Arsenal 3-2 Everton: Gunners’ unbeaten streak continues, but defensive frailties must be addressed this summer

Arsenal’s hard-fought victory over Everton this afternoon highlighted once more how crucial the addition of a top-class central-defender this summer will be to the club’s fortunes moving forward.

Arsenal march on

Mikel Arteta’s men welcomed the Toffees to the Emirates a short time ago, for a mid-table Premier League clash.

Ahead of kick-off, the two sides were separated by just 2 points in the English top-flight table, with Everton having held the advantage.

Arsenal, though, headed into proceedings amid a fine spell of form.

The Gunners remained unbeaten across all competitions in 2020, and having picked up wins in 3 of their last 4 outings across all competitions.

PIRAEUS, GREECE – FEBRUARY 20: Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring Arsenal’s goal with Dani Ceballos and Bukayo Saka during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg match between Olympiacos FC and Arsenal FC at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 20, 2020 in Piraeus, Greece. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

And, when all was said and done in north London this afternoon, the capital outfit’s upward surge continued.

A thrilling 90 minutes eventually saw Arsenal emerge with all 3 points, courtesy of a thrilling 3-2 victory.

The hosts’ day actually couldn’t have gotten off to a much worse start, as a defensive mix-up allowed Dominic Calvert-Lewin to acrobatically volley home from close range within the opening minute.

Arteta’s men soon fought back, though, turning the clash on its head with a pair of goals in the space of 5 minutes either side of the half-hour mark.

After Eddie Nketiah got on the end of substitute Bukayo Saka’s wonderful cross to level things up, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang quickly followed suit with a typically-cool strike beyond the helpless Jordan Pickford.

 

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Arsenal’s frailty at the back soon reared its ugly head once more, however, as another Everton set-piece eventually resulted in Richarlison prodding home from a couple of yards out on the stroke of the interval.

Incredibly, though, as proved the case in the first-half, a goal within the opening 60 seconds following the break saw the two sides separated again.

It was the Gunners on target on this occasion, as Aubameyang doubled his tally for the day with a fine header.

And this was how things remained until the final-whistle, as Arsenal climbed back into the top-half of the Premier League table.

Arsenal’s defensive disaster-class

As outlined above, though, while Arsenal, in the end, picked up all 3 points, the club’s defensive frailties, particularly at centre-half, reemerged in full force this afternoon.

After securing a trio of consecutive clean sheets since the beginning of the month, it had begun to look as though Mikel Arteta may be turning his side’s infamously shaky backline around.

What the 90 minutes at the Emirates today proved, however, is that no manager can account for defenders who simply aren’t good enough.

The 2 first-half goals conceded by Arsenal were completely avoidable, but came as a direct result of poor individual defending from the north Londoners’ centre-halves.

David Luiz, in particular, failed to cover himself in glory for either of Everton’s strikes.

After completely losing his bearings to essentially tee up Calvert-Lewin’s opener with a misplaced attempted clearance, the Brazilian stopper then misjudged the flight of the ball in the buildup to Richarlison’s leveller on the stroke of half-time.

It is important to remember that this is a player who’s job it is to organise and lead Arsenal’s defence.

Luiz’s defensive partner, in the form of Shkodran Mustafi, to his credit, actually defended well over lengthy stretches this afternoon, particularly during the 2nd-half.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 23: Richarlison of Everton shoots under pressure from Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Everton FC at Emirates Stadium on February 23, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

However, the issue with the German remains that, even when playing well, he is always liable to cost Arsenal with a high-profile mistake.

Mustafi, for the most-part, is a good one-on-one defender, and could well fare better with a genuine organiser by his side at the heart of the Gunners’ back-4.

But, unfortunately, while the former Valencia man is currently in the midst of an improved run of form, as proven time and time again over the course of his stint in north London, Mustafi simply cannot be trusted to maintain his recent performances for a prolonged period.

In a nutshell, Arsenal’s win over Everton today showcased once again that Mikel Arteta’s vision is slowly beginning to come to fruition at the Emirates.

However, until his side is anchored by a sturdy and reliable centre-half duo, Arsenal will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to take their performances to the next level.

William Saliba, who will link up with his new Gunners teammates in the summer, certainly looks a player capable of providing a boost to the club’s ranks at centre-half.

January arrival Pablo Mari, meanwhile, should be handed the opportunity to showcase his talents over the coming weeks.

However, as evidenced by proceedings this afternoon, the signing of another top, top defender to reinforce the heart of his side’s backline must stand as the absolute priority for Mikel Arteta and co this summer.

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