Everton fail key away test

Full-time at the Emirates and once again Everton have failed to win a game away at Arsenal as they fall to a 3-2 defeat this afternoon.

Heading into this match Everton hadn’t lost in the Premier League since defeat at Manchester City back in December.

I said in my match preview I felt this was an important game to test how far the Blues had progressed under Carlo Ancelotti and unfortunately after this result there still seems a long way to go.

Once again the Toffees have been let down by individual errors and failed in a game away from home against a high-profile opponent, and the team travel back to Merseyside after another frustrating defeat.

Everton started brightly and just a minute in were ahead as Dominic Calvert-Lewin took advantage of slack Arsenal defending to score with an overhead kick.

I always feel that it’s a dangerous thing to score that early and so it proved as the Blues weren’t able to take advantage of their shock early lead as Arsenal grew into the game.

Then a collision between players led to the home side making a substitution that probably changed the game; with substitute Bukayo Sako, having an almost instant impact. His excellent cross was volleyed in by Eddie Nketiah for Arsenal to go level.

The home side then took the lead as the Gunners dominated play, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang punishing an error by the defensively lax Djibril Sidibe, slotting in to give them a lead.

But just on halftime Richarlison, following a Blues set-piece, managed to get a touch on a Yerry Mina’s flick on to make it 2-2 at the break.

Having somewhat fortuitously gone in level at halftime, the Toffees just needed to start well in the second half.. but of course that was too much to ask and Aubameyang was able to head Arsenal back into the lead just seconds after the re-start.

It had been an open game and now Ancelotti made a succession of attacking substitutions and this did revive the Blues as they went in search of at least an equaliser, if not more.

The Blues pressed forward and created a succession of good chances with Richarlison and particularly Calvert-Lewin going close several times. But as so often they couldn’t get that final touch or piece of luck and the game finished 3-2.

So once more Everton have come up short in a crucial away match against one of those teams they are competing with for European football. This loss felt potentially vital with Europe in mind as a win today could have been psychologically important.

Somehow this team have to tale the next step and find a way to win these games. Arsenal were there for the taking and certainly were as defensively vulnerable as Everton, if not more so.

The difference was the quality of their strikers, especially Aubameyang, who is surely a world-class goal-scoring talent. Where would they be without his assured finishing?

Everton were though too open at times I felt and their 4-4-2 was a little too rigid and the midfield was too easily bypassed. I wouldn’t criticise Ancelotti but I still feel ultimately 4-3-3 is a little more flexible tactically.

The defeat also again exposed the often fragile nature of the Blues defence, although both centre-backs were solid and Mason Holgate excellent, especially bringing the ball out of defence. It was the full-backs most at fault, especially Sidibe who was awful on the right.

The Toffees could have got at least a point today if they’d taken their chances, but poor finishing let them down once more with DCL missing a few great opportunities. These misses indicate that he is still a little short of becoming a top-level striker.

The one real positive was the appearance of Andre Gomes who came on in the second half and looked like he’d never been away.

Having him back in the fold can only improve this team and just in time too with tough games coming up against Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool.

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