Arsenal v Everton
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: December 08, 2013 4:00 PM BST
Today’s game at the Emirates was a chance to extend our already impressive lead at the top of the table, with Chelsea and Man City’s results going in our favour too. Everton were not a team to be taken lightly however, they have been arguably punching far above their weight this season; losing just one game.
With a number of players being rested in the midweek game against Hull, there were a few changes to today’s side. Giroud, Wilshere, Arteta and Gibbs coming back into the side, with Bendtner, Rosicky, Flamini and Monreal making way. The Everton side was unchanged, so many thought Arsenal would have the fitness advantage as the game went on.
The game started shakily for Arsenal, with Everton pressing extremely well and looking dangerous in the final third. Mirallas and Oviedo were marauding down the flanks, pouring crosses into the box in the opening minutes of the game, Mertesacker and Koscielny keeping them at bay. The pressure didn’t really let up, as every time Arsenal managed to get hold of the ball, it was almost immediately given away. Ramsey was particularly wasteful, not looking as sharp as he has in recent weeks.
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Lukaku, Barkley and Coleman were initially given far too much space inbetween the lines, Mertesacker and Koscielny were defending resolutely however, the Frenchman in particular dealing with Lukaku very well.
Against the run of play, Gibbs came inches from putting the Gunners in front. The Englishmen just coming up short on a fantastic drilled in Cazorla cross. But Everton went straight back down the other end, with Lukaku putting in a good cross which no one got on the end of, before having a shot blocked by his shadow for the day; Koscielny. The pair had a few digs and kicks at each other, Koscielny going in hard on the Belgian, the latter getting away with tripping the Frenchman behind the referee’s back.
Towards the end of the first half Arsenal finally started to click into gear, some intricate passing (not dissimilar to the build up for Jack’s goal against Norwich) put both Giroud and Ramsey through on goal on separate occasions. Howard was able to deny both, but the pendulum certainly seemed to be swinging in the Gunners’ favour. The whistle came at the wrong time for Arsenal, right when it was looking like it was only a matter of time before the breakthrough. Nonetheless, we went into half time still at 0-0.
Arsenal came back out for the second half looking lively and assertive, continuing where they left off at the end of the first forty five. Wilshere or Cazorla perhaps should have given us the lead, when an Özil cross to the back post was knocked back across goal by Jack. It fell slightly awkwardly for Cazorla, and he couldn’t get the power or direction he needed, his tame effort straight at Howard.
Despite Everton’s early dominance, they were yet to register a shot on target. This changed in the second half, and a couple of defensive miscommunication allowed both Pienaar and Barkley to get shots at goal. Szczesny saved them both comfortably, but the tension in the game was noticeably rising.
Arsene Wenger made an uncharacteristic triple substitution, with some much needed pace, energy and aggression being injected with the introductions of Walcott, Rosicky and Flamini. The combative midfielder almost had an instant impact, Giroud knocking a cross down to him at the edge of the box, his shot drifting narrowly wide of the post.
A superb lofted ball over the Everton defence from Rosicky found the head of Theo Walcott. The English winger knocked the ball perfectly across the goal for Giroud, but the Frenchman missed the ball completely and it looked like the chance was gone. Thankfully Özil was on hand at the back post to knock it in, putting Arsenal one up.
We weren’t celebrating for long unfortunately, Everton going straight down the other end and levelling things up. Lukaku attempted, and missed a spectacular from a good cross, but the ball fell straight to Deulofeu who showed good feet and a powerful right shot to make it 1-1. Gibbs possibly could have done better by showing the Barcelona loanee onto his weaker left foot, but his tricky feet were clearly hard to follow.
Arteta almost gifted Lukaku a goal late on, but the Belgian blasted over. Down the other end Giroud almost became the hero of the day, with a venomous strike from well outside the box. Very unluckily the Frenchman’s shot crashed against the bar, leaving the goal shaking, and Howard thanking his lucky stars. This was practically the last kick of the game, and would have been an unbelievable end to the match. But it wasn’t to be, and an entertaining game finished 1-1. Five points clear is still a fantastic position to be in, but with upcoming fixtures against Man City and Chelsea, we are going to need to be at our best if we want to be top of the league come Christmas.
on his view of the game…
Look it was a good game and Everton played well. Overall it took us time to get into the game and in the first 25 minutes Everton started stronger than us. After that we had still three one against one with the keeper in the first half. And that’s the regret I have because we didn’t take our chances very well. The other regret I have is of course that we are caught back after being 1-0 up with seven minutes to go. But you have to give credit to Everton, they continued to play well and they always looked dangerous. We played against a very good side, in the end we’re a bit disappointed to get caught back with a 1-0 result but overall it’s still a point.
on Everton’s goal…
I think he [Lukaku] was offside and he made a foul on the goal. Personally. But the referee didn’t give it, it doesn’t mean that we have to concede after.
on whether Lukaku’s overhead kick was crucial…
Yes, because Koscielny can take the cross, he can head the ball but he cannot do it because it’s an overhead kick. But it doesn’t mean we have to concede a goal behind that. Deulofeu you have to give him credit, he took his goal very well and you have to accept it.
on Everton’s approach in the first half…
I believe the problem is that they put good pressure on us when we got the ball back to stop our flow. We had problems to get into the flow of the game. But I just feel when we got out of the pressure and got into the passing, they stopped us every single time with a foul. I believe the disadvantage of putting the pressure so high is that if you’re not winning the ball back you can be outnumbered after that. To just make a foul without being punished by the referee is a huge advantage because after that you play 10 against 10 in one half again.
on the referee’s performance…
He had a good game I must say but it’s not only that. I think overall maybe it’s a new problem for the referees, because everybody puts pressure on the opponents high up and with the condition if they don’t win the ball back to make a foul.
on Mesut Ozil’s performance…
I personally would just congratulate Ozil. For me he had an outstanding game.
on the points difference compared to this time last year…
Life can change from one year to the next. That’s good. It can even change from one week to the next in our game so it’s good. I think it was a quality game for the neutrals and between two good teams who have shown consistency until now and an absolutely fantastic attitude. That’s why we are different to last season. We are as well a better team, more stable defensively and dangerous offensively. But overall you could see today with the toughness of the game we have to prepare ourselves for a battle in every single game.
on being serious title contenders…
It depends what you call serious. As long as we are five points ahead you cannot rule ourselves out even with the best desire. So let’s keep that cushion. It shows you that it will be a tough Premier League and the consistency in the end will be rewarded. The consistency for us is down to us to keep this attitude until the end of the season.
on what consistency gives them…
It gives us belief. Consistency in the results strengthen your belief. You could see with Everton today, had they lost 5-0 at Old Trafford they would not have played like that. They just won 1-0 at Old Trafford and they came here with nothing to lose, they are a good team and you could see that kind of influence the confidence has.
on any injuries problems…
on the FA Cup draw…
Tottenham I’ve heard. There are not enough tough games, they gave us another one.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“THANK U SZCZESNY!!!”
“Massive changes from Wenger. All spot on IMO.”
” Oh I love you Mes! #AFC”
“Jesus. I thought we’d lost that with Giroud’s miskick! 1-0 Arsenal! COYG!!!!!!”
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Jenkinson Koscielny Mertesacker Gibbs
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