Sean Dyche’s Everton reign got off to a flying start as James Tarkowski’s header handed Premier League leaders Arsenal a surprise 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park.
Everton looked revitalised in their first outing under the former Burnley boss, and it was two of his former Clarets players who combined for the winner – Tarkowski powering Dwight McNeil’s corner home on the hour.
Arsenal were kept at arm’s length by Everton during an unusually disjointed display, with the deserved victory dragging the Toffees – at least temporarily – out of the relegation zone.
Having suffered just their second league defeat of the season, the Gunners could see their lead at the summit cut to two points when title rivals Manchester City face Tottenham on Sunday.
First goal feels! @Tarky19 #EVEARS pic.twitter.com/O0zeI4A0M0
— Everton (@Everton) February 4, 2023
Despite Everton starting strongly at a boisterous Goodison Park, Arsenal missed the first clear chance on the half-hour mark, Eddie Nketiah firing wide following excellent work from Bukayo Saka.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin somehow failed to slide home Amadou Onana’s low delivery three minutes later as Everton threatened, before the unmarked Abdoulaye Doucoure headed McNeil’s cross wide.
Conor Coady then made a vital goal-line clearance from Saka’s volley, before Calvert-Lewin almost found the top-left corner with a looping header as an entertaining first half ended level.
Visiting captain Martin Odegaard blazed over from a good position after 59 minutes, and Arsenal were punished a minute later as Tarkowski found the bottom-right corner with a fine header from McNeil’s right-wing corner.
Arsenal introduced January additions Jorginho and Leandro Trossard in search of a leveller, but the latter’s 20-yard attempt, saved by Jordan Pickford, was as close as they came as their title hopes suffered a huge blow.
What does it mean? Dyche disrupts Arsenal charge
With Everton starting the game 19th in the table and without a win since they beat Crystal Palace on October 22, Dyche knew the importance of a fast start – particularly given the unrest resulting from the Toffees’ failure to make any late-January signings.
Having overseen a tremendous victory, Dyche appears to have Arsenal’s number – after losing his first nine Premier League games against the Gunners, he has only suffered one defeat in his last six (W2 D3).
Arsenal, meanwhile, have dropped points for just the second time since mid-October, handing huge encouragement to City ahead of their trip to Spurs.
Set-piece prowess key for Everton
Arsenal appeared unsettled from the off as Everton applied pressure from set-piece situations, and Tarkowski’s winner means the Toffees have scored three of their last five league goals from corners.
Having hit the net for the first time as an Everton player, meanwhile, Tarkowski has scored all eight of his Premier League goals under Dyche’s management (seven for Burnley).
Onana drives hosts forward
Onana’s lively midfield performances have been a rare spark in a largely dire season for Everton, and the Belgium international was outstanding as Arsenal were blunted on Saturday.
He led his team-mates for touches (46), while his tally of four tackles was only matched by Vitaliy Mykolenko as the hosts ended their eight-game winless run in the Premier League, moving on from the Frank Lampard era.
Key Opta facts
– Dyche becomes just the second manager to beat a side starting the day top in his first Premier League game in charge of a club, after Alan Curbishley’s West Ham beat Manchester United in December 2006.
– Arsenal suffered just a second defeat in their last 21 Premier League matches (W17 D2), losing for the first time in 14 games.
– Everton have won three consecutive league games against Arsenal at Goodison Park for the first time since March 1977 to August 1978.
– Everton achieved their first Premier League win against a side starting the day top of the table since January 2012 (1-0 v Manchester City under David Moyes), with the Toffees winless in their previous 15 such games before this result (D4 L11).
– Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has lost all three of his away matches against Everton in his managerial career. Indeed, Arteta became the first Arsenal manager to lose three consecutive away Premier League games against the Toffees.
– Pickford made his 200th Premier League appearance for Everton, becoming the third goalkeeper to reach this milestone for the Toffees after Tim Howard (354) and Neville Southall (207). Everton are the first side to have had three different goalkeepers record at least 200 appearances for them in the Premier League.
Arsenal host Brentford next Saturday in their final Premier League fixture before a huge meeting with Manchester City. Everton, meanwhile, face Liverpool in the Merseyside derby on Monday, February 13.