Great Britain

Everton vs Arsenal confirmed line-ups: Team news ahead of early Premier League match today

The future should be brighter for Everton and Arsenal but the present was distinctly unpleasant. As Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta watched on from the directors’ box, they witnessed the scale of the tasks each has taken on. The sorriest of stalemates amounted to an illustration of the vast scope for improvement at both clubs.

Arsenal’s first clean sheet in 15 games and only Everton’s second in the league since August were not achievements as much as indictments of the opposition’s attacking impotence. It was an ignominious way for each to end life in limbo. Few matches have more misdirected passes, stray touches or hopeless crosses. Ineptitude was a recurring theme. 

Everton can at least say Duncan Ferguson ended his interim spell unbeaten, save for a penalty shootout. The Scot has brought spirit to an injury-hit group but Ancelotti, accustomed to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, may have had a culture shock watching Everton. 

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Freddie Ljungberg has a solitary win to show from his six games at the Arsenal helm. He failed an audition for the job, but he made a statement in other respects. Arsenal’s record buy, Nicolas Pepe, was an unused substitute. Their player of the year, Alexandre Lacazette, was confined to a 12-minute cameo. Their best-paid footballer, Mesut Ozil, was injured, but Ljungberg said he would have been omitted anyway for his petulant reaction to being substituted against Manchester City. 

It underlined the impression that too many of Arsenal’s senior figures are not offering the right form of leadership. David Luiz floundered his way around the game while Ljungberg named Arsenal’s youngest top-flight team since 2011, with an average age of 24 years and 50 days. At 20, Reiss Nelson was the senior figure among the attacking midfielders.

Their two youngest players, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, at least offered some causes for optimism. The Brazilian had Arsenal’s first attempt, arrowing a shot wide on the stroke of half-time. Jordan Pickford showed his athleticism to keep out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s close-range effort. It was the 50th minute and the game’s first effort on target. Everton did not muster one at all. Ferguson, who had substituted substitute Moise Kean at Old Trafford, replaced the replacement Cenk Tosun, albeit after a 70-minute shift.

With little happening in a game of thud and blunder, gazes were directed towards the directors’ box. Ancelotti’s appointment was confirmed 70 minutes before kick-off, some 21 hours after Arteta’s move was finalised. Arteta was accompanied by Edu, different generations of Arsenal managers. Ancelotti was deep in conversation with Marcel Brands, Bill Kenwright and Farhad Moshiri. If neither knew before, each should realise now that there is plenty of work to be done. They have long-term contracts and turning these clubs is a long-term job.