Arsenal were handed another reminder of their familiar shortcomings on Tuesday as Everton managed to turn a 1-0 deficit into a scarce 2-1 victory.
Apart from the inevitability of having Hector Bellerin back in the starting line-up while Gabriel returned to his centre-back role alongside Laurent Koscielny, Arsene Wenger opted to keep his team very much unchanged for the affair at Goodison Park.
Ahead of what we all expected to be a tricky away trip, there were flashbacks – for pessimistic fans at least – of moments in recent seasons where Arsenal have crumbled when the pressure is suddenly on them in the title race. Last year, when the pressure was off, this fixture against an out-of-form Everton ended in a straight-forward 2-0 triumph.
Some might have argued prior to kick-off that the mentality is different this season but in the end, pundits who make a living on slamming the Gunners for fluffing their lines – usually on days when the world expects them to win – were proven right. Yet again.
The thing with Arsenal is when they are about to fail, they flatter to deceive. When a free-kick from Alexis Sanchez found its way into the net after 20 minutes, recent dominant victories at West Ham and Basel sprung into memory. But after witnessing Wenger’s men over-elaborate in their attempt to find a killer second goal, it just seemed like a punishment from Everton was looming.
And on the stroke of half-time, after the home side had tested Arsenal’s resolve with a few chances, Semaus Coleman was gifted a free header. That equalizer from Everton came at a similar time to when Phillipe Coutinho pulled Liverpool level on the opening day of the season.
On that day, Arsenal never seemed to get over the sting in the tale of having their lead wiped out just before the break and on Tuesday night, a timid second-half display proved that unwanted feat had repeated.
In the dying moments of the game, Ronald Koeman’s side again followed the footsteps of their Merseyside neighbours by becoming only the second team to defeat Arsenal in a league game this season as Ashley Williams atoned for his early error by heading home the winner.
Perhaps the side in blue enjoyed a rub of the green through a couple of incorrect calls from referee Mark Clattenburg who denied Sanchez a blatant penalty.
But there was no doubt that two goals from two headers had done the damage to Arsenal’s title credentials.