Arsenal pile the pressure on Ronald Koeman
Can the Everton manager survive latest humiliating defeat after Gunners score five at Goodison?
Everton’s Nikola Vlasic looks dejected after Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette scores their third goal. Photograph: Lee Smith/Retuers
Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez in action with Everton’s Michael Keane and Tom Davies. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
Everton 2 Arsenal 5
It was a lone voice but loud enough for Everton’s power-brokers, Farhad Moshiri and Bill Kenwright, to hear at the front of the directors’ box at Goodison Park. “Taxi for Koeman”, came the cry from one disgruntled Evertonian. Others around him laughed. Most others left. Arsenal then scored their fourth. And their fifth.
Ronald Koeman needed a show of conviction, a sign of progress and most of all a result with the pressure intensifying on his Everton tenure. His team were soundly beaten instead as Arsenal marked Arsène Wenger’s 68th birthday with a first away win in the Premier League this season and a scoreline to help exorcise the trauma of their last visit to Merseyside, August’s 4-0 reverse at Anfield. This time it was Koeman who headed down the tunnel as ashen grey as his coat.
Arsenal cruised to an emphatic victory against an Everton team reduced to ten men when Idrissa Gana Gueye was sent off in the 68th minute, and one that barely posed a threat despite being handed the perfect start by Wayne Rooney. Fifteen years and three days after Rooney announced himself to the wider world with a stunning debut goal against Arsenal he punished Wenger’s side with another long-range strike. To say it came against the run of play was an understatement. But for repeated interventions from Jordan Pickford, Everton’s £30m goalkeeper, Arsenal would have established a comfortable lead before Rooney opened the scoring with his team’s first effort.
The 31-year-old’s fourth Premier League goal of the season carried echoes of his memorable finish against Wenger’s then reigning league champions. Right foot, Park End, textbook technique and struck to the Arsenal goalkeeper’s right; Rooney reminded the watching Gareth Southgate of his enduring quality as he used Nikola Vlasic’s decoy run to move into space before sweeping a 20-yard finish beyond Petr Cech.
For Arsenal it was an unnecessary - but only fleeting - reminder of their defensive deficiencies. Granit Xhaka was easily dispossessed by Gueye in midfield to allow Rooney to take possession. Defenders then backed off the former England and Manchester United captain as he lined up the 201st league goal of his career.
It was a gift for Everton, who desperately needed a release after two wins in 12 matches and had been besieged up until that point. Koeman’s latest selection and formation shuffle had seen him arrive at a 3-4-2-1 shape that soon morphed into a bizarre 3-3-3-1, with Gueye all alone in central midfield as Vlasic followed his natural inclination to attack. Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez prospered in the space either side of the stranded Senegal international.
Only two minutes had gone when the pair combined to release Aaron Ramsey behind the home defence and it required the first excellent save by Pickford to tip the midfielder’s goalbound shot wide. Sanchez found himself in similar space moments later but was charged down by the Everton keeper who then saved twice in rapid succession from Alexandre Lacazette. The second was a superb block from close range after Arsenal’s record signing spun inside the six-yard box following another flowing attack.
Rooney’s goal interrupted Arsenal’s rhythm, and they almost gifted Everton a second when Cech conceded possession to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Nacho Monreal beating Rooney to the loose ball, but not their dominance. Pickford saved from Sánchez and Ramsey as Arsenal continued to pour through the spaces in Everton’s midfield and behind their wing-backs. The only surprise about the equaliser was the identity of the scorer.
Pickford again demonstrated that he is far and away the pick of Everton’s summer signings but he could arguably have done better with Xhaka’s low 25-yard shot than to parry it back into the danger area. In mitigation, the midfielder’s effort took a slight deflection off Gylfi Sigurdsson, who endured another poor game, and Everton defenders reacted slower than Monreal to the rebound. The Arsenal defender converted emphatically and the stage was set for another dispiriting afternoon for Koeman and his team.
Everton fell behind after one of their rare forays forward broke down in the Arsenal area and the visitors broke incisively. Sánchez, Goodison’s pantomime villain after demanding a second yellow card for Ashley Williams, carried the ball down the left and floated a delightful cross between Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka. Between the central defenders ghosted Özil, and he gave Pickford no chance with a pristine header from six yards out.
Belief, already fragile, vanished from Everton in an instant and their task became more ominous when Gueye was sent off for a second bookable offence. Already disciplined for a first half tackle from behind on Sánchez, the midfielder gave referee Craig Pawson no alternative but to issue another yellow card when he clattered into Xhaka. It was a needless challenge and duly punished.
Arsenal’s third stemmed from a careless pass by Vlasic straight to Héctor Bellerín. Xhaka released Özil down the right and, with no blue shirt near him, the Germany international strolled into the area and squared for Lacazette to beat Pickford with a convincing finish from 12 yards. It was the cue for many Evertonians to leave and for Arsenal to start showboating.
Ramsey converted a fine through ball from substitute Jack Wilshere to extend the visitors lead and, though Oumar Niasse grabbed a consolation having dispossessed Cech, it was left to Sánchez to have the final say with a precise finish into the far corner in stoppage time. The final word on the pitch that is. Moshiri and Kenwright may determine otherwise if their patience in Koeman has evaporated.