Everton struck early and held on for the points at Goodison, as our Champions League aims were given a huge blow.
Unai Emery made changes from our last game, the win over Newcastle, and they were conservative ones, aimed at inserting a little defiance in our eleven rather than attacking threat.
In came Mohamed Elneny for Aaron Ramsey to play alongside Matteo Guendouzi in the centre. Henrikh Mkhitaryan also was given a nod, and he played with Mesut Ozil in a duo behind Alexandre Lacazette.
Did it pay off? Or did Emery get it wrong?
Here’s what we learned from the game.
Emery Made the Wrong Call
Why change a winning formula? We have looked at our imposing best when Lacazette, Aubameyang, Ozil and Ramsey start together. Ramsey has had an injury scare so perhaps the Spaniard erred on the side of caution with the Welshman, but why did we not name Auba from the start?
With our away form being far from convincing, it is easy to see what Emery was going for. Try and keep it a little tighter, wait patiently for our opening. Concede the lions share of possession but remain solid.
It didn’t work though, and the early goal put us on our back and in a corner from the first minutes.
Emery saw this and called for Auba and Ramsey at half time, but by this time, the home crowd and Everton had the bit between their teeth.
If anything, we should have added another body in the centre of the park, as the Toffees had the run of it for the majority.
Emery isn’t infallible, but this mistake might cost us dearly.
Sokratis is a Titan
The Greek has had perhaps the best season out of all of our summer purchases, and maybe even of all our defenders.
He showed it again against Everton.
The home side time and again worked opportunities to shoot in and out of the box, especially in the second half, and nearly every time, Sokratis thwarted them.
Head, body, legs, he used them all to block shots and crosses, and stop Everton taking the game away from us. He’s done it all season too, which makes his coming absence even tougher to swallow.
He picked up his tenth yellow of the season in the game, and he will now be suspended for two games – Watford and Crystal Palace. Let’s hope Koscielny stays fit…
Mustafi Loves a Slide Tackle
We knew this already of course, but it is this reason why Mustafi’s errors are highlighted more than others. The German takes all or nothing when he does this, and luckily for us, he took it all against Everton. A first half sliding tackle was timed to perfection to thwart Everton and he did it again in the second. When defending corners and crosses, Mustafi is solid. When faced with a decision to go to ground or not, Mustafi will no doubt look to take the ball – and the player.
Away Form is Down to Confidence
We gave away 23 attempts to Everton in this game. We appeared as if we couldn’t keep up with the tenacity of Everton, and they looked like they wanted it more. The second balls were invariably won by Everton and it meant we were up against it.
When we did have the ball, the movement wasn’t there, and it lowered the options for the ball carrier. When we are at home, we are vibrant and our runs are constant. Away from home? Ponderous and slow on the ball, very rarely do we quickly switch to the front foot.
If we are to win away from home, we need to shift the ball far quicker.
So, we stay one point behind spurs, equal on points with Chelsea and two ahead of United. Far more worryingly, we look no nearer to improving our away form.
Next up is Thursday’s home game against Napoli in the Europa League. The next PL fixture is a trip to Vicarage Road to take on Watford.