Arsenal’s schizophrenic, rollercoaster of a season continued at Goodison Park yesterday where Unai Emery’s side maintained the worst away form in the top nine of the Premier League, squandering the chance to move third in the table in the process.
This has been a season in which every apparent step forward from the new Gunners manager appears to have been followed with at least one back and this was never more true than here, where they maintained a record that Emery was most certainly not looking to add to his CV when he replaced Arsene Wenger last summer.
Of all the teams in the top four divisions of English professional football, Arsenal are the only one who have failed to kept a clean sheet on their travels this season — an alarming statistic, especially given Emery’s reputation as a master tactician which he brought with him from Spain.
Perhaps the pressure is beginning to tell.
It certainly looked that way towards the end of proceedings when Shkodran Mustafi crudely hacked down Dominic Calvert-Lewin, making a fast break down the wing directly in front of the opposing dug-outs, and both benches became embroiled in an altercation. “We had that moment during the game,” explained opposite number Marco Silva.
“But football is emotional and in that moment, he wants what is best for his team and I want what is best for my team also. I just said to him best of luck for the rest of the season at the end.”
The rest of the season, of course, involves Arsenal still being involved in the Europa League but, in terms of the Premier League, a third-placed finish may still be possible but so, too, is the prospect of Arsenal finishing sixth and missing out on the Champions League once more.
“I think generally we are well,” claimed Emery.
“I don’t think, today we lost and we are very bad. It was a bad result, not a good performance today, but we are fourth.
“Before, I knew it was going to be difficult. After this result, I am thinking the same.
“After this result, we can be negative because it is three points lost, but it is in our hands, if we continue taking chances and opportunities, to be in the top four.
“We lost a big opportunity and today we didn’t show our our capacity to impose our game plan against them. So we’re going to think about uor next game on Thursday, and our next league game against Watford, and if we can continue being consistent, we can win.”
The latest setback, in a season which has brought just five away wins for Arsenal — compared to double figures for Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham — was the result of a dramatic contribution from veteran centre-half Phil Jagielka.
The former England international was only called into the starting line-up minutes before kick-off when Michael Keane decided the virus that had hit him during the night would prevent him from playing.
For the 36-year-old Jagielka, plagued by knee problems all season, this was just a third start of the campaign, not that there was any lack of sharpness no his part when Lucas Digne launched a missile of a long throw into the Arsenal area after 10 minutes.
Jagielka got in an initial flick, allowing Calvert-Lewin the chance to head towards goal and watch as a fortunate deflection saw the ball drop to the defender who swept home from close range.
There was a hint of offside and a suggestion, from replays, that it may have been a foul throw but Arsenal had already looked shaky from one such long throw and there was a distinct lack of poise and bit about the Gunners.
This was an Everton side enjoying a strong end to the season but who had only ended a 25-game winless run against the “big six” on their last home outing against Chelsea.
If Emery were to show their Champions League credentials, here was a perfect place to do it.
Instead, after Emery finally brought on Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the interval, there was an improvement but not enough of one to bring an equaiser.
Ramsey volleyed over a near-open goal three minutes after coming on, following a poor punch from Jordan Pickford from Aubameyang’s cross but Bernd Leno, in the visitors’ goal, was by far the busier keeper.
“We were better offensively but we were worse defensively in the second half,” said Enery. “We need to find more balance.”
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Pickford 6; Coleman 6, Jagielka 8, Zouma 7, Digne 8; Gomes 7, Gueye 7; Richarlison 8 (Walcott 79, 6), Sigurdsson 7 (Davies 90), Bernard 9 (Lookman 87); Calvert-Lewin 8.
ARSENAL (3-4-2-1): Leno 8; Mustafi 5, Sokratis 7, Monreal 7; Maitland-Niles 5, Elneny 4 (Ramsey 45, 7), Guendouzi 6, Kolasinac 5 (Aubameyang 45, 7); Ozil 5 (Iwobi 73, 7), Mkhitaryan 6; Lacazette 6.
Referee: K Friend 6