Everton’s done a fair shot of handing out points to the opposition this year, so perhaps it’s fair play that Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno gave the Toffees three on Friday at the Emirates Stadium.
Perhaps even more fitting? The self-inflicted error on-the-field matching the European Super League decision that led to a a sizeable fan protest of owner Stan Kroenke outside the stadium (which was audible inside the ground).
Arsenal’s loss, which came without Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, may have done the favor of clarifying Mikel Arteta’s focus.
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Still seven points off seventh, the Gunners only route to Europe may be winning the Europa League.
Everton’s 52 points are a points off seventh and three back of fourth-place Chelsea, the Toffees in charge of their top four destiny with Aston Villa (x2), West Ham, Sheffield United, Wolves, and Manchester City left on the docket.
It’s the first time Arsenal has lost nine home games in a season across all competitions.
Three things we learned from Arsenal – Everton
1. VAR staying in focus during run-in: Arsenal looked set to go to the penalty spot, with Nicolas Pepe holding the ball and waiting for VAR to take a look at a clear kick of Dani Ceballos by Richarlison. But VAR wasn’t looking at that, rather whether Pepe was onside earlier in the move. Pepe was, indeed, just offside but the review felt quite off given the foul came with Ceballos and Richarlison 1v1 in the box, several passes after the offside. The NBCSN broadcast noted 15 seconds between the offside and the foul.
Get a load of this offside, which was not called offside on the field (Eyeroll emoji).
2. Who wants to trouble the ‘keeper? Carlo Ancelotti’s Toffees had Arsenal a bit off balance in the first half but both clubs struggled just to get their attempts anywhere near Jordan Pickford and Bernd Leno. Their one save each through 45 minutes carried past the hour mark, even as Arsenal started to have more of the play. The Gunners smashed into the outside of the goal and Chambers chopped a corner off the ground and over the bar in the 64th minute. So it was fitting that just managing to find the keeper’s general vicinity provided Richarlison’s goal (or Leno’s own goal), the German’s big error met at the other end by a strong stoppage-time Jordan Pickford save. Odd comments on Leno’s future and a start last week from Mathew Ryan will only complicate the keeper’s evening.
3. Arsenal fans who want to see the kids… should also want to see the veterans: Yes, Eddie Nketiah scored a late equalizer last week, Emile Smith-Rowe is promising, and Bukayo Saka a delight when on his game, but only Nketiah showed much Friday as Nicolas Pepe was the Gunners best hope of a goal while Aubameyang and Lacazette were absent and Odegaard only fit enough for 20 minutes off the bench.
Man of the Match: Lucas Digne
Should it be Richarlison? The Brazilian scored the goal but also would’ve given a penalty away if not for VAR’s review of a previous offside. So even though he was industrious and productive, we’ll look to Lucas Digne, who had six tackles, three clearances, and showed his attacking acumen, too.
Arsenal – Everton recap
Aside from some fouls and injuries, most of the noise was outside the stadium until Richarlison forced Bernd Leno into one of two interventions by the half-hour mark.
Gylfi Sigurdsson then hit a nice free kick that might’ve turned just a bit off of a leaping Calum Chambers in the wall before spinning off the cross bar.
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Seamus Coleman might have been offside when Everton started the second half as it ended the first and Everton had a corner.
The VAR controversy didn’t stop Arsenal from continuing a bright first part of the second half, and Pepe won a free kick off an ugly challenge from Mason Holgate.
Richarlison put the Toffees ahead with a lot of help from Leno, as the Brazilian ran onto a long Seamus Coleman ball and hit a low shot on goal that the goalkeeper lost off his calf and over the line.
Pickford ade a great save on Gabriel Martinelli at the death and the Toffees’ European dreams live to fight another day.