Everton inflicted an eighth Premier League defeat of the season on Arsenal after winning 2-1 at Goodison Park; Nicolas Pepe's penalty cancelled out Rob Holding's own goal but Yerry Mina headed winner in first-half stoppage time; is it time to bring back Mesut Ozil?
Sunday 20 December 2020 08:36, UK
Under-fire Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta insisted his side were unfortunate to slump to an eighth Premier League defeat of the season following the 2-1 loss at a resurgent Everton.
Arsenal's dreadful Premier League season continued at Goodison Park, with the defeat leaving the Gunners five points above the relegation zone.
Everton, who move up to second place, inflicted the decisive blow on the stroke of half-time when Yerry Mina timed his run to perfection to angle in a near-post header from a Gylfi Sigurdsson corner.
Speaking to Sky Sports after his side fell short in their efforts to earn a point, Arteta said: "Without conceding much we lost the game on two key moments. We reacted really well and we dominated the game. We created enough chances at least to not lose - we hit the bar so we don't have the luck.
"We are in a big fight. We lost against Burnley without them having a shot on target, and now we lose because of a couple of chances.
"It's really difficult when you play a team who are defending low and wasting time. We make it difficult for ourselves conceding the first goal.
"I think we had 15 shots but only two on target. We need to improve our rate, that's the reality. We need to generate more to win football matches. When it comes to small details, the other team wants it more.
"The boys are absolutely still fighting. They're hurt right now."
He then said in his post-match press conference: "I understand [the scrutiny] but my energy and focus is only on getting the team out of the situation. The spirit and fight the boys show every time they go on the pitch you can see, you cannot deny that.
"Against the results there is no question it is not good enough and not acceptable for the standards of this football club. Obviously it is a really complicated situation but I am very encouraged from what I see from the players who to try to continue what they are doing.
"We have to improve but as well I think we have been very unlucky not to pick up many more points. We have done well in the Europa League and in the cups but struggled to get results in the Premier League.
"The reason we are losing matches is because the margins are so small but we need [to change] those margins quickly before the situation becomes impossible."
Arsenal lacked a creative spark during the second period as they failed to register a shot on target. It was the same story during last weekend's 1-0 home defeat to Burnley.
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp believes it is time for Arteta to accept his decision to leave Mesut Ozil out of his 25-man Premier League squad has backfired.
"People have talked about whether Arsenal should bring Mesut Ozil in... for me, it's a no brainer," said Redknapp. "You are not creating chances. Does the manager look weak bringing him back in? Some will say he would, but not for me.
"If you are creating chances while still losing games, I would say of course you don't have to bring him in. But in games like Burnley at home, where you need someone to spot a pass for Aubameyang... Arteta tried to make a statement by not putting him in the squad, but he should take this on the chin and say it hasn't worked.
"They should use him while they have got him. What's the point? Being in the position they are in without Ozil just doesn't make sense to me."
Arsenal's 14 points from 14 games this season is their worst record at this stage of a season since the 1974-75 campaign - but Graeme Souness disagreed with Redknapp's assessment, feeling a return for Ozil would further undermine Arteta.
"I would imagine that Arteta will have spoken to the directors about the Ozil situation," he said. "If you bring Ozil back now, he's coming back on his terms. Arteta made a big decision that he ran by the directors.
"As long as he is sitting outside of the team, his value is going down and he's still being paid big money. They have a diminishing asset. They will be looking at that situation and questioning the decision.
"Do they bring him back? It takes some real man-management as Mikel is involved in his first job in management. This would be a difficult job for an experienced manager. He's got it all on to manage that situation and come out of it with his face. I'm not so sure [if Ozil should come back into the fold].
"The player coming back on his terms is never good. It diminishes his credibility and some of the players in that dressing room would use that against him.
"What Arsenal need are adults who can nurture some of the kids. I'm looking at that group and I'm not seeing many of them."
Arsenal's woes are in stark contrast to the sense of elation for the 2,000 Evertonians who were inside Goodison on Saturday evening, as they witnessed their team cap a memorable week.
After a run of just one win in seven Premier League games, Everton have won their last three, guaranteeing them a spot in the top four at Christmas for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti told Sky Sports: "It's a great result as it was a difficult game. It was so difficult for all of the second half. At the end, we get the result and this is important.
"In all honesty, Arsenal played better than us in the second half when it was 2-1, and we wanted to defend properly. It's true that we suffered, but the first half was good.
"At the end of the first half, the result was fair. We usually work on set-pieces as we've scored a lot of goals in these situations. We're really dangerous there and we knew that we could be dangerous in this game.
"In this moment, we are more consistent and we are defending well. We are always with balance, and the reason for these three victories is that we improved the defensive aspect."
Everton host Manchester United on Wednesday in the Carabao Cup last eight, live on Sky Sports Football at 8pm, before going to bottom side Sheffield United on Boxing Day at 8pm.
Arsenal host Manchester City on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup last eight, live on Sky Sports Football at 8pm, before hosting Chelsea in the Premier League on Boxing Day at 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League.