Arsenal and the Everton curse: Why Mikel Arteta is cursed away to his former club
Arsenal put their worst performance of the season in against Everton this season – and this is a recurring pattern for former Toffee Mikel Arteta
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has an atrocious record away to Everton. Is he in fact a sleeper agent, given that he was signed from Goodison Park by Arsene Wenger?
At the start of February, the Gunners continued their hoodoo on Merseyside, dropping three points in the title race – made even more painful by the fact they could have extended their lead over Manchester City, who lost 24 hours later.
But scratch beneath the surface and it's not just that Arsenal lost. When Arteta heads back to Everton, his team deliver particularly uncharacteristic performances…
Arsenal, Mikel Arteta and the Everton curse: The 2020/21 loss
Mikel Arteta took over Arsenal in December 2020, watching his new team from the stands at Goodison Park before his first game away to Bournemouth on Boxing Day. The next time he'd head back to the blue side of Merseyside was almost a year later.
Now an FA Cup winner, the away game at Everton in 2020/21 was perhaps the lowest that the Gunners found themselves all season. They were humbled 2-1, weren't in the game at all and calls for Arteta's head were perhaps at their loudest. It was a seventh match in a row without a win, with the likes of Willian and Nicolas Pepe in the starting lineup.
Arteta ripped up the script after a dismal showing, ditching the three-at-the-back once and for all to return to a 4-2-3-1, bringing Bukayo Saka to the right wing, introducing Emile Smith Rowe and starting the current trajectory of the Gunners as we know it. Willian and Pepe would never regain their spots as first-choice options.
2021/22: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's final appearance
A year after the dismal display away to Everton that forced Arteta to revolutionise his side, he took his team to Goodison once more in buoyant mood. Arsenal had just lost to Manchester United but were pushing for Champions League football and looking strong.
Despite taking the lead though, Arsenal ignored several warning signs, failing to properly dominate the game, as Everton had disallowed goals and chances galore. When Demarai Gray netted a screamer in added time, it felt scripted – as did the gilt-edged chance that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang skewed wide.
That was the last time that Auba would play for Arsenal. Aside from a 5-0 early season loss to City – in which Xhaka was sent off and Arteta opted for a makeshift back five amid an injury crisis – this was perhaps the Gunners' worst performance of the season. They'd go on a run of winning nine of the next 11.
2022/23: You know when you've been Dyche'd
Unbeaten since September doesn't really tell the full story. Arsenal were very unlucky in that loss to United and hadn't really put in a bad performance up until this point in the campaign.
Well, they did at Goodison (surprise, surprise). The Gunners were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession, lacked their natural rhythm and intensity and not only did James Tarkowski's winner feel inevitable, it felt fully deserved. Arsenal were well beaten, all in all – and so the curse continues.
For the third season in a row, losing to Everton was the worst moment of the season for Arteta. It's the third different manager to have masterminded a victory over the former Toffees player, too. The last time Arsenal won at this ground? A 5-2 Arsene Wenger win, in which Wayne Rooney, Oumar Niasse, Nacho Monreal and Alexis Sanchez all netted. Yes, that long ago.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.