EPL

Hard work awaits Ancelotti and Arteta after awful Everton-Arsenal affair

By Sports Desk December 21, 2019

Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta surely departed Goodison Park on Saturday suspecting they had each arrived just in time.

Everton initially improved under Duncan Ferguson following Marco Silva's sacking, but new boss Ancelotti - watching in the stands - struggled to hide his frustration as they contributed to a dreadful Premier League encounter.

Arteta, a former Toffees favourite, was also in attendance and might even have been the more encouraged of the two coaches-in-waiting, yet his side Arsenal were only marginally better.

Freddie Ljungberg has failed to inspire Arsenal, and it was clear on Merseyside that both the Gunners and Everton were each in need of a lift.


MESUT MESS CONTRIBUTES TO CAPTAINCY CONCERN

Ljungberg's stint ends with one win in six matches in all competitions, having muddled through the same assortment of teams and tactics that saw off Unai Emery while further exacerbating the issues around Mesut Ozil, Arsenal's eternal enigma.

The injured Ozil's absence - having reacted angrily to his substitution last week - neatly encapsulated the lack of leadership on the pitch for Arsenal.

Emery named Ozil among a quintet of skippers in each of his two seasons, but the warring five families in 'The Godfather' were less disparate. Only Granit Xhaka - stripped of the role - and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of the former coach's group started on Saturday.

Ozil and Xhaka were in 2018-19's selection of five, too. Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey have all since left - in controversial circumstances, on a free transfer, and retiring to join rivals Chelsea's staff, respectively.

Former Arsenal captain Arteta appears reluctant to intervene decisively, though, saying on Friday: "I want to see what they are doing at the moment and, after that, slowly, we will make some decisions to help them."


CLEAN SHEETS COURTESY OF CREATIVITY VOID

Everton collected just a second clean sheet in 16 league games, while Arsenal - having conceded the first goal in more Premier League games than any other side this season - could also welcome a rare shut-out - their first in 15 matches in all competitions.

But this goalless game owed more to aimless attacking play than defensive interventions, with passes from both sides regularly going astray at key moments.

Arsenal named their youngest league XI since May 2011, with many of the rookies in forward positions, yet Arteta would have been concerned as the visitors waited until the 44th minute for their first attempt.

Jordan Pickford was called into action before Bernd Leno, though, saving well six minutes after the break, as Everton likewise toiled.

Goals under Ferguson have largely come as a result of defensive errors, which the Gunners avoided, despite the presence of stars like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison.

Ancelotti is renowned for getting the best out of talented players, and for all Everton's back-line issues, a key focus must be to ensure future displays are more incisive going forward.


IMMEDIATE RESULTS REQUIRED REGARDLESS

These two sides are stuck in the mid-table mire, and it was not hard to see why in a pair of hopeless performances. But such is the need to get their seasons back on track that both teams would have welcomed a late winner regardless of what went before.

Neither truly deserved the three points, yet triumphing without playing well will be the early expectation for each new coach.

Arsenal's captaincy concerns need to be addressed, while Everton must have more edge up front and be less edgy at the back, but frustrations will not be abated for long if results see the two toiling in the bottom half.

Everton's pre-match optimism was sapped by full-time, and Arsenal's Friday talk of Champions League qualification and "eventually" the title looks pie in the sky.

Only once victories are belatedly strung together can serious discussion of fulfilling ambition be considered.

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