Everton struck in the closing stages of Friday's Premier League meeting with Arsenal to earn an overdue success at Emirates Stadium and inject renewed impetus into a push for European football.
Here, evertonfc.com identifies some of the things we learned from a successful night in north London.
A Fitting Winner
Perhaps an attritional contest, dotted with moments of individual quality, got the winning goal it deserved.
If that sounds harsh, it’s not meant to.
There is an awful lot to be said for sticking in there and Everton’s perseverance and combativity and football knowhow prevailed on a peculiar night in north London.
Richarlison will undoubtedly be put out the goal, with 14 minutes remaining, isn’t added to his tally for the campaign.
But, in tandem with Allan and Carlo Ancelotti, he made it happen.
Ancelotti first. Everton’s manager shifted Richarlison to the right for this game, positioning a player who runs smoothly and quickly with the ball – he completed four successful dribbles, twice as many as any other player on the field – in direct confrontation with a makeshift left-back in Grant Xhaka.
Bernd Leno made the save when Richarlison controlled an Allan pass to cut inside Pablo Mari and shoot on target in the opening half.
Allan was increasingly adventurous on the ball – 25 of his 45 accurate passes were struck forwards – and, in the 76th-minute, the Brazilian located compatriot Richarlison from 50 yards.
Xhaka was on his heels, reluctant to commit. Richarlison brushed off the Swiss to control, then dropped his shoulder to advance to the byline.
From there, Everton got lucky.
Richarlison aimed for the well-covered Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the middle but Leno appeared to have everything in hand.
The German goalkeeper, however, took his eye off the ball, fatally, allowing it to pass between his gloves. A flick off his heel redirected Richarlison’s delivery into the net.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” mused Roman philosopher Seneca.
Everton were organised and disciplined and energetic and when a chance came to win the game profited from a slice of fortune.
So, no, the decisive strike wasn’t Wayne Clarke drifting the ball over John Lukic’s head from 40 yards – an exquisite effort to defeat Arsenal’s goalkeeper when Everton won 1-0 at Highbury to close on the Club’s ninth league title in 1986/87.
But the end result was the same – and in the context of this season, could prove just as important.
Speed and Strength Make Toffees High
As Gylfi Sigurdsson sized up a free-kick 25 yards from goal, Carlo Ancelotti was momentarily distracted.
Turning towards Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate, Everton’s manager ordered his two centre-backs to stride 10 yards up the pitch.
It was a vignette illustrative of how this newly-formed defensive pairing influence their team’s strategy.
As Godfrey and Holgate moved closer to their opponent’s goal, Jordan Pickford was separated from his nearest player by a vast, green expanse.
For Everton, though, there was no fear over one of Arsenal’s speedsters – Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah – surging into that open land.
In Holgate and Godfrey, Everton have two players capable of keeping pace with the most rapid attackers.
Pairing the English duo enables Ancelotti’s team to adopt starting positions higher up the pitch.
Consequently, Everton win possession closer to goal and are at liberty to commit additional bodies to attack.
All this would count for nothing if either Godfrey or Holgate were found wanting in their day jobs.
And both were defensively immaculate at Emirates Stadium, deserving to travel back north savouring the warm glow from a clean sheet.
Holgate’s total of four clearances was topped only by Godfrey’s five.
Godfrey recovered possession four times and blocked two shots.
There were two blocked shots from Holgate, too, in addition to two tackles and 23 successful forward passes.
Godfrey’s three successful tackles – out of three – included a legitimate cruncher on Dani Ceballos, who must wonder what he’s done to upset the Everton player after being on the end of something similar at Goodison Park back in December.
What a boon for Ancelotti to have Yerry Mina to add to the backline late on, too, after a long time when Everton’s squad has been stretched to its limits.
Coleman Epitomises Everton Effort
Seamus Coleman prefaced this match with talk of aiming to banish another unwanted record.
The Irishman sounded his target with caution.
There wasn’t a winning streak, or hoodoo broken, insisted Coleman, that would sustain him through the summer months.
For Coleman, the busting of poor form at the homes of Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Arsenal, amounts to a case of ‘about time’.
That’s not to downplay the reversal of fortunes at these traditional Premier League strongholds.
Everton had 26 goes at winning away against Arsenal – 11 of those at Highbury – before gaining a first Emirates Stadium success on Friday.
