Everton subs: Mucha, Hibbert, Bilyaletdinov, Beckford, Gueye, Yakubu, Rodwell.
Arsenal Subs: Szczesny, Rosicky, van Persie, Walcott, Denilson, Eboue, Gibbs.
Referee: Howard Webb.
It’s not pretty, it’s not conducive to a healthy heart, but my word it’s certainly not dull.
As the teams were announced the only thing people were really commenting on was the fact that Bendtner was nowhere to be seen. Had he been dropped after his comments mid-week? You could point to the fact that since the Ashburton Grove Ninja has been ‘vanished’ the competition for places is such that you cannot have everyone involved on match-day. Most, however, chose to believe that Nik had been put in his place by Wenger and everyone seemed to think it was a good move. But ask yourself, from our bench, who would you drop to make room for Bendtner? Van Persie is supposed to be our best striker and he needs game time, Theo deserves to be there, you need midfield and defensive cover. Two striker, two midfielders, two defenders, and a keeper. Do you throw that balance out? Pre-match, when asked, Wenger said “We had some medical problems, I am not sure he will go to the Denmark game”
If that’s the case, that he has a ‘niggle’ perhaps Nik shouldn’t have been talking about how he was in the best shape of his life.
No matter, he wouldn’t have got on anyway.
We started slowly, as seems to be our way recently, and it took the guts of 15 minutes for us to really get going. Everton were holding possession, our passing was sloppy, and our entire midfield was off their game.
For all their possession though Fabianski was only called in to action once and that was to save a tame effort from the edge of the box.
Heitinga seemed on a one man mission to kick everyone of our players with swings taken at Song, Arshavin and Jack. It was the needless kick at Jack which saw him earn his yellow, but in truth it should have at least been his second. Pienaar was also lucky that he wasn’t booked for a very strong challenge on Sagna in the first minute, but Bacary made him pay in the best way possible.
What a goal. This, from a man who has only ever scored once for Arsenal. Some would say that Howard should have done better, but such was the force with which he hit it is doubtful that he could have kept it out.
From then we played better although we were still very wasteful, and in the last five minutes of the half we allowed Everton back in to the game and it was only a mixture of post and the back of Fabianski’s head that saved us on the stroke of halftime.
Unusually for Wenger he made a tactical switch at half-time replacing an under-par Jack with Denilson and it paid immediate dividends. Integral to the move, Denilson played it to Cesc who poked it wide to Chamakh who laid it back to the Arsenal captain who then proceeded to slam the ball home with only three minutes on the second half on the clock.
From there it was all Arsenal with the possession stats reading Everton 15% Arsenal 85% at one point but we could not find a third.
Nasri went on a great run demonstrating a tremendous burst of pace before drilling straight at Howard while Chamakh will wonder just how on earth he missed from four yards out.
Prior to those chances Cesc had been booked for closing Distin down and being trod on. It was not the only time people would be wondering what Howard Webb was up to and perhaps Arsenal can count themselves lucky that we did not receive a fifth red of the season as Squillaci fouled Saha as the apparent last man. The only thing I think which saved him was that Saha’s touch took the ball towards Clichy. Many other refs wouldn’t have hesitated.
Shortly after Cesc’s nonsensical booking Coleman scissor-tackled Sagna a la Eboue and didn’t even get a talking to. At least with some refs you know what you’re going to get, it seems to be a guessing game with Webb.
Then we sat back and Everton gained a foothold, and it wasn’t long until it became the Fabianski show as Everton threw everything they had at us. Some of his saves were magnificent and there can now be no doubt that he is Arsenal’s number one. Three points today, two of which courtesy of Fab, so I make it that’s two he cost us (if you want to say that which a lot of people apparently do against Newcastle) and six he’s saved us – that gives him a balance of plus four. what about that eh? An Arsenal goalkeeper winning us points.
When was the last time you could say that?
There was a certain inevitability about Everton’s goal and as we entered injury time, rather than bringing on Theo to provide an outlet Wenger chose to bring on Eboue to shore things up. Saha seemed to be climbing all over Song but Webb gave nothing and allowed the goal to stand. The keeper had no chance.
Today’s subs are not the ‘norm’ from the Arsenal manager, but it worked, we held on. We got the points and have now negotiated two very tricky away games, scoring four and conceding one.
This was a very evenly matched game, between two committed sides, neither of whom were able to play flowing football. Where Arsenal’s sublime passing game has gone I’m not sure, but what was in evidence was the difference Denilson made when he came on. Clearly Song will not stay which often finds him in the advanced midfield position where he should be supplying that final killer pass. That is not in Song’s locker and too often he is being found way ahead of Cesc and Jack which, in turn, limits the creative impact of those players.
With Denilson on Cesc felt more able to go forward, knowing that he was covered, but Song’s position and role in midfield needs to be clarified with the white-haired one.
Man of the match for me was Samir Nasri who was simply electric when he had the ball. Run after run, they could hardly get the ball from him, and on more than one occasion he took the ball out of defence and ran in to their half alleviating what was becoming crippling pressure on our defence at times.
Superb stuff from the young man.
It wasn’t the Arsenal which swept Everton away 6-1 last season, but then, this wasn’t the same Everton either. For a long time now people have said that Arsenal may have to sacrifice some of their flowing football in order to learn how to grind results out and that seems to be what is happening.
Ideally we would like to see a mix of the two, and I certainly wouldn’t say Arsenal play ugly football, in fact, they still play the best football in the league.
The difference is that we are tackling and blocking when previously we would have tried to trick our way out of trouble.
It’s working – and it’s anything but dull.
Second place. That’ll do.
Oh, and a new heart please.
Interesting from Twitter:
RT @BrainOfFootball: England’s squad now has more players from Arsenal than from United, Chelsea, Liverpool & Spurs #WengerKilledEnglishFootball
RT @Orbinho: Only Peter Cech (89%) has a better saves to shots ratio than Lukasz Fabianski this season (82%).
RT @Orbinho: Anders Limpar assisted all four goals for Ian Wight when Arsenal played Everton in 1991/92.
RT @Stew_Arts For 5 years we’ve waited for a strong squad. Now were getting there everyone thinks there is problems when a player is out!
RT @OptaJean: 966 – the number of days since Bacary Sagna last scored for Arsenal (23 March 2008 v Chelsea). Relief.
RT @OptaJoe: 105 – Games in all competitions since Bacary Sagna’s last goal for Arsenal. Unexpected.
RT @Orbinho: HT Stats Everton v Arsenal Shots 7-7, On target 1-2, Fouls 10-7, Duels Won % 50%-50%, Passing Accuracy 75%-78%, Possession 48%-52%
RT @Orbinho: Arsenal have scored 77 Premier League goals against Everton – more than any team vs. any single opponent in the competition.
Useless fact of the day: Fabianski is three inches smaller than Petr Cech but is only one kilo lighter. Tubby.
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