Pasting at the Emirates is academic but big summer awaits

Tuesday, 24 May, 2022 0comments  |  Jump to last

Everton conceded five goals in their final match of the season for the second year running as an under-strength side was heavily beaten by Arsenal, with familiar set-piece failings ultimately costing them.

Alex Iwobi conceded a penalty for handball after 26 minutes which allowed Gabriel Martinelli to open the scoring and Eddie Nketiah doubled the Gunners' lead with a fairly simple header off a corner on the half-hour mark.

Donny van de Beek's strike in first-half stoppage time gave the Blues hope but Arsenal ran away with it in the second period and ended up winning 5-1.

The result was largely academic and the travelling fans were in jubilant mood following the dramatic events on Thursday evening when Everton overcame a 2-0 deficit at the break to come back to win for the first time in the Premier League era.

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Some players, like Richarlison, were carrying knocks and sat this one out while others, like Abdoulaye Doucouré started at the Emirates despite being fatigued from the Palace game and the celebrations afterwards. Still others, like Tom Davies, Jonjoe Kenny and Asmir Begovic made rare starts but failed to impress on an occasion where they could have pressed their claims for next season while Dele Alli had some promising moments on what was his full debut.

Kenny had been deployed on the left of a back five comprising Michael Keane, Mason Holgate, Jarrad Branthwaite and Alex Iwobi while Demarai Gray came into the team to play in a forward three with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Dele.

Arsenal started strongly, pinning the Toffees into their own half and Begovic needed to be alert to block from close range after Granit Xhaka had floated the ball over the for Nuno Tavares and Keane had knocked the subsequent cross straight to Martin Odegaard but his shot was kicked away.

A sign of things to come, the resulting corner wasn't adequately dealt with until Davies hooked it away and it wasn't until the 19th minute that the visitors forced Aaron Ramsdale into action. Gray latched onto an excellent flick-on from Dele and hammered a half-volley goal-wards but it was, perhaps, too accurate and the keeper beat it away.

Arsenal were handed the chance to open the scoring mid-way through the half, however, when Cedric Souares's cross was headed away by Iwobi only as far as Martinelli and when the Brazilian rattled a shot back on goal, the Nigerian stopped it with his arm.

It took a VAR check and a review of the pitch-side monitor by referee Andre Marriner but the Gunners were eventually awarded the spot-kick which Martinelli confidently despatched to make it 1-0.

And it was 2-0 shortly afterwards when the hosts won a corner on the right when the ball failed to cross the line as Dele tried to shepherd it out and Bukayo Saka whipped the dead ball in for Martinelli to flick on and Nketiah to stoop and guide into the far corner with his head.

Everton couldn't contain Arsenal and when Branthwaite's short pass was easily picked off by Odegaard and he fed Saka, the ball somehow stayed out as Martinelli pounced on a rebound off Holgate but the defender atoned for his error by poking it behind with his toe.

A decent Everton move involving Dele and Iwobi ended with Gray skying his shot from inside the box while, at the other end, Branthwaite did enough to prompt Saka to side-foot a shot wide after he had raced onto another ball over the top.

The Blues had grown into the game as the half wore and they established a foothold in the context at the end of the first half when Iwobi slipped a ball down the channel to Calvert-Lewin whose square ball across the box was seized upon by Van de Beek, on for Doucouré, and the Dutchman stroked it home.

The second half was 10 minutes old when Nketiah anticipated Branthwaite's header and ultimately won a corner off Keane and when the set-piece was rolled out to a completely unmarked Cedric, he swept it high into the net with Begovic completely unsighted to make it 3-1.

Saka went close again after Odegaard had sent him away behind Branthwaite but the young defender just leaned into him again and got enough on the ball to deflect the shot behind.

The fourth goal wasn't long in coming and it came following yet another corner. Cedric collected the loose ball off a clearing header and his deflected, scuff-shot fell into Gabriel's path and the defender smacked it in off Begovic who couldn't keep it out.

Lakonga came on for Arsenal and forced a decent near-post save from Begovic that yielded a corner that the Bosnian flapped behind for another dead-ball situation on the other side but this one was curled into the keeper's arms.

The Gunners' fifth did arrive, however, nine minutes from time when Nicolas Pepe picked up Branthwaite's looping header and drove to the byline before finding Odegaard just outside the box. The Norwegian feinted his way past Everton's teenage substitute, Isaac Price, and place a low shot inside the far post.

Alexandre Lacazette tried for a sixth but rapped his shot wide and Price had an ambitious attempt at a volley off Calvert-Lewin's chipped cross but, from the away fans' perspective the closing stages were dominated by events elsewhere as Manchester City were coming back from 2-0 down to lead Aston Villa on their way to their latest Premier League title at the expense of Liverpool.

And so ended a frustrating, stressful, emotional but ultimately relief-inducing season that Evertonians will hope won't be repeated for a very long time. Years of costly mistakes and the lack of a clear-eyed strategy and vision for the playing side of the club nearly cost Everton their place among the elite.

Not all of the players who came across with Frank Lampard to the away section to thank the fans for their unprecedented levels of support will be around for the reconstruction of the squad that needs to be undertaken and changes will be demanded at higher levels of the organisation as well.

The Blues found collective strength in adversity this season; now the warnings from 2021-22 must be heeded.

 

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