The victory at Spurs ended a wait lasting 13 games and stretching back to November 2008, while bringing three points back across Stanley Park in February represented a significant monkey off the Club’s back.
Everton can go to all those stadiums next season with a spring in their step.
But Coleman and his teammates want more than a jaunty stride to show for a season when they’ve made improvements across the board.
To enter 2021/22 without European football on the calendar would, conceded Coleman, be a “massive disappointment”.
Everton’s captain played against Arsenal like a man determined to avoid that scenario.
Coleman observes his teammates with a view to determining whether they qualify as “proper Everton players”.
It takes one to know one.
The Irishman is the epitome of a proper Everton player.
Classy and considered and engaged with the Club’s fanbase and community off the field, he is a redoubtable competitor, consumed by a warrior spirit, on it.
Coleman tackled and chased and organised and cajoled against Arsenal.
The right-back recovered possession eight times and, galloping forwards, created two chances.
There was a bit of a to-do at the final whistle.
Coleman, this erudite character – an ambassador for all that is good about Everton – was duly on the scene, shouting the odds, fired up and letting his opponents know where the points were going.
This meant a lot to Coleman, it always does.
Now to makes it count for something tangible.
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HOLGATE CALLS FOR CONSISTENCY TO REACH EUROPE
Perfect End To Whirlwind Week
Everton began the week on the front foot, presenting a united and conclusive stance against proposals for a dismal European Super League.
Owner Farhad Moshiri spoke on national radio, underscoring the values of equality and common decency threaded through the Club.
By the time Carlo Ancelotti was having his say – asserting the imperative of competition founded on sporting merit – Director of Football Marcel Brands’ name was inked on a new three-year contract.
Dutchman Brands was appointed three years ago with a remit to redesign multiple departments across the Club.
News that he will stay until at least the summer of 2024 to continue picking through a huge task was welcome.
Brands' influence was evident in the the team that took the field at Arsenal.
It’s not always pretty but a great win and performance from the boys. Felt so good to be back 🔋🦋 pic.twitter.com/qPC98yWn0X— Dominic Calvert-Lewin (@CalvertLewin14) April 23, 2021
He was a major player in the recruitment of Ben Godfrey – a signing that looks better every day – while Richarlison and Lucas Digne were bought soon after Brands’ arrival.
The 59-year-old was instrumental in Mason Holgate’s resurgence as an Everton player, too, convincing the defender to remain at Goodison Park when Holgate harboured concerns over his long-term prospects.
Ending that enduring wait to claim three points from Emirates Stadium wrapped up a whirlwind week.
The sounds of police helicopters circling Arsenal’s home and more than 1,000 dissenting voices outside were indicative of the barmy nature of the past few days.
A week that started with 12 clubs ganging up to try to exclude ambitious interlopers ended with Everton shifting the door further ajar.
Clear Heads Ignore Presure
There is a strong argument for this victory at Arsenal as the best of Everton’s 10 away wins in 2020/21
Had they lost, Everton would have been cut off from the Premier League’s top seven, separated from Liverpool by four points on Friday night, with only six matches to do something about it.
With games running out, this was a fixture missing a safety net.
Everton avoided a crash landing, winning to move one point behind sixth and only three adrift of Chelsea in fourth.
They opened up a six-point gap to Arsenal into the bargain, a meaningful swing, given a home win would have seen the Gunners jump over Everton into eighth.
It’s not fanciful to suggest, then, that Everton were entering win-or-bust territory ahead of a visit to a ground where they’d not won in 15 previous visits.
This game was loaded with jeopardy. Previous away wins, such as those at Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United and Liverpool, were terrific in isolation, but accompanied by the knowledge any slip could be corrected – in terms of points on the board – next time out.
A goalless draw at Arsenal qualifies as a decent result in normal circumstances.
And that view would have strengthened when the home team had their best spell in the 25 minutes after half-time.
One point wouldn’t suffice on this occasion, however.
Everton continued to probe in search of a goal and following its arrival expertly battened down the hatches.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team resolutely defended their penalty box, making blocks and winning headers.
When Gabriel Martinelli slithered through in stoppage time, Jordan Pickford was equal to the shot.
Ancelotti used his substitutes wisely, Tom Davies on in minute 86 and Yerry Mina introduced three minutes later – two changes which broke up the game and stiffened Everton through the middle.
Everton assuredly managed the late pressure, maintaining one of the narratives of the night.