Everton and Arsenal played out a dire goalless draw at Goodison Park as respective new bosses Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta watched from the stands.
Three-time Champions League winner Ancelotti was confirmed as successor to sacked Marco Silva on a contract until 2024 shortly before kick-off on Saturday, and the Italian was present in the directors’ box.
Arteta, who was appointed the Gunners on Friday, was sitting nearby – but there was little to excite either man.
Arsenal, under interim manager Freddie Ljungberg for the last time, came closest to scoring as Gabriel Martinelli shot wide in the first half, before Everton keeper Jordan Pickford saved superbly from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after the break.
The hosts, led by caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson for the fourth and final time, rarely troubled Arsenal, although the Scot once again showed he was not afraid to take bold decisions by substituting a substitute.
This time it was striker Cenk Tosun, who had come on early for the injured Alex Iwobi, and he was clearly unhappy at being replaced by Moise Kean.
Ferguson gives Ancelotti a base
No-one can deny this was a dreadful affair, but caretaker manager Ferguson can take credit for the points he has picked up from a run of league games that looked hazardous – and plenty of Everton fans stayed behind at the end to warmly applaud a figure they regard as a hero.
This was all despite the Toffees failing to record a shot on target in a Premier League home game for the first time since they lost 2-0 to Manchester United on 1 January 2018.
Ferguson has got five points from a home win over Chelsea, a battling draw at Manchester United and this stalemate. The Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat by Leicester City only came on penalties after a stirring comeback from 2-0 down.
Everton were in a deep hole when Ferguson stepped in after Silva’s sacking, and the pure theatre of the Scot on the touchline and the manner in which he has reignited the crowd means 60-year-old Ancelotti can start work on the back of an unbeaten league run.
Ferguson will now remain a key part of Ancelotti’s backroom staff with his reputation enhanced; his short spell has proved to be a memorable one.
The decision to replace substitute Tosun raised eyebrows and the player himself was clearly furious, but this was very different to the substitution of Kean at Old Trafford.
Tosun had been given plenty of time to make an impact. He did not and, on reflection, he can have no complaints.
Ferguson will now step back – but he will be an important figure in the new Ancelotti era.
Arteta’s huge task
As with Ancelotti, new Arsenal boss Arteta faces a massive job to revive a giant club, and nothing he saw here will have come as a surprise.
Indeed, he may be happy that the Gunners came away with a point having had a ringside seat to witness just how average this side are when his former club Manchester City romped to a 3-0 win at Emirates Stadium on 15 December.
Arsenal actually had the better opportunities but there was a lack of cohesion and confidence about this performance, and their fragile defence escaped without being seriously tested by a tired-looking Everton.
Defender David Luiz was too impetuous and dangerman Aubameyang was a relatively subdued presence before being substituted late on.
Arteta watched impassively and the serious work begins on Sunday when he gets his new charges on the training ground.
Man of the match – Yerry Mina (Everton)
Rare goalless draw for youthful Gunners – the stats
- Everton have kept consecutive league clean sheets against Arsenal for the first time since August 1978.
- This was Arsenal’s first 0-0 in 77 Premier League games, since an away match at West Ham in December 2017.
- Arsenal’s first shot came in the 44th minute – the latest in one of their league games since May 2015 against Manchester United (51 minutes).
- At an average age of 24 years 50 days, this was the Gunners’ youngest Premier League starting XI since May 2011 (24 years 24 days against Fulham).
- It was the also the first time Arsenal have started with three teenagers – Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe – in a league game since March 2007 against Reading.
‘I feel like I’ve steadied the ship’ – what the managers said
Everton caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson: “I think a point was fair. We struggled with energy levels and they probably had the better chances, but we’re happy with a point. The players dug deep today.
“I’ve enjoyed it but I knew it was going to be tough today. The boys were on their last legs to be honest, after working so hard in the past three games.
“We still covered every blade of grass – we just lacked a bit of quality in the final third.”
On Carlo Ancelotti: “What he’s done in the game is incredible so I can’t wait to get started working with him. I’ll be here as long as the club want me here – so I’ll be back on Monday.”
Arsenal interim boss Freddie Ljungberg: “We dominated possession but we would have liked to get more out of it. We put a lot of young players out because I wanted to reward players who had trained well.
“I’ve learned a lot and it’s been a proud time for me to lead this amazing club. I knew I was interim manager to steady the ship and I feel like I’ve done that. It’s great the club has taken the decision and now we move forward.”
On Mikel Arteta: “Mikel knows the club very well – he’s been here a long time. The club has told me they want me to stay, so I will speak to Mikel tomorrow and go from there.”
Ancelotti takes charge of Everton for the first time at home to Burnley on 26 December (15:00 GMT kick-off), while Arteta’s Arsenal face Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium at the same time.