Arsenal 0-1 Everton: Arsenal come unstuck against the Toffees
Arsenal v Everton - Premier League

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Arsenal fans protest against the European Super League and Owner Stan Kroenke outside the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on April 23, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

In a game overshadowed by the Stan Kroenke out protests that proceeded outside The Emirates Stadium, Arsenal showed just why they are firmly mid-table as they suffered a tame 1-0 defeat to Everton in the Premier League.

A Bernd Leno own goal was enough to settle a tame and tepid affair, the events of which gave the impression that both sides had given up on European qualification through the league.

Story of the game 

Mikel Arteta named a strong side featuring Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey and Nicolas Pepe, as well as a first start since January for Eddie Nketiah in the absence of Alexandre Lacazette.

Despite this firepower, the only explosions from the opening half-hour were those provided by the thousands of protesting Arsenal fans, who set off fireworks for much of the opening quarter of the game.

On the pitch however, a familiar story was playing out. The Gunners dominated the ball for large swathes of the half yet it was their opponents that had the better of the chances, Richarlison going close whilst Gylfi Sigurdsson struck the crossbar from a free-kick.

By contrast, the closest Arteta’s side came to breaking the deadlock was a tame shot on the turn from Saka that trickled into the gloves of Jordan Pickford.    

Arsenal thought they had won a penalty early in the second half, when Dani Ceballos went down in the box following a tap on the shin-pad from Richarlison.

However, VAR in typical divisive fashion, deemed Pepe to be a millimetre offside in the build-up, despite seemingly drawing the lines from the wrong places.

Whilst it would have been a soft penalty and Ceballos undoubtedly made the most of it, once again VAR created controversy in trying to provide an exact science to a game that cannot be limited by exactness.

A stale encounter such as this was always going to be settled by a stroke of genius or an individual error.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, as has so often been the case this season, it was the latter. Granit Xhaka, filling in for the injured Kieran Tierney at left-back, was caught out by a cross-field pass that left him one-on-one against Richarlison.

The Everton winger sidestepped Xhaka’s clumsy lunge, before firing the ball at Leno, who inexplicably let the ball squirm between his legs and roll into the net.

It was just the latest in a long line of individual errors that have plagued Arteta’s first full season in charge of the Gunners, and that has been a huge factor in the clubs slump into tenth place.   

In truth, Arsenal never looked like replying. Substitute Gabriel Martinelli had an effort well-saved late but it was the busiest that Pickford had been all evening.

The final whistle drew the curtain on another limp home performance, that will surely leave Arteta with a great deal of head-scratching to do ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semi-final clash with Villareal.

Both he and Arsenal will be hoping that they can banish the memories of this game well before that.