Sunday 16 June 2019

Jagielka shows up Arsenal's lack of spirit

Everton 1 Arsenal 0

Everton’s Seamus Coleman (L) goes shoulder to shoulder with Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi at Goodison yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Everton’s Seamus Coleman (L) goes shoulder to shoulder with Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi at Goodison yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Chris Bascombe

Unai Emery was remonstrating with Marco Silva, Mesut Ozil was throwing his jacket towards the Everton technical area, and the referee was appealing for calm.

You could have been forgiven for thinking these were incendiary incidents typifying a feisty encounter, two sets of dogged players trading blows and insults.

"I think generally we are well," Emery insisted. "I don't think we are very bad. It is a bad result, not a good performance, but we are fourth. Our opportunity was to leave here being in the third position but we lost one big opportunity." Photo: Getty

If only, Arsenal fans will lament. The belligerence shown by Arsenal staff on the sidelines bore little resemblance to the fragility of those on the pitch.

Ozil's contribution to the touchline squabble was especially ironic. It would have been more appropriate had he been throwing a towel, given his miserable contribution in the 74 minutes prior to being replaced.

Not that he was alone, or even the worst culprit on a dreadful afternoon for Emery's Champions League aspirations.

As the visitors succumbed to Phil Jagielka's early goal, it brought to mind the final years of Arsene Wenger's reign, all the bad habits that cost the French legend his job polluting another daunting away day. Some players seemed insulted when Everton had the audacity to compete for a 50-50 challenge.

Coleman celebrates the victory over Arsenal. Photo: Getty
Coleman celebrates the victory over Arsenal. Photo: Getty

At one stage Emery launched into a prolonged rage at Ainsley Maitland-Niles, his arms spread, beseeching a response. He could have directed the plea to any of his men, none of whom showed the necessary appetite, aside from a momentary response after half-time.

Emery's summary suggested the defence was satisfactory in the first-half, but the attacking was blunt. The second, he claimed, was the reverse. He was being generous.

There was nothing here to swell confidence that a Champions League place would be protected. It must be a concern that the most energised, motivated Arsenal player was Aaron Ramsey, who is off to Juventus on a free transfer this summer.

The Arsenal coach sought to exaggerate the positives in the face of minimal evidence, although this performance made Emery's work guiding the side into a top-four position at this stage seem more impressive.

Standing

It was a reminder of how much more the Spaniard still has to do, regardless of whether they maintain their current standing.

"I think generally we are well," Emery insisted. "I don't think we are very bad. It is a bad result, not a good performance, but we are fourth. Our opportunity was to leave here being in the third position but we lost one big opportunity."

Emery offered praise for Everton's physicality, but that sounded a suspiciously churlish observation. His side were outplayed as much as outfought.

Jordan Pickford in the home goal was rarely troubled. Everton had more to regret in failing to extend their advantage.

There was an old-school feel about the winner. Lucas Digne's long throw caused mayhem in the penalty area; Jagielka, summoned because Michael Keane was ruled out with illness 30 minutes before kick-off, pounced for a tap-in.

Everton dominated thereafter, Dominic Calvert-Lewin an outstanding outlet, Andre Gomes offering calm class in midfield, while Digne and Bernard threatened on the left.

When Emery introduced Ramsey - left out because there was a fear he could not last 90 minutes - and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, there was a slight improvement.

Twice within six minutes, the Welshman went close. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was an inch wide from the edge of the area on 71 minutes.

That proved Arsenal's final meaningful attempt. By then, Emery had abandoned his original formation of three centre-backs.

It left Everton more space and they should have capitalised, Bernard, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison failing to take advantage.

Seamus Coleman continued his return to form with another industrious display from right-back, but the Ireland captain insisted it was the performances of the team that have helped him turn the corner.

"Your own personal performance goes along with the team's. The team's been playing better so individuals play better, We take the good with the bad, keep doing the same things, keep to the same principles and everything turns at some point," he said.

With three consecutive league victories, the campaign is ending with promise for Silva.

He has been reminded all season about the club's inability to bloody the noses of the top six. Now Chelsea and Arsenal have been beaten in successive home games. One more victory will match the points total of last season. European qualification remains a target.

Arsenal, still without an away clean sheet in this campaign, need to relocate their spine to keep their own ambitions intact. Emery may be getting a better tune out of these players at home, but they are humming the same old one on the road. (© Daily Telegraph)

Irish Independent

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