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Arsenal: Why the Everton defeat was the most worrying yet for Mikel Arteta - and a turning point that could cost his job

Arsenal
(Image credit: Getty)

Arsenal's chance on 90+5 minutes fell, of course, to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Naturally, he missed - just as he has with everything else in this past six weeks or so. But if he had have scored, it would've been the biggest injustice in a game in which Ben Godfrey got away with a face stamp. 

Sometimes you get what you don't deserve in football - and the Gunners couldn't even manage that. That snap of a potential equaliser summed up everything wrong with Arteta's army. A perfect opportunity, falling at the feet of the one person you'd want it to - yet it wasn't close to going in. Arsenal will never get a better chance to display their manager's philosophy than last night.

How many chances do you want? Arteta recalled four men to the side in Granit Xhaka, Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka, who you expect to hold the team on its shoulders, either creatively or through their leadership. The balance of the front four was exquisite, with Gabriel Martinelli balancing Saka excellently on the flanks. The struggling Thomas Partey was given experience next to him. Martin Odegaard was rewarded for his performance against Manchester United. This was the opportune moment for a statement display.

And yet not even two hairline VAR calls was enough to slap Arsenal round the face into action. Beat a beleaguered Everton, and Rafa Benitez is for the chopping block - yet Arsenal couldn't muster a single shot on target until the Odegaard goal. 

You can maybe excuse a cauldron of Old Trafford for defeat, the absence of key leaders, creative lynchpins for the lack of composure. What excuse do Arsenal have for not imposing themselves on an Everton side 19th in the form table? And that's no disrespect to the Toffees: they know themselves from fighting for European spots that it's games like these that separate the good from the gutless. 

Arteta was quick to say afterwards that there were no excuses - not even the face stamp. He may point to inexperience, too: but he had two captains of their national teams on the pitch tonight and recalled players of stature. These are not any old Young Guns, these are some of the most promising under-23s in world football. And Arteta has assembled this team in his image, revolutionised the culture of the club, yet the one thing that Arsenal are known for - the one thing that would keep the fans onside - is missing.

When Jurgen Klopp was given his ample time to reshape Liverpool, his teams exhilarated. They were wildly entertaining in attack, sustained pressure and though they were liable to being sliced open on the break, hope is a currency earned by goals, shots and creativity. Not clean sheets and wonder saves. Manchester City were the same with Pep Guardiola, Arteta by his side. Even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's teams rained excitement before stabilising with Harry Maguire.

Arteta, alternately, has built a wall. His Arsenal side are difficult to break down - but when they're so sloppy in possession, you have all of the second half with which to have a go. 

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After such a bruising performance to Manchester United, where this young team only threw the kitchen sink at more experienced players when they were behind, this was supposed to be redemption. 90 minutes for no regrets. Arsenal had literally seen days ago what happens when you don't take your chance to bury a game - and they were handed a poor Everton side on a plate to stick the knife into, to really prove themselves against.

How many more turning points is Arteta going to get with this team? Has he completed a full 360 degrees with them, yet? "No excuses", the Spaniard spat at the final whistle, evidently livid with his side's woeful performance. His structure is excellent in build-up; his teams lose games due to individual errors. He has done so much good at the Emirates Stadium that whoever took this squad on next would thank him for.

But while Arsenal aren't losing games due to his coaching, they're not scoring nearly enough goals through it, either. The club hired him for his vision; his tactical acumen. You can't just get out-passioned by teams in poor form and drop three points like that.

This is a bigger blow than the United game, for sure. Bigger than a 4-0 against Liverpool that we kind of expected, a 5-0 against Manchester City that we probably expected. Bigger than the Chelsea loss, the Brentford loss, dropping points to Crystal Palace and Brighton. This is Arteta putting the lock on the door and having it kicked down. Where does he go from here?

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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. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT