LONDON – Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has warned his players that it will not be a “rose pathway” if the Gunners were to win their first Premier League title since 2004.
His side fell to just a second league defeat of the season on Saturday, as James Tarkowski’s header gave Everton the perfect start under new manager Sean Dyche in a 1-0 win at Goodison Park.
Everton’s first win in 11 games lifted the Toffees out of the relegation zone, at least until the later kick-offs.
Despite the defeat, the Gunners still retain a five-point lead over second-placed Manchester City – who visit Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday – but Arteta was unsurprisingly unhappy with his side’s performance.
“We had loads of the ball but we lacked that quality in the final third. Then we conceded and they slowed the game down and we struggled,” he said on BT Sport.
“The physicality is their strength, if you want to control the game against them, you have to control this. We did not do that today.
“We needed more composure and to control emotionally the game better.
“We gave away so many unnecessary free kicks and that’s what they want.
“This is not going to be a rose pathway. This is going to be tricky and we will have to dig in and play much better than we did today.”
Everton came into the game on a run of four league defeats at home for the first time since 1958.
That disastrous form cost Frank Lampard his job and Dyche’s appointment got the desired bounce in performance.
The Toffees were the only Premier League club to not make any signings in January despite their perilous position.
But the home side showed there is still enough talent available to dig themselves out of trouble if they can harness the same level of energy and intensity on a more regular basis.
Two of Dyche’s former Burnley players were included in his first starting line-up and they combined for the only goal of the game on the hour mark as Tarkwoski headed in Dwight McNeil’s corner.
A first victory since October was no more than Everton deserved after they passed up a host of chances to go ahead before the break.
Keeping Dominic Calvert-Lewin fit will be critical to Everton’s survival hopes, but the striker showed his rustiness in front of goal in a second consecutive injury-impacted season.
Amadou Onana’s ball across the face of goal just needed a finishing touch that Calvert-Lewin could not stretch to make.
Moments later, Abdoulaye Doucoure headed a glorious chance wide when unmarked inside the box.
It took Arsenal half an hour to even threaten Jordan Pickford’s goal, but they should have led when Eddie Nketiah fired high and wide with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Conor Coady then had to react quickly to turn Bukayo Saka’s volley off the line as the visitors began to find their rhythm.
Arsenal were brighter at the start of the second period and Martin Odegaard will feel he should have hit the target when teed up by Nketiah.
But just as the Gunners were beginning to turn the screw, their luck at the back ran out.
Centre-back Tarkowski, fundamental to Dyche’s achievement in keeping Burnley in the Premier League for six consecutive seasons between 2016 and 2022, rose highest to power home the winner.
The full-time whistle was met with jubilant celebrations as Everton lifted themselves out of the drop zone.
“The players have taken a lot on this week and I thank them for that because it’s not easy,” Dyche said on BT Sport.
“The minimum requirement is maximum effort and there was plenty of that today. The basic requirements never change, you have to win your battles.
“We can still improve but that comes with confidence and that comes with results.
“The win gives us a platform to move forward, the players have given a lot this week, I’m delighted for them.” AFP, REUTERS