Goodison Park – A good place to gain points on the rivals 🙂
Arsenal picked up two points on United who’d thrown away a 2 goal lead in stoppage time to draw away at Everton. Arsenal almost did the same but almost doesn’t cut it. After all, we’ve almost won many titles!
Three points at a difficult venue just add to the phenomenal away record that Arsenal are developing this season (if only we can do better at home one might whisper). Once again it wasn’t a perfect performance but it was a very hard-working one with every player maintaining his focus till the final whistle to grind out the win.
The game started in a sluggish manner. Arsenal took about ten minutes to put some passes together. I thought this was down to a combination of Everton pressing in unison and high up the pitch, Arsenal showing respect to the opposition and starting with caution, and the hosts fouling an Arsenal player whenever he was about to get into a good forward position.
Arsenal created the first good chance around the 10th minute when some neat one touches passes set Nasri free on the left. The Frenchman was able to run at the defence and got his shot away but Distin kept his eye on the ball and got a block in.
From the resulting corner the ball was knocked out to Fabregas who was caught in possession and then Cesc lost out against Coleman in a footrace on our left touchline. The youngster’s cross found Cahill but the Aussie wasn’t able to keep his shot on target.
From this point till the first goal neither team really created any clear chances. Arsenal had some shots from distance (as if the players were responding to the pleas of the fans) but rarely troubled Howard.
Everton were not able to keep up their high pressing and were limited to long balls with the hope of creating something. Arsenal’s defence made it look fairly comfortable in the first half.
The goal came from another long shot by Nasri that was parried away by Howard. Arshavin was the first to react and did well to control the ball in a tight space, exactly the kind of thing he is in the team for. The Russian found Sagna in space and the full-back scored from the narrowest of angles with a thunderbolt.
Howard was beaten as his near-post but as I’d said when Almunia conceded against Liverpool, with that kind of pace and the ball placed perfectly it’s very difficult to stop.
If that was a good time to get the opening goal, the second one couldn’t have been timed any better. Three minutes after the restart Cesc double the lead.
Denilson, who’d come on for Wilshere at half-time, won a tackle in midfield as Arteta was caught on the ball. The Brazilian advanced to the edge of the box and for a minute it seemed that he’d delayed his pass for too long.
Denilson found El Capitan who nonchalantly flicked it towards Chamakh. The Moroccan had two defenders in front of him but was able to lift the ball between them. Fabregas smashed home the half-volley on the swivel.
Soon after, Cahill won a header as Djourou got sucked in. Squillaci was caught for pace by Saha and conceded a foul just on the edge of the box. The presence of Clichy meant the card was yellow. Baines took the free-kick and Fabianski, who was unsighted, gambled on it being over the wall. This meant the Pole was able to make a simple save. If Baines had gone for the other corner things might have been interesting but I don’t think Fabianski had much choice.
Everton were getting the ball down the wings but Arsenal always had enough men in the middle to deal with the crosses. Some last gasp tackling and blocks helped.
On the hour mark Nasri got the ball near the centre circle in the Arsenal half. He was able to run at the defence and went past Jagielka as if he didn’t exist. Howard made a good save but it left me wondering why did people want Arsenal to pay crazy money for ‘proven player’ Jagielka!?
Moments later, Cesc was free on the right and his cross was deflected in front of Chamakh who managed to sky it over from two yards. I thought Chamakh was looking for an aerial cross and wasn’t ready for a low, drilled ball. He was also a yard behind the ball. If the striker had moved forward in line with the ball he’d have had a tap in. Just some of the small things he needs to work on.
After this chance in the 61st minute I felt Arsenal played a very dangerous game. For a while they frustrated Everton with excellent passing and maintaining possession. You could see the hosts were running out of ideas. The problem was no one in the Arsenal team was willing to take the game by the scruff of the neck. One good run, one incisive pass, one creative moment – that was missing.
Ultimately Everton would get the ball back and would try the same moves they’d been trying from the start. The risk here was that one mistake at the back or a lucky break could see David Moyes’ side back in the game. And with Arsenal players not looking to be creative there is always a chance that we lose our focus and crumble under pressure.
At such a time, Fabianski came up with two or three excellent saves to keep the two goal lead and I cannot emphasize the importance of those.
Wenger brought Rosicky on for Arshavin to give Clichy, who was outnumbered time and again, some support on the left. I thought it was a good move and Little Mozart did his bit for the team.
Eventually, Cahill did get a goal back, which I thought came from a foul by Saha on Song but we’ve seen players get away with that in the Premiership. It was too little too late as Arsenal held on.
Looking back at the game, I recall there were some nervous moments but all teams will have those at Goodison Park. As long as the players are willing to put their body on the line, cover for each others’ mistakes, and take their chances when they come, I’m happy with the performance.
Fabianski: Superb. Made some top saves, good decision making in the box, can’t be faulted for the goal.
Sagna: My MotM. Fantastic effort on the right in attack, possession, and defence. Scored a scorcher, wish he’d try more often.
Squillaci: Looked shaky against the ball over the top. Got caught out once or twice. Read the game really well. Good understanding with Djourou. Never took his eye of the ball.
Djourou: Was immense in the air. Was in the right place more often than not. Good composure and distribution.
Clichy: I thought he was excellent once again. Was outnumbered quite often but used his pace and intelligence to deal with it. Was in the right defensive places when the team needed him. Ran a lot with a number of important sprints to get back.
On the whole, the back five did a fantastic job and limited the number of clear chances the hosts could create.
Song: exceptional work rate. Often sprinted back to play as an extra defender and make crucial blocks, something he’ll have to do more often. Sprayed a few passes wide but that can be excused as he was putting in a phenomenal shift.
Cesc: Still not on top form but El Capitan was running the show. Looked calm, confident, and composed and that rubbed off on the team. Scored a delightful goal. Put in his share of defensive work. Could have done better with some passes.
Wilshere: Did the simple things right in the first half. Stayed close to the defence when others went forward.
I thought the midfield wasn’t able to dominate the game as one expects from Arsenal but made up for it through extra effort and defensive contribution.
Nasri: as we’ve seen in earlier games took a few minutes to get in the game. Was involved in some big moments up front. Showed a tremendous burst of pace to go past Jagielka. Unlucky not to be on the score sheet. Did well defensively as well.
Chamakh: Worked his socks off. Tracked back quite often to add another man to the defence. Good presence on set-pieces while defending. Should have scored around the hour and needs to improve his poaching instincts. Good assist for the second goal but his passing wasn’t as good as we’ve seen in the past.
Arshavin: attempted only nine passes in the 66 mins he was on the pitch but looked out most potent attacking threat in the first half. His alertness and composure created the first goal. Tracked back often enough even if he didn’t really know how to defend.
The attackers didn’t get as many chances or as often in attacking positions as we would like to see. It was a tough game and they did their part on either end.
Subs: It was good to see Denilson come on for Wilshere. The Brazilian had good defensive intelligence and presence even if his distribution was nervy on a couple of occasions. Did well to set up the second goal. Rosicky provided Clichy the support he needed as Arshavin was tiring. Little Mozart also helped with the possession game. Eboue didn’t have much to do.
I cannot emphasize the result of this game and indeed the one in midweek. It’s not been pretty but it’s been massive. I type this just as Ashley Cole makes a big mistake and Chelsea’s lack of depth is woefully exposed. Two points from the top, Keeper and defence looking strong, plenty of players contributing in attack, now if we can just get through the meaningless international break without any injury news it will set up an excellent winter.