ARSENAL 5 (Ramsey 6, 19, 73, Koscielny 14, Aubameyang 37) – EVERTON 1 (Calvert-Lewin 64)
Henry Ford once said, in a phrase that is pure Donald Trump, “history is bunk”. It would be a surprise if Sam Allardyce agrees; he is after all a manager famous for studying the entrails of every game, gleaning every bit of intelligence and insight and applying it to his tactics and selections going forward. When, following the win over Leicester, his thoughts turned to this one we must assume he considered it a challenge, a difficult one. Rather similar in fact to the recent trips to Anfield and the home game against Chelsea from which Everton emerged with two draws and a creditable defeat – if there is such a thing. That his selection on Saturday was very different from the teams put out for those games is therefore of interest. Two of Sigurdsson, Rooney and Tom Davies played in all three. In other words, there were always some creative, progressive midfielders on the pitch. And they contributed, with Sigurdsson scoring a blinder and Rooney setting up Calvert-Lewin for his penalty at Anfield.
Here we played 5 at the back, 2 ultra-defensive midfielders and 3 up front, essentially a team without a heart or for that matter a brain. This was a Frankenstein team that not even the shock of four goals conceded before half time was going to jolt into life. The midfield was gutted, the team unbalanced, with the thinking presumably being to play on the counter with long balls out of defence, by-passing midfield, into the channels for Walcott, Bolasie and Niasse to chase. Kick and rush. And it never happened. This team couldn’t even deliver playground football.
It took just 6 minutes for the plan to unravel. Ceding the midfield and allowing Arsenal unchallenged possession of the ball over huge swathes of the pitch and expecting anything other than what actually happened is football illiteracy. Arsenal with the pressure off, allowed to dictate the tempo and play were soon grinning with appreciation. Welcome to the Premier League Aubameyang, yes it is this easy.
What happened to the ‘in their faces’ tactics of those earlier games what happened to pressing, what happened to just, well, challenging and being a proper Everton team; we couldn’t even get a yellow card. Incredibly, why did Allardyce wait until half time to change things around, Arsenal were two up after 20 minutes; time then surely to go to four at the back and get Sigurdsson and Rooney on and Keane or Williams and Bolasie off.
10–3 is the aggregate score of the Arsenal – Everton Premier League games this season. The players and management, both equally culpable, owe Evertonians a big one. And soon.
ARSENAL: Cech (Ospina 69), Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal (Kolasinac 45), Ramsey (Wilshere 74), Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Iwobi, Aubameyang.
Unused subs: Lacazette, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Elneny.
Booked: Koscielny, Mustafi
EVERTON: Pickford, Keane (Davies 45), Williams, Mangala, Kenny, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Martina, Walcott (Calvert-Lewin 60), Niasse (Tosun 77), Bolasie.
Unused subs: Rooney, Sigurdsson, Holgate, Robles.
Ref: Neil Swarbrick