There will be no merry Christmas for struggling Arsenal as a 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park made it seven league matches without victory to increase manager Mikel Arteta’s woes.
While his former club are upwardly mobile again after three victories in eight days moved them to second in the table the Spaniard is struggling to see where his next three points are coming from.
If there is any encouragement for Arteta it is that before victories over Chelsea, Leicester and now the Gunners Carlo Ancelotti’s team were on a run of one win in seven.
Defeat.— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 19, 2020
But to turn things around they are going to have to either improve on just the three shots on target – one Nicolas Pepe’s first-half penalty equaliser – they managed on Merseyside or take a leaf out of the Toffees’ book who scored two from just one attempt on target as Rob Holding’s own goal opener was followed by Yerry Mina’s header on the stroke of half-time.
They were not helped by the absence of top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a tight calf but they conceded possession from the off and lacked any intensity or desire to break up their opponents’ play.
Everton played most of the opening 20 minutes in front of a low block of nine outfield Arsenal players, rarely getting anyone in behind to open up the visitors.
As a result a frustrated Dominic Calvert-Lewin, starting to feel isolated with Gylfi Sigurdsson playing more of a number 10 role, began to drop deeper which played into the Gunners’ hands even more.
But having got their top scorer back into a decent position again Alex Iwobi swung over a cross on which the striker was able to get a glancing header on.
The ball’s trajectory would have taken it well wide but Arsenal’s luck was against them and it was diverted past Bernd Leno by Holding’s thigh as Arteta’s side went behind for the seventh successive league match.
Eddie Nketiah snatched at a shot when he had more time to consider his options before Arsenal were gifted an equaliser.
Mina’s poor defensive header put Tom Davies, back in the side for the injured Allan, in trouble and as he attempted to boot the ball clear Ainsley Maitland-Niles nipped in and the Everton midfielder’s swing of his right foot brought down his opponent.
Pepe sent Jordan Pickford the wrong way from the spot for the 35th-minute equaliser but on the stroke of half-time equally-bad defending allowed the home side to go ahead again.
Leno’s save from Cavert-Lewin was more than good enough but from Sigurdsson’s resulting corner Mina rose highest to beat the goalkeeper at his near post – his fourth successive Premier League goal in the 45th minute.
The first half could only have been been worse for Arsenal had Dani Ceballos been sent off for an apparent rake of his studs on Mina but he escaped punishment.
Since Arteta took charge Arsenal have failed to win any of their previous 10 league games when trailing at half-time and although they began the second half more positively they created little more.
The closest they came was when recalled goalkeeper Pickford failed to claim a cross and the loose ball was driven goalwards by David Luiz only to deflect off Abdoulaye Doucoure and onto the post.
Even the first appearance since March of 19-year-old forward Gabriel Martinelli, scorer of 10 goals in 26 appearances last season, and the late introduction of Alexandre Lacazette failed to improve the fortunes of the visitors who did not force Pickford into a save until the fifth minute of added time.
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