seen Everton play for a good while. Arsenal struggled to get their rhythm going, and ended up losing 1-0 – and deservedly so…

Let’s start at the beginning. A couple of red flags came to mind pre-game. First, Mikel Arteta is yet to win at Goodison Park as the Arsenal manager. Last year’s 2-1 defeat was pretty dire, the season before’s perhaps even worse. I guess this was third time UNLUCKY! Second red flag: Sean Dyche has tended to do ‘well’ against (successfully frustrate) Arsenal in recent times for Burnley. Red flag number three was the potential impact of the dreaded ‘new manager bounce’. And boy did Everton’s entire existence require a serious dose of that. Unfortunately for us, our fears came to pass, and it was down to us to respond…

Sean Dyche with Arsène Wenger back in the day

Sean Dyche with Arsène Wenger back in the day

It wasn’t to be. “It wasn’t our day” and all that. I think it’s safe to say that this was certainly Arsenal’s worst performance and result of the season so far. Which was somewhat surprising given the team that took to the field was, on paper, our strongest available XI. It’s the side that went to Tottenham, scored two and kept a clean sheet. It’s the side that only a couple of weeks ago engineered an electric victory over Manchester United at the Emirates stadium. But the team’s performance level was a shadow of what we’ve grown accustomed to. The midfield triumvirate of Partey, Odegaard and Xhaka were completely outrun, overrun and outplayed in the centre of the park. Partey – normally so important in dictating our tempo from the base of midfield – looked particularly off colour (perhaps the rib injury sustained vs Manchester City was to blame). Our technical leader Odegaard was quite literally kicked out of the game from the start. Xhaka couldn’t get to grips with the physicality, athleticism and aggression of Everton’s midfield three of Onana, Gueye, and Doucoure – who played excellently, it must be said.

Eddie Nketiah found the test against Everton’s centre-backs, Tarkowski and Coady, too tough to tackle. Gabriel Martinelli was ineffective on the wing prior to his early withdrawal. Bukayo Saka was our brightest spark, but even he struggled to cope with Everton’s disciplined defensive doubling up strategy. And look, there were chances for us in the game. Nketiah had the first, but blazed it over from a tight angle. Saka saw his steered volley cleared off the line. Then Odegaard skied one into row z from a cutback. Ultimately, it did feel like one of those games, one of those days where we were never going to find the back of the net.

Defensively, we were also shakier than usual. Everton are a physical side, and made it their mission to get plenty of deep crosses into our box. Aaron Ramsdale did well, as did Gabriel and Saliba. Ben White and Oleksandr Zinchenko, on the other hand, had rather more challenging days at the office. They failed to block the barrage of crosses arriving in our box, and were culpable of conceding one too many a corner – from which Everton posed their greatest threat, and ultimately got their goal. Normally so important to our patterned attacking play, White and Zinchenko struggled to combine in their respective attacking triangles, leaving Saka, Martinelli, and Trossard when he came on, considerably isolated. And look, a lot of this was down to Dyche’s design – Everton successfully implemented a disciplined, targeted, and back to basics set of tactics designed to stifle Arsenal. And it worked a treat.

Jorginho replaces Thomas Partey

Jorginho making his Arsenal debut

Jorginho (making his debut) and Leandro Trossard came on for the final half an hour, but it made little difference to our ability to establish a foothold in a game that always felt as though it was getting away from us. Everton continued to swarm our midfield, successfully press us high up the pitch, steal the ball back, and win all the second duels. We lost our duels, we lost our races, and ultimately lost the game and the three points that came with it. It’s only the second time it’s happened this season, which is why it’s a rather unfamiliar feeling. And of course, we all knew that the loss meant we missed the chance to extend our lead to eight points clear at the top of the table.

Coming away from the game, and even after the first half showing, it was hard not to long for Gabriel Jesus to be fit again, and wonder what this game might have looked like had he been available. Perhaps his physicality, intensity, and experience of this type of encounter would have helped us. I’m sure it would have. Let’s just hope he’s back soon, as I’m sure similar away days will follow in the not too distant future…

Gabriel Jesus

Jesus celebrating a goal earlier in the season

But look, there were always going to be bumps along the road. Let’s look at it with our glass half full – hopefully we’ll be glad this little blip happened when it did, and not later on in the season. It offers us a valuable opportunity to learn from this experience, to absorb where we went wrong, and figure out how to better prepare ourselves next time we’re faced with this sort of adversity. After that, draw a line under it, and bounce back against Brentford, who visit the Emirates next weekend. And what a huge game that is for us to get back on track, even more so given we’ve got Man City in town only several days after. It is essential that we regather our momentum, our confidence, and show ourselves that this indeed, was just a blip.

So, to SUM IT ALL UP, let’s chalk it down as a little bump along the winding, ever-changing Premier League road. An anomaly in an up-until-this-point exceptional season. Learn from it, draw that line, and go again next weekend. We’re more than capable of doing it. So let’s be confident in our abilities to do just that. Until next time – COYG!


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