Match Report: Arsenal 1 – 1 Everton

Premier League:  8th December 2013
By Zedie

OzilWith Man City and Chelsea both dropping points yesterday, today was an opportunity for Arsenal to really stretch their legs out and extend the lead at the summit of the Premier League to 7 points.  Going into the game, the 5 changes to the first team that beat Hull at a canter were reset, with Jack Wilshire, Olivier Giroud, Mikel Arteta and Kieran Gibbs all coming back into the side.

With the confidence surging through the club at the moment, Arsenal fans could be forgiven our confusion, when Everton came out the blocks confidently and did not ease up for much of the first half.

For the best part of 40 minutes, Everton looked confident, well-drilled, hungry and simply ready to play ball.  On the flip side, the now feared Arsenal forward 5 came out slow, switched off and chasing shadows.  Everton were ticking over nicely, without ever really posing a threat to our goal thanks to resolute and organised defending. Plainly speaking, we were just second best to Everton in all positions from an attacking sense.  The now trademark team defensive philosophy of hunting in packs was non-existent, some of the passing was just plain awkward to watch and long periods of time passed without us even touching the ball.  Now I know what other teams feel like when they play us.

All said and done, our defence handled Everton well.  Koscielny marshaled the ever dangerous Romelu Lukaku so well, that his frustration boiled over when he caught up with an advancing Koscielny and took a nibble at his ankle.  Nothing given.  It seemed to rile the crowd with a chorus of boos rattling the stadium as the 41st minute saw the awakening of the giant.  Arteta played a ball to feet into Wilshire, who guided the ball first time with his instep on to the advancing Giroud, only for him to correctly be pulled up for offside.

Arsenal started playing like they should have been from the get go and in the 43rd minute, some decent work led the ball landing at Ozil’s feet, who got the ball to Ramsey before being taken out by Gareth Barry, who then played a slide rule pass through to Giroud.  Tim Howard closed the already tight space down to make a great save, with Giroud having tried to lift the ball over the advancing keeper. Afterwards, Gareth Barry was rightly booked for the late, hard tackle on Ozil in the build up play (not his first during the 1st half!).

It seemed to smack some life into us, as the 44th minute saw Ozil play a great ball into Ramsey, who dummied to let it run to Giroud.  A trademark first time touch saw Ramsey beat the offside trap, only for the chance to be smothered yet again by the onrushing Howard.

Ramsey and BarkelyThe second half saw a much better start from the home team, with the urgency, precise passing and determination back on the menu. on 50 minutes, Ozil played a searching ball across the Everton box to Wilshire, who just reached the ball to knock it back to Santi Cazorla to head on goal.  However, there was just not enough power in it to truly trouble Howard.

With one eye on the next 3 huge fixtures, Arsene Wenger introduced Thomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott and Mathieu Flamini for Jack Wilshire, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey on 67 minutes.  The change in personnel helped further the mini comeback in the quality of our game, although we were by no means completely in control of the tie, with advantage seemingly passed back and forth between the two teams.

And then it happened.

Rosicky collected the ball deep in midfield and as ever, picked out a very well weighted pass to Theo Walcott, who had made a good run beyond Everton’s defence.  Under pressure, he nodded the ball across the goal, only for Giroud to somehow miss his header right in front of goal.  Lucky then that Mesut Ozil was on the far post to finish the chance off from point-blank range, converting 80 minutes.  You could almost smell the relief as the crowd celebrated what was surely the winning goal, with the fans rocking at the thought of actually getting that 3 points, especially after such tough tie.

The jubilation was only temporary however, as Everton refused to give up and continued to press the Arsenal final third. On 84 minutes, Everton crossed in from the left hand side with plenty of blue shirts in our box to receive it.  Lukaku missed his audacious overhead kick, only for the ball to drop at the feet of Gerard Deulofeu 15 yards out.  The defence was set and for a moment, Deulofeu hesitated while Kieran Gibbs held him up.  A quick shuffle of feet gave him the inches he needed to rasp a dipping drive into our net to make it 1-1.  Looking back at the goal, there wasn’t much more Gibbs could have done in that position other than close down and risk exposing his right hand side and the goal was so well struck, I would have been proud of any one of our lads to have finished with such style.

