Unai Emery said Arsenal remain in control of the race for Champions League qualification after another disappointing away performance saw his side lose 1-0 at Everton on Sunday.
Phil Jagielka, only drafted into Everton’s starting line-up at the last minute, scored the game’s only goal as Arsenal extended their wretched record as the only club in the top four divisions of English football not to have kept a clean sheet on their travels this season.
But Arsenal boss Emery, while conceding his team had played badly, tried to remain positive in the aftermath at Goodison Park.
“I think generally we are well. I don’t think; ‘today we lost and we are very bad’. It was a bad result, not a good performance today, but we are fourth,” Emery said.
“Before, I knew it was going to be difficult. After this result, I am thinking the same. After this result, we can be negative because it is three points lost, but it is in our hands, if we continue taking chances and opportunities, to be in the top four.”
Everton had already threatened from one of Lucas Digne’s long throw-ins before the full-back delivered the set-piece that led to Jagielka’s opening goal on 10 minutes.
His throw was flicked on by Jagielka himself, for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to attempt a header on goal that saw the ball take a kindly bounce, falling to the unmarked defender who swept in from close-range.
There were Arsenal appeals for offside, and television footage seemed to show that Digne’s foot might have been over the line in the process of taking his all-important throw.
But it was certainly a dramatic intervention from Jagielka, who had only be called into the team minutes before kick-off when Michael Keane finally succumbed to a virus that had rendered him a doubt.
Jagielka, 36, has suffered a difficult season at Goodison, with a series of knee problems limiting him to three starts but his impact on this occasion could not have been greater, or much quicker.
It was also the former England international’s first goal since April 2017 as he became the oldest player to score in the Premier League this season.
Victory also meant that Everton have beaten a ‘big six’ side for a second consecutive home game, having failed to win against one of those teams in the previous 25 attempts.
But the post-match analysis centred more on Arsenal’s poor performance, one which improved only marginally at the interval when Emery brought on Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The pair brought about an improvement in attack, the latter’s 48th minute cross producing a weak punch from Jordan Pickford which Ramsey volleyed over from 12 yards.
But, defensively, Arsenal were even worse after the restart. Everton really should have doubled their lead on 73 minutes when a Gylfi Sigurdsson shot was charged down by Sokratis and Richarlison sliced the rebound well wide.
The pressure seemed to be taking its toll on Emery, who was involved in a furious verbal altercation with Everton boss Marco Silva eight minutes from time when Shkodran Mustafi was booked for a poor foul on Richarlison as he broke clear, in front of the technical area.
“He arrived late, but I think it was a yellow card,” said Emery. “I was speaking and he (Silva) came into my space and place on the bench and explained something to me. But it was no problem.”