Arsenal’s afternoon stroll around Goodison Park on Sunday served only to sharpen the focus on last weekend’s truly woeful result at Watford.
The Gunners were absolutely imperious in attack against the most ramshackle Everton side of recent memory, and showed flashes of truly brilliant football as they rained down no fewer than 28 shots on goal.
But for Jordan Pickford in the home net, it might have been six, seven or eight goals for Arsene Wenger’s men as they demolished the Toffees to notch up a third Premier League victory in four.
In truth, however, that should really read four victories in four because even a team half as good as the one that performed today would have been too much for Watford, who took advantage of Arsenal’s propensity to panic in order to take a 2-1 win.
How doubly hurtful that defeat is when seen in the context of a victory so overwhelming at Everton, who arguably a far better side, albeit in shocking form.
As it is, the Gunners have to make do with a morale-boosting win and a tricky away tie chalked off, while fans are left, as we always are, thinking ‘what if?’
The only concern to come from an otherwise excellent performance was the suicidal tendencies of Arsenal players in compromising positions. I remember complaining as far back as the pre-season tour to Australia about the need to rid ourselves of the self-destruct button but it was once again in evidence today.
Some may feel Granit Xhaka was a little unfortunate not to get a foul when he was robbed of possession 25 yards from goal by Gueye, but it was a 50/50 call at best, and I think the referee made the correct call. The Swiss was simply caught napping with his back to the aggressor, the latest in something of a procession of mistakes from him that he and the team could well do without.
And then, as if to spite ourselves, Petr Cech and Nacho Monreal teamed up to deliver the most abject, pathetic piece of football to allow Niasse to strike on the cusp of injury time. It would be funny if we hadn’t seen the same sort of stupidity time and again this season.
It is well known that however well we play, Arsenal will always give the opposition a chance. As it transpires, that should be ‘gift’ the opposition a chance.
Everybody makes mistakes, they happen countless times in every match, but there are areas of the pitch and situations where mistakes happen two or three times a season. Arsenal manage those types of errors two or three times a game and that is why we find ourselves where we are the moment. In short, it has to stop.
I don’t want to take anything away from this victory as it is, though. It was one of, if not the, best performance of the season so far. The passing and interchange was mesmerising, the finishing was good, and the team’s work ethic was about where it should be.
Whether the players were stung by Troy Deeney’s now infamous ‘cojones’ comments last week, it is hard to say, but they have responded in the right way, but putting together two wins in succession and showing that they can respond to adversity, particularly as they fell behind against Everton.
If they are to make sure the ‘cojones’ tag doesn’t stick, they must learn to concentrate, fight, and work for the full 90 minutes in every game. Above all, they must cut out the mistakes.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Most agree that Mesut Ozil should come away with this particular gong for the calibre of his performance. A goal and an assist were just reward for his excellence on the ball, and he created an absolute sackful of chances to boot.
He was even a little more active and positive in his work off the ball, so credit to him for that. It was a performance that underlined why the club want him to sign a new deal.