Everton loss merely a blip or a cause of concern for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta?
Arsenal suffered a rare setback in their search for a first Premier League title in 19 years as they slipped to defeat at struggling Everton.
Sean Dyche masterminded an important win for the Toffees in his first game at the helm but it was an off-day for an Arsenal side who have hardly put a foot wrong of late.
Here, the PA news agency asks whether it was a one-off or if there may be more lingering worries for Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.
Have Everton provided a blueprint to beat Arsenal?
There is plenty of evidence to suggest Everton were always likely to get a promising result against Arsenal on Saturday, regardless of respective league positions and recent form.
Arteta, a former Everton midfielder, has now lost all three visits to the blue half of Merseyside since becoming Arsenal boss and Dyche has also fared well against the Spaniard.
Add to that the so-called ‘new manager bounce’ and it was going to be a tough afternoon for the visitors – but is there more to this defeat than that?
Dyche seemed to fathom that to beat Arsenal he had to stop their midfield ticking over, his own triumvirate of Idrissa Gueye, Abdoulaye Doucoure and the magnificent Amadou Onana did not give Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka or Martin Odegaard a second to make magic happen.
When they lost at Manchester United in September – their only other reverse in the league this season – Arsenal were the better team but were undone on the break, this time the worry will be others have seen that to stop them, you have to win the battle in the middle of the park – but it is easier said than done.
Arteta’s side responded pretty well to their last league loss though, right?
Very much so. The defeat at Old Trafford came on the back of Arsenal winning all of their opening five Premier League games of the campaign.
They were beaten 3-1 but it is widely agreed the visitors were the better side, something that was arguably proved in the following weeks.
An eight-match winning streak in all competitions set Arsenal up as early title contenders and the best side in their Europa League group.
The Everton loss follows a 1-0 FA Cup fourth-round defeat against main title rivals Manchester City but, having made changes for that tie, Arteta will not treat the results equally and will be calling for a similar reaction to the United loss.
Do they have a run of games to put together a similar set of results this time?
There are a couple of tough examinations to come, for sure.
Brentford are next up, visiting the Emirates Stadium on Saturday defending a nine-match unbeaten league run stretching back to October. Arsenal were comfortable 3-0 winners in the reverse fixture in September and will be keen to replicate that before facing an all-together different challenge four days later when they host Pep Guardiola’s City in a rearranged game.
Arsenal’s recent record against the reigning champions, especially in the league, is woeful and they have lost the last 10 meetings, with an aggregate score of 26-3.
Win these two and not only will the Everton result be a distant memory but the title tilt will remain on course and potentially look even stronger than it does right now.