Everton 1 – 0 Arsenal
In amongst the faux outrage that Manchester City didn’t sellout their ticket allocation at Wembley or ’10 things we noticed about the Premier League this weekend that you did as well’ articles, are match reports on our latest away defeat. They are tucked away, hidden from sight and we’d quite like them to stay there.
It was a nothing performance and nothing good will come from dwelling on it. We won’t learn anything new about any of the squad. None of them played as well as they can and individually, none of them played as badly as they can. Yesterday just saw a collective nothingness from them.
I’m not singling out anyone and in fact, defend Mesut Özil against the photo which circulated on social media. Pre-match, in the tunnel, back against the wall, watching Jagielka talk to the mascots, the German was criticised for not shouting at the players, geeing them up. Because that always works, doesn’t it? No team ever lost when the captain does that.
Questioning the merits of Özil as captain is perfectly valid but this squad is utterly leaderless bar for Koscielny. Maybe Xhaka as well, but beyond that, the absence of a genuine captain is something we’ve talked about for several years. We’re still getting to grips with the concept of ‘players as grown-ups’ and it still isn’t working.
What we did learn from yesterday is the lack of depth in the squad. Defensively and in midfield, the recruitment side of the club will be very busy this summer. And I suspect, there will be long thought given to whether PEA and Lacazette are the right players for what Emery wants to achieve. I don’t know what that is, by the way, but leaving one on the bench is not the answer.
Where Are We Headed?
His final destination on the playing side is something Emery must define as well. We were too conservative in our approach yesterday in the first half. He was hamstrung by injuries and suspension but we sat back, trying to kill the game as if it were a European tie.
Part of the coach’s learning curve is that the Premier League doesn’t ‘do’ things the way other major leagues do. English football never has and I suspect it will take decades for that to change.
The midfield was too circumspect in its business, slow to shut down space. Successful teams hunt in packs when out of possession; we did not. The introduction of Ramsey added some zest but his injury burdened him and without the support of colleagues, his impact was neutered.
Finding the balance between the home and away performances is Emery’s biggest challenge with the players we have at our disposal. We know on Thursday night that we’ll see a reaction and possibly a decisive win over Napoli. From this performance, we may need that to progress.
But with six games to go, we are still fourth. Until tonight that is. Hope is not lost either. Chelsea
Despair isn’t the answer to our problems. Picking ourselves off the floor and getting to grips with the poverty of our performances is all Emery and his coaches can do.
We’ll find out how good those training sessions have been next Monday at Watford. Until then, Everton away is cast in the overflowing bin of nasty performances we want to forget.