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Tactics Board: Richarlison finds his form as Toffees sink Arsenal to relieve pressure on Benitez

Shane Keegan examines how Everton got the better of the Gunners in last night’s Premier League match.

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THIS MONDAY NIGHT Football game may have huffed and puffed for the majority of the first half, but we got plenty of excitement in the second.

While a Brazilian and a Dane were central to all that was good for their teams, it was an Englishman brought in from Germany, who scored an injury-time cracker to win the fixture for his side.

Let’s have a recap.

Richarlison and Odegaard find form for their sides

everton-manager-rafael-benitez-and-richarlison-after-the-premier-league-match-at-goodison-park-liverpool-picture-date-monday-december-6-2021 Richarlison celebrates his goal with Rafa Benitez. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

Very rarely can a game be distilled down to a battle between two players, but such was the quality of the performances from Martin Odegaard and Richarlison that it seems fair on this occasion.

It’s been far from plain sailing for either of these men in 2021 and both have certainly had their detractors.

Odegaard, the youngest player to have ever played for Real Madrid and for Norway, hasn’t given Arsenal fans a huge amount to shout about since moving to the Emirates, initially on loan before then making that move permanent at a cost of €35 million.

But recent performances have shown signs of improvement and even in defeat here he suggested that he will be central to any challenge the club intend to make to qualify for Europe.

Richarlison too has been a figure of frustration for Everton supporters. The talented Brazilian has been capped 32 times for his country and was top scorer at this year’s Olympics as he left with a gold medal.

But his displays during Everton’s recent awful run of form have been poor and he needed to do more to help his side turn a corner.

In this game, he certainly obliged.

First blood to Arsenal

What impressed so much with Odegaard here was his outstanding movement. He seemed to constantly be able to find that pocket of space behind the Everton midfield but too far in front of the centre-backs for them to come out.

Below we see the first real example.

As Ben White assess his options, Odegaard comes out in front of Allan to show for the ball. Once White decides to go elsewhere, he immediately looks to get himself back around on the blind side of the Liverpool midfield.

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As Arsenal beat the press, with Thomas Partey finding Kieran Tierney out wide, Odegaard looks to exploit the space created by Allan getting attracted to Alexandre Lacazette.

Tierney’s first touch to come inside past Seamus Coleman is excellent but he isn’t quick enough to pass to Odegaard, who has his arms outstretched demanding the ball.

When he eventually does play the pass, it is behind Odegaard and the momentum is lost.

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In the final minutes of the first half, Tierney more than makes up for his earlier sloppiness.

Odegaard initially picks up the ball from White in front of the Everton midfield but as soon as he pops it off to Partey he disappears back in behind them again and is out of their sight as the ball goes wide to Tierney.

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As Arsenal recycle the ball, Everton look to press them but the centre midfield pairing of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan end up far too high up the field, just a few yards behind their forwards.

This gives Odegaard and Lacazette the opportunity to exploit the space in behind them and as Granit Xhaka, Lacazette and Tierney combine down the left we can see the huge amount of space that Odegaard has managed to find.

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Once Tierney can get the delivery right the goal is almost inevitable, and nobody can get close enough to Odegaard to stop him finishing.

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VAR v Richarlison Round 1

Just before Arsenal’s opener, Everton had had a goal of their own chalked off due to a VAR offside decision.

What that goal had showed though, was that Richarlison was up for the fight yesterday. As Jordan Pickford lumped a long kick down field, he managed to shove his fellow Brazilian Gabriel off the ball, not once but twice, forcing the Arsenal centre-back to foul him.

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From the resulting free-kick, Richarlison got into an arm wrestle with Xhaka, preventing him from getting goal side, and heading home. Unfortunately for Richarlison, VAR intervened.

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VAR v Richarlison Round 2

In the second half, we were to have more of the same. Richarlison did well in the build-up, getting himself across to Anthony Gordon’s long ball out and setting it back to Doucoure before looking to dart in behind but the Frenchman dallied on the ball for too long and Arsenal cleared their lines.

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From the resulting clearance, Everton launched another attack and again Richarlison took up a great position off Gabriel’s outside shoulder.

This time, Doucoure did find him and Richarlison finished brilliantly before VAR stepped forward again to make the tightest of offside calls.

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Third time lucky

Richarlison refused to be denied though and finally got his reward in the 79th minute.

Nuno Tavares and Partey managed to make hard enough work of their short throw to allow Doucoure to intercept and head the ball to his team-mate.

Richarlison did what he had been doing the whole game, played the right pass, this time to Andre Gomes, then got himself back onto the shoulder of the last defender.

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As Gomes’ shot rebounded to Demarai Gray, there looked to be three Arsenal players positioned to close down the dangerous right-footed attacker but none of them did so quick enough and he unleashed a rocket that rattled the crossbar.

As it came back out, who else but Richarlison reacted first to loop it back over Aaron Ramsdale and into the net.

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This time VAR let him have it.

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Odegaard continues to pull the strings but can’t find a goal

Before Everton’s equaliser, Arsenal had missed an opportunity to put themselves two up.

This Odegaard pass took out four Everton players and put Gabriel Martinelli through on goal. He chose to try and round Pickford rather than finishing first time and pushed himself too wide.

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Then, at one all, Odegaard would twice be denied by last-ditch blocks by defenders.

Everton had gone to five in midfield by this stage but it still Odegaard and Lacazette continued to find space either side of Allan.

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As Lacazette picks out Eddie Nketiah, we can see Michael Keane’s dilemma. Knowing that he can’t go out to Odegaard, he points and asks for somebody to try and get close to him.

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Nketiah finds him but a brilliant sliding block from Ben Godfrey denies the Dane his second.

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He was to have one more try at it. Again it starts with the usual picture, as Odegaard and this time Nketiah manage to get themselves
between the lines.

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Partey finds Nketiah and when he turns inside Odegaard and is in acres of space with the Everton back four all over the place.

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Odegaard should really look to finish with his right foot but comes back inside onto his favoured left and this gives Coleman just enough time to get across and make another outstanding block.

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Richarlison and Gray take the points

Everton ultimately came away with the points thanks to an outstanding individual goal from Gray that doesn’t require any tactical breakdown.

The manner of the shuffling inverted run and curling finish was Robben-esque, even if it was left to right rather that Dutchman’s right to left trademark.

Everton should have made it three very late on when Richarlison gave one last flex of his muscles. Chasing after Alex Iwobi’s launched clearance, he again managed to bully White before pulling the ball down.

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With Gomes and Iwobi up alongside him to make a 3 v 2, he opted for the latter, but Ramsdale spread himself to save brilliantly.

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But it didn’t matter, as three badly-needed points were Everton’s.

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