Premier League: Arsenal’s woeful away form could blow top four chances
Mesut Ozil loses his cool as the Gunners are beaten by Everton at Goodison
Everton 1 Arsenal 0
If Arsenal do miss out on Champions League football for the third consecutive season it will be because of their woeful away form.
A 1-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday was their seventh loss in their last 11 away matches in all competitions.
Along with Championship side Ipswich Town, they are one of only two teams in the top four tiers of English league football without a clean sheet on the road this season.
Phil Jagielka was the man who got the all-important goal at Goodison, scrambling the ball over the line on ten minutes to give Everton their third consecutive win.
It wasn’t a bad day’s work for the 36-year-old defender (the oldest goal-scorer in the Premier League this season) considering that he was drafted into the starting line-up at the last minute after Michael Keane was ruled out through illness.
“I’m not normally a match-winner,” said Jagielka of his goal, his first for two years. “They’re the best goals, the little tap-ins from two or three yards.”
Fight for fourth
The defeat is a serious blow to Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four, particularly as four of their remaining six matches are away.
They remain fourth, ahead of Chelsea only on goal difference, but the Blues will move three points clear of the Gunners if they beat West Ham on Monday night.
“I’m as positive as I was before because I knew the game was going to be difficult,” said Arsenal manager Unai Emery.
The truth is that Emery got his strategy wrong from the start, fielding Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny in a poor midfield pairing that were dominated by their hosts.
The result was the visitors barely threatened Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal and Emery was forced into a double change at half-time, replacing Elneny and Sead Kolasinac with Aaron Ramsey and Pierre Emerick-Aubemeyang.
Ozil loses it
But with Mesut Ozil having one of his maddeningly anonymous days, Arsenal continued to struggle to create clear-cut chances.
The German, starting his first away league match this year, was hauled off 15 minutes from time. He was later seen hurling his coat towards the Everton dugout after Shkodran Mustafi’s robust tackle on Dominic Calvert-Lewin upset the Toffees’ bench.
As The Times said, it was his “only head-turning contribution” on a day when according to the match stats Ozil “failed to create a chance, produce a shot or win a foul during Arsenal’s latest aberration on their travels”.
In our hands
Arsenal boss Emery admitted it had been an afternoon to forget for his players.
“It was a bad result, not a good performance,” conceded the Spaniard. “We lost a big opportunity and we didn’t show our capacity to impose our game plan against them.”
Nonetheless, Arsenal are still in a position to qualify for the Champions League, providing there are no more slip ups between now and 12 May.
“We are fourth,” said Emery. “After this result, we can be negative because it is three points lost but it is in our hands, if we continue taking chances and opportunities, to be in the top four.”
Premier League results and fixtures
- Southampton 1 Liverpool 3
- AFC Bournemouth 1 Burnley 3
- Huddersfield Town 1 Leicester City 4
- Newcastle United 0 Crystal Palace 1
- Everton 1 Arsenal 0
Fixtures Monday 8 April
- Chelsea vs. West Ham United (8pm, live on Sky Sports)
Friday 12 April
- Leicester City vs. Newcastle United (8pm, live on Sky Sports)
Saturday 13 April (3pm unless stated)
- Tottenham Hotspur vs. Huddersfield Town (12.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
- Brighton & Hove Albion vs. AFC Bournemouth
- Burnley vs. Cardiff City
- Fulham vs. Everton
- Southampton vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Manchester United vs. West Ham United (5.30pm, live on BT Sport 1)
Sunday 14 April
- Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City (2.05pm, live on Sky Sports)
- Liverpool vs. Chelsea (4.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
Monday 15 April
- Watford vs. Arsenal (8pm, live on Sky Sports)