Sunday afternoon saw us continue or winning ways after the international break as we ran out 1-0 victors at Everton, but how did we do it?
To find out, Adrian Clarke has given the game his analytical eye as well as dig into the post-match stats to find the key things that led us to our first win at Goodison Park since 2017.
Here is what he felt were the keys to our success:
1. Keeping the Toffees at arm’s length
This was a stress-free afternoon for Mikel Arteta, who was understandably delighted to claim his first three-point haul at Goodison as our manager.
Boasting a 74 per cent share of possession, we spent the bulk of this contest probing for opportunities deep inside Everton territory. Sean Dyche’s men fashioned just one shot on target, as disciplined positional play from Declan Rice and our back four restricted the hosts’ ability to launch counter-attacks. Our assurance on the ball also meant there were very few mistakes for Everton to pounce upon from transitions.
Against a team known for their physicality and aerial prowess, it will have been a source of great pride for Arteta at how we kept them out of our penalty box. Dyche’s men enjoyed just nine touches inside our area; exactly half the number they managed in a 1-0 victory against us last term.
In fact, Everton’s touch count in our box was the lowest achieved by a home side so far in this season’s Premier League. As a team, we completely nullified them as an attacking force.
2. England duo combine
Oleksandr Zinchenko’s role as an inverted left-back pushes Rice across to more of a right-sided central midfield position. While he has often played to the left of centre in the past, the England international is confident in that role.
The biggest upside to this tweak is that he operated closer to Bukayo Saka, and it was great to see Rice seek him out on numerous occasions. With Saka holding his width to stretch play, Rice fed him with a steady stream of crisp 15-to-30-yard passes which were fizzed at him quickly enough to ensure Everton couldn’t double up on him.
Last season at times the service into Saka was slower, which restricted his one-on-one potential. On this occasion, with more space to run at the defender, he proved a constant menace for Vitalli Mykolenko.
3. Finding the right angles
Everton’s deep-lying and narrow 4-5-1 was difficult to prise open. Sitting three powerful midfielders on the toes of their central defenders and tucking their full-backs inside, we often encountered a seven-man block down the central spine.
The space was out wide, and whenever we switched the point of our attack quickly we attempted to expose Everton’s wingers, who were acting as auxiliary full-backs. We did not make as many incisive passes as we would have liked, but our most successful ploy was Zinchenko picking out the runs of Fabio Vieira in behind the right-back.
In the clip above just before half-time, we had just moved the ball swiftly from right to left. Leandro Trossard’s position infield occupies Young, but outside of him winger Dwight McNeil is torn between tracking Vieira out wide, and potentially engaging with Gabriel who has stepped into an advanced position.
Preying on that hesitation, Zinchenko picked out the Portuguese midfielder with a pass in behind.
In this clip just after the interval, Gabriel has again stepped forward to create a 2v1 set-up that affords Zinchenko time to look up a play a forward pass. Young is drawn forward by Vieira, who then spun cleverly to make a run beyond his marker that took him to the byline. These were the tactical situations we consistently attempted to manufacture with our distribution.
4. A super short corner
Our winning goal arrived courtesy of a beautifully manufactured short corner routine. Facing an Everton side packed with tall players, it made sense to mix up our plans from set pieces, and the coaching staff will be thrilled at how we bamboozled our opponents for the deciding strike.
Knowing that Dyche likes to bring every outfield player back to defend corner kicks, we set up a 2v2 by the corner flag, with six attackers up against eight defenders inside the danger zone.
This freed up Vieira and Zinchenko (out of picture) to be our spare men for a potential overload, and we used them quite brilliantly to undo the hosts. Moving the ball to Vieira drew James Tarkowski towards the edge of the box, and once he passed to Zinchenko we had instigated a 5v4 situation.
Zinchenko found Martin Odegaard who in turn slipped Saka in behind from a 2v1, and with Trossard loitering in a pocket of space the Belgian was picked out well from the cutback. His unerring left-footed finish was a moment of pure quality.
5. Raya’s dream debut
Thanks to the efforts of his defence, David Raya enjoyed a relatively trouble-free debut in goal. Our loanee made one simple save and claimed two crosses in a dominant manner.
In terms of his distribution, Raya showed variety in his decision-making, mixing up short and longer passes. 30 of his 32 passes were successful, and among them he picked out Gabriel Jesus and Saka with a pair of terrific 60-yard balls.
The Spanish stopper looked at ease on his first start in Arsenal colours as he began to build relationships with his backline.
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