A roller-coaster which got the Emirates crowd on the edge of their seats.
The tension was high as Arsenal visibly flagged in the last 25 minutes and it seemed like only collective spirit and flaky Everton finishing kept the ball out of the Arsenal net for a 3-3 draw.
Arteta made six changes from Europe the most noticeable being Lacazette out and Nketiah in. Kolasinac was back. Would the exertions of Europe count here?
Arsenal’s opponents only faced the single threat of a returning player – Iwobi on the right – Walcott was out injured.
January 1996 was the last time Everton won an away match at Arsenal in the Premier League. Since the 0-0 draw at Everton in December, which some say was the worst game they have watched all season, both clubs have played nine. Although Ancelotti’s team has three more points and scored one more goal – Arsenal have conceded nine to Everton’s 12 and lost one to the Toffee’s two.
In the first minute Ceballos, who seems to have a new found bite, fouled Richarlison. Sigurdsson fired one in which broke off Luiz’s shoulder and Calvert-Lewin bicycle kicked it into the net before a minute had elapsed. Luiz claimed a high boot – but VAR dismissed such claims.
The team was up against it – after only returning from Greece on Friday morning.
Pepe passed for Bellerin – in lots of space but he fired over.
Back came Everton, with Delph positioning himself at left half. A neat interchange saw Richarlison drive and pass to Iwobi on the right, but he was never the best finisher and drove wide.
Sead Kolasinac couldn’t resist an aerial challenge with Sidibe – but he put too much meat into it and landed badly coming off holding his left shoulder and was substituted by Saka. Blessing in disguise?
He immediately performed one two with Aubameyang and found Pepe whose shot was too close to Pickford.
Soon after Saka out on the left sent a brilliant curling ball into the edge of the six-yard line with Nketiah running in past Holgate and Mina to touch it past Pickford – his second of the season.
The crowd was really up for it now – with rising noise levels.
Luiz ran out from the back like a defensive midfielder as he occasionally is and sent a defence splitting pass for Aubameyang to run in on goal a la Henry, open his body up and slot it into the corner with his left.
Sidibe won a corner. The ball was headed out. Sigurdsson bounced it back into the area and headed on for Richarlison to touch it past Leno. It was a soft goal – and highlighted the potential fragility which still exists in this team.
At the start of the second Pepe found a great cross to Aubameyang, who moved beyond Sidibe into unmarked space and he bounced a header past Pickford.
Saka, who stared to exhibit reasons he didn’t start lost the ball on the edge of the penalty area and Calvert-Lewin’s shot was too close to Leno.
Soon after, Saka stumbled near the half-way line the ball went into area. Richarlison headed to Calvert-Lewin a yard away from the goal. Leno rushed out and blocked – making amends for the mistake before half-time.
And the blue waves just kept coming. Richarlison cut in from the left and crossed to Calvert-Lewin who flicked it just wide.
Arsenal were starting to run the clock down before the 70th minute.
But they were still pressing hard. Xhaka won the ball on the edge of the Everton box and passed to Nketia who hit a curler against the crossbar.
An Everton corner saw Baines dink a cross and Calvert-Lewin head just wide. Those two points could be very valuable at the end of the season.
Carlo Ancelotti – whose raised eyebrow seems to add to his authority, said: “It was terrific – there was good performance in front offensively, good passion, good chances, but defensively we were really bad.”
Eddie Nketiah admitted that the team was tired after coming back from Greece. He said: “we are working hard. The games are coming thick and fast – but we are recovering well.”
Mikel Arteta was asked what he had done to improve the team’s performances and said: “I think that’s the only way to compete at highest level without that there’s no chance. We need that as a base. They took it on board. The atmosphere was really good.”
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerín, Mustafi, David Luiz, Kolasinac (Substituted for Saka at 18), Ceballos (Substituted for Torreira at 76), Xhaka, Pépé, Özil (Substituted for Guendouzi at 82), Aubameyang, Nketiah
Everton: Pickford, Sidibé, Mina, Holgate, Baines, Iwobi (Substituted for Bernard at 60), Schneiderlin (Booked at 31, Substituted for André Gomes at 59, Booked at 90), Delph (Substituted for Kean at 82),G Sigurdsson (Booked at 73mins), Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison (Booked at 45min