In consecutive away matches we have managed to take only two points. After the disappointment from the goal-less draw at Villa Park, a draw at Goodison Park has left a bit different taste in the mouth. In previous seasons we were supposed to beat Everton regardless of where the fixture takes place. However, Everton, as well as this season’s Arsenal, are something different. Our decline in ambitions, quality and amount of world-class players coincides with the rise of Everton and it was obvious that we wouldn’t have an easy match. This Toffees side, unlike previous ones, have some players that could easily walk into the Arsenal starting 11 (Jagielka, Baines and Fellaini) and perhaps the same could be said about their manager and the bench.
Speaking of the manager, Wenger made some changes in the starting line-up. Podolski was left out due to illness for the first time in the Premiership this season with Wilshere coming in, while Ramsey moved from midfield to left wing. Walcott replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right wing while Wenger opted to include Vermaelen back in the squad in Gibbs’ full-back position with Mertesacker and Koscielny as central defenders.
We had a fantastic start. After only 52 seconds we were one goal up thanks to a nice one-two between Walcott and Ramsey that ended with Walcott’s shot being slightly deflected into Howard’s net. Only two minutes after Walcott’s goal our defense suffered a blow – Koscielny was injured which forced Wenger to bring in Gibbs on shifting Vermaelen into the center. It might well have been because of Koscielny’s injury that we failed to take advantage of an early goal again. Everton took control of the match and came close to an equalizer when Baines’ excellent cross from a corner found Fellaini but Sczszesny saved the strong header from the Belgian. Fellaini out-muscled his compatriot Vermaelen and it is something that has happened before – a player who runs into a header takes advantage of Vermaelen’s lack of strength. Vermaelen took a free-kick on the other side of the pitch from a promising position but his shot was saved by Howard. Our passing was mostly horrible during that stage of the game with Ramsey and Arteta giving away too many balls in the center of the pitch. With our attackers pretty quiet, Wilshere was by far our best player. Ramsey made a couple of promising runs on the left side but his crossing wasn’t good enough to provide Giroud any kind of opportunity. Sloppiness in our passing had finally bitten us when a streak of bad passes and not-so-great clearances (Ramsey, Arteta, Sagna) ended with a well-placed left-footed shot by Marouane Fellaini. Arguably one of the best players in the Premier League and one of the players on our short-list had shown again why he would be a fantastic asset for a team that will be prepared to match Everton’s demands. He could easily have got his name written among the assistants in the last moments of the first half. Fellaini’s flick was taken by Jelavić who successfully fooled Mertesacker but luckily his shot was much worse than the dribbling. We could’ve gone behind by the end of the first half after Sagna made another mistake, this time a horrible header-pass back to our defense.
Everton remained the better side until the last quarter of the match. Steven Pienaar kept creating havoc and came close to giving his side the lead but Sczszesny made a good save once again. After the corner Distin had a shot from more or less the same place as Fellaini in the first half but Arsenal’s Polish ‘keeper was excellent again and he tipped the ball just under the bar with a one-handed-save.
On the other side of the pitch, we finally created something when our left full-back finally made a decent forward run. Gibbs and Walcott combined at the left corner of Everton’s penalty box with the latter crossing into the box for Giroud who managed to pull of an excellent header but it went less than inch wide. Ramsey’s cross from the right nearly ended in the back of the net after a not-so-confident reaction from Howard. Cazorla had a decent try from just outside the box but Howard once again came to the rescue. Wenger tried to utilize the space and attack Everton’s defense by putting Gervinho in for Ramsey. The Ivorian, however, is far from his best form and he proved it again, most notably when Giroud made a cross that Gervinho couldn’t meet.
It should be said that Mike Oliver was very generous to us when he didn’t give the penalty to Everton in the second half after Arteta’s clumsy challenge on Pienaar when he pulled his shirt in our penalty box. Oliver gave a corner to Everton despite the fact Arteta didn’t touch the ball.
You have to give credit to both teams who gave absolutely everything. It was tense, uncertain and with total commitment on both sides.
I hope we will recover in time for Saturday as we have now had three very physical games.
My players have given a lot; it was a fair point for both sides. I’m happy with the commitment and desire, overall it is encouraging.
Theo was fit again and scored a great goal. He was not completely himself in the second half as he had a problem with his ankle at half-time, but he was very efficient and dangerous.
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Vermaelen (c)
Wojciech Sczszesny | 8.0: He made some excellent saves and was MotM from our side. If his vision wasn’t blocked by Vermaelen, he would probably have saved Fellaini’s shot.
Bacary Sagna | 5.0: It would be unfair to consider him guilty for Fellaini’s goal despite the fact he was the last player to touch the ball before the Belgian scored. However, he made a couple of passing mistakes and had a hard time with Baines, especially when the Englishman linked with Pienaar, while he didn’t create too much in attack himself.
Per Mertesacker | 5.5: He can do better. Jelavić nearly scored the second goal after fooling him.
Laurent Koscielny | N/A: Got injured after only three minutes. It is still unknown how serious his injury is.
Thomas Vermaelen | 6.5: Our captain started as the left full-back only to find himself in the center of defence for almost the whole match. He had problems with Fellaini as well as the rest of our team.
Mikel Arteta | 5.0: Arteta is a decent midfielder but it is unlikely he will ever become a defensive midfielder that we need. He made a crucial mistake before Everton equalized while he should be considered lucky Oliver didn’t point to the penalty spot after he showed his defensive weaknesses again. He has been on Twitter for a couple of weeks and it hasn’t done well for his form!
Santi Cazorla| 6.0: He is being overplayed due to Rosicky’s injury and Arshavin not being given a chance to play in his favourite position. He managed to find space in a couple of occasions despite being hit by hard challenges again. Had a decent shot saved by Howard.
Jack Wilshere | 7.5: He was impressive again. Unfortunately, he was the only player that provided electricity on both sides of the pitch. Made an excellent challenge on Fellaini in the first half and gave his team-mates a deserved hair-dryer – something that true captain should do.
Theo Walcott | 7.0: We missed him at Villa Park as well as Wilshere. It is interesting to point out that we never lost a match or period of match in which Walcott participated. He scored our goal and hopefully didn’t pick up a serious injury. He can do better, though, especially with his consistency as he faded in the second half, but overall he did score a goal and provided the only decent cross for Giroud in the whole match.
Aaron Ramsey | 6.0: Made a lot of sloppy passes and one of them came before Fellaini equalized. It seems Wenger had decided to play him on the wings in order to keep him away from our half since his passes in our half were usually dangerous for us. Assisted for Walcott’s goal and made few good runs. Nearly scored a winner.
Olivier Giroud| 5.0: Had our best chance in the second half after the cross from Walcott. It seems to me that he is depending too much on Walcott’s crosses but it is not his fault. He was not able to create and made a comical effort which resulted in hitting his own nose with the ball (a.k.a a Falcon!).
Gibbs | 6.5: Early substitute didn’t provide too much in attack but his defensive performance was really solid. He managed to deny Naismith on one dangerous occasion. He can do better in attack but the absence of Podolski had some influence on that.
Gervinho | 5.0: Giroud’s cross was hard to handle but in the dying moments of the match he was denied by Jagielka too easily despite having enough space to beat one of the most solid English defenders. He seems to have lost his confidence. The good thing is, his performances should force Wenger to make a decent attacking-minded signing in January.
Coquelin | – : He played a couple minutes in order to rest Cazorla. He made the final pass of the game just like at Villa Park and it was horrible again.