On Sunday afternoon we continued or won after the international break as we won 1-0 at Everton, but how did we do it?
To find out, Adrian Clarke gave the game his analytical eye and delved into the post-match stats to find the key elements that led us to our first win at Goodison Park since 2017.
Here is what he considers to be the keys to our success:
1. Keep Toffees at arm’s length
It was a stress-free afternoon for Mikel Arteta, who was understandably delighted to win his first hat-trick at Goodison as manager.
Boasting a 74 percent possession share, we spent the majority of this competition searching for opportunities deep in Everton territory. Sean Dyche’s men managed just one shot on target, as the disciplined positional play of Declan Rice and our back four limited the hosts’ ability to mount counter-attacks. Our poise on the ball also meant Everton had very few errors to run into in transition.
Against a team known for their physicality and aerial prowess, it will have been a source of great pride for Arteta how we kept them out of our penalty area. Dyche’s men only benefited from nine touches in our area; exactly half the number they managed in a 1-0 win against us last season.
In fact, Everton’s number of touches in our box was the lowest achieved by a home team so far in the Premier League this season. As a team, we completely neutralized them as an offensive force.
2. The English duo team up
Oleksandr Zinchenko’s role as an inverted left-back pushes Rice towards a right-sided central midfield position. Although he has often played left center in the past, the England international is confident in this role.
The biggest advantage of this adjustment is that he was operating closer to Bukayo Saka, and it was great to see Rice go after him on multiple occasions. As Saka maintained his width to stretch the play, Rice fed him with a steady stream of crisp passes from 15 to 30 yards that came to him quickly enough to ensure Everton couldn’t double up on him.
Last season, the serve to Saka was slower at times, limiting his one-on-one potential. On this occasion, with more space to run towards the defender, he proved a constant threat to Vitalli Mykolenko.
3. Find the right angles
Everton’s deep and narrow 4-5-1 was difficult to open. Sitting three powerful midfielders on the tiptoes of their centre-backs and tucking their full-backs inside, we often encountered a seven-man block along the central spine.
The space was wide and every time we quickly changed the point of our attack, we tried to expose Everton’s wingers, who acted as auxiliary full-backs. We didn’t make as many incisive passes as we would have liked, but our most successful ploy was Zinchenko spotting Fabio Vieira’s runs behind the right-back.
In the clip above, just before halftime, we had just moved the ball quickly from right to left. Leandro Trossard’s position on the pitch keeps Young busy, but outside of him, winger Dwight McNeil is torn between following Vieira out wide and potentially engaging with Gabriel who has taken up an advanced position.
Taking advantage of this hesitation, Zinchenko spotted the Portuguese midfielder with a pass behind his back.
In this clip right after the break, Gabriel moved forward again to create a 2-on-1 setup that gives Zinchenko time to look for a forward pass. Young is lured forward by Vieira, who then turns smartly to make a run beyond his marker which takes him to the byline. These are the tactical situations that we constantly tried to create with our distribution.
4. A super short turn
Our winning goal arrived thanks to a beautifully designed short turn routine. Facing an Everton team full of tall players, it made sense to mix up our set-piece plans, and the coaching staff will be delighted with the way we bamboozled our opponents for the decisive goal.
Knowing that Dyche likes to bring all outfield players back to defend corners, we set up a 2v2 near the corner flag, with six attackers against eight defenders inside the danger zone.
This freed up Vieira and Zinchenko (offscreen) to be our reserve men in case of a potential overload, and we used them brilliantly to break down the hosts. Moving the ball to Vieira drew James Tarkowski to the edge of the box, and once he passed to Zinchenko, we sparked a 5v4 situation.
Zinchenko found Martin Odegaard who in turn slipped Saka behind from a 2v1, and with Trossard loitering in a pocket of space, the Belgian was well picked out from the cutback. His unerring left-footed finish was a moment of pure quality.
5. Raya’s dream debut
Thanks to the efforts of his defense, David Raya had a relatively trouble-free debut in goal. Our loanee made a simple save and claimed two crosses in dominant fashion.
In terms of his distribution, Raya showed variety in his decision-making, mixing short and long passes. 30 of his 32 passes were completed, and among them he picked out Gabriel Jesus and Saka with a pair of superb 60-yard balls.
The Spanish goalkeeper looked comfortable in his first start in Arsenal colors as he began to build a rapport with his defense.
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