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23 Oct 2017

Ronald Koeman on the brink after five-star Gunners claim much-needed away win

If this was the end for Ronald Koeman it came not with a bang but with the most pitiful of whimpers. This is how you know your time may be up: when Mesut Ozil out jumps your entire defence to score a header.

“You’re getting sacked in the morning,” was the gleeful cry from the visiting fans as the Everton manager stood forlorn and powerless at the game’s conclusion. Frankly, after this showing, Koeman will be lucky to last that long. Seeing your team outplayed, out thought and even – heaven forfend – out muscled by Arsenal is not the most vivid demonstration that you are the man to lead this fine old club out of its dramatic slump.

And to think, after the abject home performance against Lyon in the Europa League, a match which had done little more than showcase the multi-tasking capabilities of local fathers as they combined child care with hooliganism, things had started rather well for the beleaguered Everton boss. When his side actually took the lead here after just twelve minutes it looked as if his luck had finally changed.

Arsenal had begun the game with a zip, passing the ball at pace between the Everton lines, prising open the home defence as if it were constructed of melting butter. But as is their wont, they had failed to capitalise on dominance, squandering three cunningly worked one-on-ones. Actually squander is a little harsh on Jordan Pickford, who saved brilliantly from both Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette.

But then, with twelve minutes gone, Idressa Gueye slid in on the perpetually dawdling Granit Xhaka in the middle of the Arsenal half. Wayne Rooney picked up the loose ball, waited for runners to distract attention, then took two touches before curling a beautiful shot past Petr Cech. Almost fifteen years to the day since he announced himself to the world with a spectacular goal against Arsenal, he reminded us he was still around with another.

The bad news for Koeman was it never seemed likely to keep a plodding, unimaginative, incoherent Everton in the game. Arsenal may have been profligate in the opening moments, but they were in sufficient control to keep conjuring up chances. Pickford had already saved well turn an Alexis Sanchez strike round the post before the inevitable equaliser came. This time the goalkeeper could only parry a Xhaka shot straight into Nacho Monreal’s path. The defender slammed the ball home in a manner that might have been meant as instruction to his forward colleagues.

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