Arsenal are bad at the core… there is no doubt this is a relegation battle

Ahead of kick-off, Goodison Park’s giant screen flashed up a quiz question about one of the club’s very popular old boys, Mikel Arteta.

It was asking against which opponent did he score his first Everton goal, or something like that.

There might be another quiz question about Arteta in 2021.

Which Arsenal manager won the FA Cup in his first half-season and then took the club down in his first full one?

There can be no sugar-coating Arsenal’s situation, no caveats, no too-good-to-go-down nonsense.

Their league position is utterly unconnected to fortune, it is where the standard of performances dictates they should be.

They have not won in seven and are averaging a point per game.

Those are figures that define a relegation battle.

Arsenal could be 16th come the end of the weekend

After a first half in which they were lucky to be only 2-1 down, they had spells of second half pressure.

But they very rarely threatened to take advantage of any Jordan Pickford vulnerability.

And that they did not show their second half spirit for the entire 90 minutes was a damning indictment of a team in a spiral.

At the end, some Arsenal bodies collapsed to the turf, others could not wait to walk to their portakabins.

Something remains wrong at the core of the club.

Remember Willian’s debut for Arsenal back in September? An all-singing, all-dancing assist-fest at Craven Cottage.

The Willian who dazzled on debut in September was nowhere to be seen at Goodison

Instantly, he was the best free transfer of all time, an inspired piece of recruitment and already earning his lavish, three-year contract.

Since then, he has pretty much been a symbol of Arsenal’s malaise.

The pace of the game simply seems too much for him. Either that or he is not trying hard enough.

Although if you are 32 and sat on a nice deal that stretches until 2023, the comfort zone has its allure.

There was some dynamism elsewhere in the Arsenal ranks but this is a team that is struggling for attacking inspiration.

Considering his struggles this season, the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with a calf injury, left a noticeable void.

Everton punished a Gunners side lacking dynamism and, frankly, effort

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Eddie Nketiah is a talent, for sure, but still a little hasty in his decision-making, composure letting him down after being presented with a tasty opportunity by Kieran Tierney.

But what is a rookie supposed to do when there are expensive, experienced players around him who appear to be coasting?

Well, coasting at worst, treading water at best.

That Thomas Partey is missed goes without saying. He inspired Arsenal’s last decent Premier League performance, a 1-0 win at Old Trafford that now seems a long time ago.

But the problems are far grander than issues related to the odd injury.

After a year, there can be few who would believe Arsenal paid in excess of £70million for Nicolas Pepe.

Pepe equalised for Arsenal in the first half

Are Arsenal in the relegation battle? Have your say here.

His first half conversion of an equalising penalty after Tom Davies had kicked Ainsley Maitland-Niles was his only significant piece of work.

To be fair to Pepe and to Willian, they did improve slightly after the half-time break.

As did Arsenal.

They looked a little more secure defensively after Rob Holding’s own goal and a towering, but unchallenged, Yerry Mina header had given Everton the slender interval lead.

The second half urgency does give Arteta something to work on but this is a team in a rut.

After EFL Cup duty against Manchester City this week, their trio of festive fixtures – sorry, just fixtures now – feature Chelsea at home and visits to Brighton and West Brom.

But the truth is there are no easy games for this Arsenal team right now.

Missing players will return and Arteta might even bring Mesut Ozil back into the fold for 2021 although that would seem extremely unlikely.

Anyhow, it would take more than Ozil’s wand of a left foot to magic Arsenal out of this predicament.

Brighton can go above Arsenal on Sunday, which would leave Arteta’s side in 16th position.

Is this a relegation fight for Arsenal? That is one question that is easy to answer.

Yes.

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