Arteta gives Arsenal team news before Everton clash
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Arsenal suffered a sinking feeling on a difficult night on Merseyside as Everton came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to a stunning strike from Demarai Gray. Martin Odegaard’s volley in the closing stages of the first half appeared to be enough for the points. But Richarlison headed in an equaliser before Gray smashed in a winner in injury-time for the under-fire Rafa Benitez in a game which also highlighted a growing concern for Mikel Arteta.
From an Everton perspective this was an emotional and important night at Goodison Park as Gray and Richarlison stood up to inspire a dramatic comeback win.
Richarlison twice had goals ruled out for offside by VAR before he reacted fastest to head in the rebound from Gray’s shot before the winger grabbed the headlines with a brilliant strike.
For Arsenal, the most glaring takeaway was their lack of firepower at the top end of the pitch. Everton, winless in seven Premier League games and in front of a near mutinous crowd, were there for the taking. Had they mustered more shots on goal the Toffees could have been buried before the grand stand finish.
But the starting line-up from Arteta told a story. The Gunners’ attack was led by Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left on the bench.
Aubameyang is Arsenal’s captain. He is also Arsenal’s highest earner, pulling in a basic wage of £250,000 per week.
That is a lot by itself, but his remuneration is closer to £350,000 a week once you include loyalty payments and bonuses, according to The Times.
Yet he did not lead out the Gunners at Goodison Park. He was dropped from the side after going five Premier League games without a goal.
The 32-year-old has experienced a serious dip in form recently and Arteta was ultimately left with little choice.
The nature of Aubameyang’s last appearance made the dropping predictable, but potentially even more damaging for his Gunners career.
Arsenal were 3-2 down and chasing an equaliser against Manchester United when Aubameyang was hooked by his manager with just 11 minutes remaining. It was a decision which left Arsenal icon Thierry Henry bemused.
“You need a goal and you take your captain, your symbol, off the field,” he said on Prime Video’s coverage. “You know he can score goals so something is not right there.”
He could well be right there – and that is far from the only issue affecting Arsenal’s attack at the moment.
Lacazette led the line against Everton, but his situation is even more perilous than Aubameyang’s.
The Frenchman had only one goal in nine Premier League appearances coming into the match, yet was deemed to be a more reliable route to goal by Arteta.
Despite his last goal coming on October 18 in the 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace, that was probably the right decision.
Like all of his team-mates, Lacazette’s goal record leaves a lot to be desired. Yet worryingly for Arsenal, he might not even be around beyond January to offer an alternative up front.
Like Eddie Nketiah he is out of contract on July 1 and will be free to discuss a transfer with other clubs in the New Year.
Arsenal also have young gun Folarin Balogun on the books, but the 20-year-old is not trusted to play for the first team.
According to The Athletic, despite scoring 16 goals in 12 games in all competitions for Arsenal’s Under-21s and Under-23s, Balogun is set to be loaned out in January.
Lacazette failed to trouble the Everton defence much before leaving the pitch for Aubameyang in the 85th minute.
Nketiah, who was brought on ahead of his captain when Martinelli went down injured, spurned the best chance, heading Bukayo Saka’s cross into the base of the post.
To make matters even worse, Aubameyang scuffed a presentable chance well wide in the dying moments after being played in on the overlap.
Ultimately, Arsenal left with a deserved defeat. If they are to improve the result in these types of games later in the season then surely they need to sign a striker as a priority in the January transfer window. The current state of doubt cannot be allowed to fester even longer.
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