Everton v Arsenal Review – by Dan Smith
A couple of weeks ago I predicted Arsenal might draw at Brighton, and I was surprised by the backlash from some readers who simply can’t have anything negative said about the team they love.
In truth my forecast for this weekend was a point but I didn’t want the abuse (which is sad).
Yet on Saturday, we saw why the Gunners simply won’t be able to maintain their title challenge.
Many Gooners focus on our two fixtures with Man City yet what decides title races, is what you do at a Goodison Park, Villa Park, London Stadium, etc.
Champions go to these tough grounds and find a way to leave with all the points.
How we grinded out victories at Elland Road, Selhurst Park and the second half at the Lane were very un-Arsenal like and whatever happens it’s an area our team have improved in, they can now fight and win matches even when not playing well.
Yet over the years our squad have always had what we saw yesterday in them, it’s something that was sadly a case of when and not if old habits would return.
We arrived in Liverpool with utter arrogance, like we only had to show up to be victorious. We are not a good enough footballing side to be taking any opposition for granted but here was evidence of players believing in their own hype, not helped by being knocked out of the FA Cup with one shot on target labelled as positive because we only lost 1-0. By the way, how did resting players at the Etihad help in anyway this weekend?
There’s zero excuse for any of our players to not have expected a battle. Everyone knows the one thing Sean Dyche would have demanded from his first training session is effort and work rate. If they didn’t know that there has literally been pictures all week of Everton players doing bleep tests.
More worrying is we lost the very same encounter over 12 months ago for our poor attitude. There’s footage from Amazon of our manager going mental at half time and so angry at full time for how poor our attitude was that he couldn’t even speak to his team.
How that wasn’t a warming sign throughout the week is a mystery. A bigger one is how the same coach can say how much he loves his team after repeating the same mistakes?
When I say the same …….
Ramsdale, White , Tomiyasu, Tierney, Holding, Gabriel, Partey, Elneny, Xhaka, Lokonga, Smith Rowe, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah were all around 12 months ago.
The pressure of making the top 4 and fear of failure crippled those players, asking them to a year later to have the mentality to cope with a title race is asking too much. Jesus and Zinchenko have helped but it’s simply too much too soon to ask the same players mental strength to have improved that drastically.
My peers don’t have to be sensitive about that fact. Arsenal have made huge strides, we don’t have to be precious about the fact that Man City have set standards that we just can’t compete with yet.
The Champions have recorded point totals in the late nineties, once having to put winning sequences up to 14 games to hold off Liverpool. To match that, we can’t be having days where we don’t show up.
You sense Pep Guardiola is aware of that, hence why he’s started the mind games by making us out more of a threat then we actually are.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said that he didn’t bother looking at the table this time of the year. As long as Man United were in contention in April and May he was happy because he knew his men had the experience to get over the line.
Pep is the same, knowing he has a dressing room of players who know how to find a way to win. He also knows Arsenal will always have days like Everton in them, and that you can’t have those days if you want to be Champions.
Mentality is such a strong component in sport, it decides margins which are so small between success and failure.
This time last year we didn’t show up at Palace, home to Brighton, then at Southampton. Any run like that would cost us the title.
How we respond will be vital.
Yet Saturday was our reality check, why we are not ready to be Champions yet.