I was very nervous before the first whistle against Everton, I was very nervous during the match and I’m still a bit nervous after the match.
The reason why I was nervous before the match was simple – Everton have been outstanding this term with a lot of players capable of creating problems for any opponent. During the match, they showed a lot of quality when it comes to slick passing and tight defending. They had most of the possession in the first half and threatened us but our back-line was impressive today. What was really impressing about the Toffees was the fact they didn’t fall apart after Özil had scored, a common trait among a majority of lesser teams. They had kept their calmness and shape before that wonder-kid Gerard Deulofeu sent the ball into Szczesny’s net in the only possible way. I’m nervous after the game because we should have won this one and secure ourselves top spot in the league for Christmas. We had victory in the bag, but it somehow fell out of it. Now, after the match against Napoli in the Champions’ League, we will play Manchester City at the Etihad. Another tough challenge.
There are some things that we could have seen in this match.
1.Aaron Ramsey needs a rest.
There is no doubt that the incredible Welshman has been our best player this term. After all, he gave a decent shift against the Toffees as well but it wasn’t the best of performances. We need Aaron at his best and perhaps he should sit out the match against Napoli. We need a draw from that match to secure top spot in the group and unless we lose by a three-goal-margin our qualification to the First Knockout Stage won’t be jeopardized.
2.Theo Walcott makes things happen.
Our best goal-scorer from last season hasn’t scored in the Premiership this term, but in his cameos against Cardiff City and Everton he produced two assists. His pace adds width to our game, something that we don’t have on the left wing due to Cazorla’s natural tendency to drift inside.
3.Olivier Giroud takes one for the team.
One might say that the French striker hasn’t scored enough goals given what kind of midfielders he has had since Özil had signed for Arsenal. If you take a look at the dry statistic, it will state this: Giroud had scored three goals in three games before the German arrived and just four in eleven games after one specific umlaut took over the Gooners’ cyber-world.
Now, those who have watched all or almost all Arsenal games this season might have noticed that our passing game has improved since Özil arrived (which is as shocking as a statement saying the sun is hot) but also that Giroud has played an important role in that achievement. His link-up play with our midfielders and the way he drops deeper in order open space for their run-ins make him an indispensable member of the team. In our tactics, he is sometimes more a midfielder or even a defender than a striker. Before Özil arrived, we had scored five goals in three matches in the Premiership. All five of them were shared between our strikers Giroud and Podolski. After Özil had signed, our midfielders could have been found more often in the most advanced positions.
Today, he was unlucky – had Ramsey scored a goal after his assist or if that last shot went in instead of rattling the crossbar, nobody would call for another striker to replace Giroud.
4.Perhaps Flamini should get a nod ahead of Arteta in matches against teams with strong midfielders.
Arsene Wenger added energy and fresh blood to our midfield when he substituted Ramsey, Wilshere and Cazorla with Walcott, Flamini and Rosicky respectively. Flamini was as aggressive as always and almost found himself on the score-sheet in two occasions.
It’s not like Arteta doesn’t offer quality – after all, he was brilliant against Liverpool – but I have a feeling that Arteta – as elegant as one can be – has problems with the opponents that have players with a physical presence like Lukaku. When Flamini came in today, he injected energy to both players on the pitch and to the fans in the stands.
5.Santi Cazorla should get a grip.
I like Santi a lot but his form has been too “hot-and-cold” this term. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact he didn’t go with the rest of the team in pre-season due to the Confederations Cup but at this moment I’d prefer Rosicky in the starting line-up.
6.I want Gerard Deulofeu at Arsenal sooner or later.
I’ve watched the young Spaniard in just a few games but there is something about him that screams: “He is going to be a great player!” One could have learned a lot about Deulofeu by simply watching the goal he scored today – his first touch, composure and shooting were Messi-sque. He is on loan from Barcelona but I wouldn’t mind if his career continues in England – at the Emirates. Perhaps Alex Ferguson would say that I want to collect as many clones in Arsenal as possible but I frankly don’t give a damn for his opinion.
7.Most of the chances for Everton today came out of our hesitation.
This is another reason why I would like Flamini in the starting line-up in this type of matches. Wilshere and Arteta hesitated in the second half just outside of our box and that could have cost us a goal, but Barkley didn’t use that gift. Same goes for Arteta’s late attempt to dribble Lukaku instead of passing the ball.
8.We have a great defensive record – let’s keep it that way at the Etihad as well!
We conceded today but that doesn’t change the fact that we have had the best defense in the league so far. That record will go through the biggest test next week when we play Manchester City. They have scored 29 goals in seven matches at home – more than four per game – and conceded just two. On the other side, our defense have conceded five goals in seven away matches this term or less than a goal per match. Let’s hope our Immovable Object will beat the hell out of Pellegrini’s Irresistible Force!
All-in-all, we won one point against the resilient Roberto Martinez’s side and we still have that five-point cushion ahead of our closest rivals Liverpool and Chelsea. We have tough challenges ahead of us but if we stay undefeated against City and Chelsea, we’ll keep our pole position with good odds to stay there until the end of the season.