The winds of change may have blown a little stronger through Goodison Park this past week but despite Friday’s announcement that Farhad Moshiri has agreed to sell his 94.1 per cent stake in the club to American investors, 777 partners, trepidation remains in the air at Everton.
Not least because the prospective new owners, who are subject to checks and approval by the Premier League, FA and FCA, appear far from clean-cut and — judging by the critique and protests from supporters of other clubs under their ownership — may not be the breath of fresh air which Everton desperately need.
What’s more, given that Everton appear set to be involved in a relegation battle for the third consecutive campaign, thoughts cannot stray too far away from the present — and it doesn’t look good.
In truth, this defeat against Arsenal was a long time in coming and Sean Dyche’s team invited it onto themselves. They practically afforded their visitors the chance to craft a victory over much of the 90 minutes and failed to muster anything of note in attack themselves.
They may have hoped to hold onto a draw for as long as possible but Mikel Arteta’s team had too much for them in the end. Arsenal thought they were ahead in the first half, only for VAR to rule the goal out for offside.
It was Leandro Trossard, on for the injured Gabriel Martinelli, who eventually scored the winning goal on 69 minutes, with the Belgian registering in the league for the first time since February. Arsenal could have had more if they wanted, but almost played within themselves.
Yet, Arteta will happily put this single-goal triumph in his satchel and return to the capital, where his side will host PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League this week before next weekend’s north London derby. Arsenal had not picked up a victory at Goodison Park since 2017 and Arteta had lost each of his three previous managerial visits to the club he once captained.
Story of the game
Everton supporters got their first Goodison viewing of Beto but the Portuguese striker signed from Udinese must get more service if he is to become the reliable goalscorer they have been longing for. Dwight McNeil made his first start of the season after an injury lay-off but all of Everton’s forward players had minimal impact.
Arteta turned heads by giving David Raya, signed from Brentford, his Arsenal debut with Aaron Ramsdale dropping to the bench. Whether Ramsdale returns to the team for the Champions League on Wednesday remains to be seen but it will be interesting how that particular duel progresses.
Fabio Vieira was given his first Premier League start in midfield since April in place of Kai Havertz — a move possibly in anticipation of a physical battle. This is, after all, a venue that Arsenal and Arteta have not enjoyed visiting in recent years.
For an hour, breaching a deep Everton defence proved a rather arduous task. The visitors were certainly allowed to feel their way into this contest. It was all passing triangles and midfield dominance as Everton sat off and kept their shape, giving an impression of a team comfortable without the ball and an eye on a draw already.
But Arsenal only managed one moment of true incision during a testing first half. What looked like a sound goal in the 19th minute, scored by Martinelli, got the VAR treatment with Eddie Nketiah adjudged offside when he collected a Gabriel pass that had taken a heavy deflection off Beto.
Even with the lines drawn, it appeared a close call — and that’s without considering Beto’s notable intervention as a deliberate play of the ball. Martinelli’s bad luck only worsened when he pulled up and was substituted for Trossard minutes later.
Arsenal remained dominant, however, even if urgency was lacking. Jarrad Branthwaite blocked a Declan Rice effort and Jordan Pickford plucked Ben White’s shot out of the air as Everton continued to be pressed back. It was patient rather than penetrative play from the away team.
Abdoulaye Doucoure claimed for a penalty when he clipped William Saliba’s left leg in the area but the Everton midfielder had instigated the contact. Scoreless at the break wasn’t an overburdening issue for either manager, but both will have wanted more after the interval; more risk taking, no doubt.
Arsenal were more lively straight from the off in the second half with Vieira getting in behind the Everton defence. Martin Odegaard struck a left-footed shot straight at Pickford but already there was more directness to their play.
Everton still held their own, even threatening with the odd foray upfield, but Beto often cut an isolated figure. Both managers refreshed their attacks after the hour mark; Dyche sending on Dominic Calvert-Lewin for the home debutant and Gabriel Jesus coming on for Arsenal in place of Nketiah.
Yet, just as the home side may have started to appraise a decent containment job, Arsenal struck. The visitors had a corner in the 69th minute and from it they played a lovely sharp passing move around the Everton area. It culminated with Odegaard passing to Bukayo Saka and his pull back was met first time by Trossard who side-footed a shot past Pickford.
It was a deserved breakthrough for the visitors, who went close again when Pickford saved from Odegaard and Vitalii Mykolenko slid across to block a Vieira shot. Everton couldn’t muster a response, this being their third 1-0 loss at home this term. Arsenal had to work for their win but it had always been theirs for the taking.
Player of the match: Leandro Trossard
Scored the decisive goal that had been a long time in coming. It was the Belgian’s first goal in the Premier League since February and came after Arsenal had accumulated 75 per cent possession.
He came off the bench when Martinelli departed injured on 23 minutes and was always asking for the ball when the visitors were in amongst Everton’s backline.