Arsenal dropped three points in the Premier League title race as James Tarkowski’s goal guided Everton to a deserved victory on Saturday.
Sean Dyche’s Everton reign got off to a flying start as James Tarkowski’s header handed Premier League leaders Arsenal a surprise 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park.
Everton looked reinvigorated in their first game under the former Burnley boss and it was two of his former Clarets players who combined for the winner – Tarkowski heading in Dwight McNeil’s corner on the hour mark.
Arsenal kept Everton at arm’s length in an unusually disjointed display, with a deserved win pulling the Toffees – at least temporarily – out of the relegation zone.
After suffering just their second league defeat of the season, the Gunners could see their lead at the summit cut to two points when title rivals Manchester City take on Tottenham on Sunday.
Despite Everton starting strongly at a boisterous Goodison Park, Arsenal missed the first clear-cut chance on the half-hour, Eddie Nketiah firing wide after excellent work from Bukayo Saka.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin somehow failed to slot home Amadou Onan three minutes later as Everton threatened before an unmarked Abdoulaye Doucoure headed McNeil’s cross wide.
Conor Coady then made a vital goal-line save from Saka’s volley before Calvert-Lewin almost found the top left corner with a looping header as an entertaining first half ended level.
Visiting captain Martin Odegaard fired over from a good position after 59 minutes and Arsenal were punished a minute later when Tarkowski found McNeil’s fine right-wing header into the bottom right corner.
Arsenal introduced January signings Jorginho and Leandro Trossard in search of an equaliser, but the latter’s 20-yard effort saved by Jordan Pickford was as close as they came as their title hopes suffered a huge blow.
Everton player ratings
GK: Jordan Pickford – 7/10 – Kept his cool and marshalled his defence well. Made some decent saves down the stretch.
RB: Seamus Coleman – 6/10 – Was given very simple instructions – get rid of the ball as soon as possible.
CB: James Tarkowski – 8/10 – Has flattered to deceive this season but came up trumps here at both ends of the pitch.
CB: Conor Coady – 8/10 – Composed with every challenge he made. Snuffed out danger excellently.
LB: Vitaliy Mykolenko – 6/10 – Often misused as a wing-back by Frank Lampard and could instead focus on defending here.
CM: Idrissa Gueye – 7/10 – Broke up play well and was alert with his pressing.
CM: Amadou Onana – 9/10 – The heartbeat of Everton’s midfield. Won the ball back before leading charges forward.
CM: Abdoulaye Doucoure – 6/10 – Understandably looked rusty on his return to the fold but made up for it with effort and superb carrying out of Dyche’s orders.
RW: Alex Iwobi – 8/10 – Popped up on both flanks as well as in midfield and tended to make excellent decisions, combining his experience with characteristic flair and ingenuity.
CF: Dominic Calvert-Lewin – 7/10 – Worked ever so hard leading the line, putting himself up against Gabriel and Saliba. Shooting boots were missing but he provided everything else.
LW: Dwight McNeil – 7/10 – Everton sometimes relied on him too much to cross but ultimately that outlet proved fruitful.
Neal Maupay (62′ for Calvert-Lewin) – 5/10
Sean Dyche – 8/10 – The perfect start. Everton played like a team who should be much, much higher up the table.
Arsenal player ratings
GK: Aaron Ramsdale – 7/10 – Kept Arsenal alive with a string of good saves.
RB: Ben White – 4/10 – Such a careless performance from a player who’s registered so many flawless ones this season.
CB: William Saliba – 5/10 – Sometimes guilty of giving the ball away cheaply, particularly under pressure.
CB: Gabriel – 6/10 – The slightly more solid of Arsenal’s centre-backs. Unfortunate not to have won a penalty.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko – 6/10 – Kept his composure and poise in possession when so many of his teammates didn’t.
CM: Thomas Partey – 4/10 – Pressed into oblivion by Everton’s aggressive midfield and was hooked after an hour.
CM: Granit Xhaka – 5/10 – Failed to keep his cool in the midfield battle while also couldn’t pick the lock further up the pitch.
RM: Bukayo Saka – 6/10 – Everton threw lots of double-teams at Saka, who managed to carve out as much as he possibly could in such circumstances.
AM: Martin Odegaard – 4/10 – Timid in and out of possession. At fault for the goal. Subbed before the finish.
LM: Gabriel Martinelli – 4/10 – Kept his head down and ran into plenty of dead-ends. Understandably replaced by Trossard.
CF: Eddie Nketiah – 5/10 – Found it hard to keep himself relevant in the game for long stretches. Looked sharp when he did receive the ball but that wasn’t enough.
Jorginho (59′ for Partey) – 5/10
Leandro Trossard (59′ for Martinelli) – 5/10
Fabio Vieira (77′ for Odegaard) – 5/10
Takehiro Tomiyasu (85′ for White) – N/A
Mikel Arteta – 5/10 – Arsenal were off the pace and crumbled under the Goodison Park pressure, but Arteta at least tried different things to try and get his side back into the game. The Gunners’ failures were largely down to individual errors or strange decision-making.
Player of the Match – Amadou Onana
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