The goal took the wind out of our sales momentarily, but not enough to stop us from pushing on and really going for the 3 points.  With time practically run out, a clearance on the edge of the Everton area saw Olivier Giroud collect the ball, turn to goal and unleash a swerving thunderbolt from 25 yards which nearly took the frame of the goal down.  It would have been a fitting goal to end a nail-biting game, but it was just not meant to be.

I think a draw was the right result for both teams.  Everton definitely deserved something out of this game and the chances we created after the first 40 minutes did not merit walking away empty handed.  In the greater scheme of things, while a point might seem a disappointment, you only have to have followed Everton’s level of play last year and especially their form this year (only 1 defeat, which was on the road to Manchester City) to appreciate that they are a team who are playing at the top of their game.

Next up we have a big spending Napoli to negotiate before going through to the next round of the Champions League, then we have 2 chances to make a very nice gap between us and 2 of our biggest rivals to the title in Man City and Chelsea.  Starting that sequence of games with a point against Everton, while not ideal, definitely isn’t anything to be down about.

Come on the Arsenal!

 

Match Ratings

Szczesny – 7 – Busier than he has been over the last few games, again, he did pretty much everything he had to do today and did it right.  Deulofeu’s goal for me was nigh impossible to save.

Jenkinson – 7 – was a big worry quality wise for some before the match, but marshaled the right side very well and gave a good account of himself, especially under the prolonged periods of pressure Everton put us under.

Mertesacker – 8 – Another competent display, played his part in keeping Mirallas and Lukaku relatively quiet throughout.

Koscielny – 9 – Defensive master class.  Dealt with everything that came to him brilliantly, bullied Lukaku all game and that’s not a simple thing to do, Nemanja Vidic still cant get a decent night’s sleep.

Gibbs – 7 – Played his role in keeping us in the game when things were not looking rosy.  Made a few unforced errors, but gave a good account of himself in general.

Arteta – 5 – He will know more than most right now that today wasn’t good enough.  He had a rest midweek, but looked more knackered than anyone on the pitch.  He just couldn’t deal with the brilliant Ross Barkley and Co. (what a player!) all day.

Ramsey – 6 – I could copy and paste the verdict on the front 5, simply not good enough.  Made a lot of careless passes today alongside forced errors.  Did show flashes of what he can do, but if he wants a Champions medal, days like this need to be consigned to history. Redeemed himself a bit in the 2nd half, but not enough.

Cazorla – 5 – Again, just not enough from him today.  Made basic errors and just didn’t look himself today.

Ozil – 7 – Seemed to drift in and out a bit, but generally played ok.  He was still slightly anonymous in that 1st 40 minutes, but who wasn’t?  Either way, he scored a vital goal today and again was at the heart of most things good for us when we did step it up.

Wilshire – 5 – Not enough from Jack today.  With such a reputation and past performances to back it up, he needs to play a lot better than he did today.  Also had a few chances to run beyond the defence after Giroud had helped the ball on, but I suppose that’s the downside of playing a CM further up.

Giroud – 5 – As culpable as the others in the front 5.  Even though he was isolated for a lot of the game, he made basic errors that contributed to our poor showing in the 1st half and couldn’t claim our goal when there was no reason not to.  Must and can do better.

Subs

Walcott – 7 – As soon as he came on, his pace caused them problems and he created to great chances, one for the goal, in the little time that he had.  Waiting patiently for his full return to the team so we can switch up our tactics with his injection of pace more often.

Rosicky – 6 – Generally played well, a few loose passes, but Tomas kept things ticking over very nicely.

Flamini – 6 – Came straight on and organised the midfield and defence into pushing up further and getting tighter to Everton.

 

 

 

Gooner Ramble

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