Mikel Arteta watched on as we were held to a 0-0 draw on Merseyside, in Freddie Ljungberg's final match as interim head coach.
Here's what we noticed at Goodison Park:
MIKEL’S WATCHING BRIEF
This was a strange match in many ways, with both sides ready to start new eras under two head coaches, and both watching on here. Indeed, there was as much focus on the arrival of Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti in the directors’ box before the match kicked off as anything that was happening on the pitch. Our new head coach will certainly have much to ponder after this match, but he will surely have been impressed by Bukaya Saka, playing out of position at left back for the first time, and the likes of Calum Chambers, Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka, who worked tirelessly and maintained their defensive discipline throughout. The Arteta era starts this Sunday, but make no mistake the work has begun already: he was straight into the dressing room to speak to his players after the final whistle. Exciting times await us.
In Freddie Ljungberg’s last game in charge as our interim head coach, he opted to give youth its head as Reiss Nelson, Bukaya Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe all starting here. In fact, this was our youngest starting XI in a Premier League match since May 2011 and Arteta will have been pleased with what he saw from our youngsters. Not only did they show their quality in flashes – and one Emile Smith Rowe flick over the head of his marker before calmly strolling away with the ball spoke of his confidence – but their work-rate and willingness to track back was hugely encouraging. There is still work to do, of course, but this was a chance to make a good impression on their new head coach, and they did not pass it up.
A BUILDING BLOCK PUT IN PLACE
This was our first 0-0 draw since the shutout against Sporting Lisbon in November 2018, and our first in the Premier League for 77 games - when we drew with West Ham just over two years ago. Arteta will have been pleased with the defensive solidity and discipline we displayed at the back, and once again Calum Chambers caught the eye with an assured performance. If item one on our new head coach’s to-do list is to improve our defensive record, then this match will offer him encouragement – albeit against a brittle Everton side struggling for form themselves. Regardless of that, Arteta will be pleased with how we performed at the back and, as Freddie Ljungberg said afterwards, this is a “building block” as we look to make improvements.
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