Everton 1 -1 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

This was always going to be a tough game for the Gunners. Everton have been excellent at home while Arsenal are still struggling to find the right balance. From that point of view a draw was not a bad result but it does make that race for Champions League spots tougher.

The start couldn’t have been better if Wenger scripted it himself as the Gunners took the lead in the first minute itself. Walcott was a little lucky when the ball fell kindly to him after bouncing off Jagielka in the build-up and with the deflected shot flying in, but his pace caught the hosts out of shape and created the opening. Ramsey picked up the assist; his positioning, composure, and decision making were all useful.

It’s difficult to say whether the goal was a blessing or a curse for the visitors. Perhaps a bit of both. They probably felt less pressure but also tended to drop back deep into their own half. This meant Everton could push the ball up in their own half before picking out one of their trademark long passes to gain territory as was discussed in the preview.

Look at the comparison of long balls/passes played by both sides,

The numbers are not very different but as a proportion to total passes attempted the blues are way ahead (49/383 vs. 44/526). They also have better success rate despite the fact that Fellaini only won 2 of his 6 aerial duels and Jelavic 2 of his 7.

This was down to the fact that their players at the back had more time to pick out passes. Arsenal didn’t press up the pitch, as was expected, and Everton were able to make many passes from the centre of their half or even around the halfway line. Their forward players were able to get into gaps between the Arsenal defenders and received many passes unchallenged.

They also received these passes much higher up the pitch, at times  right on the edge of the penalty box. In contrast, if you look at Arsenal’s successful long passes, most are played out wide in a change of direction and are rather of a safe nature as they’ve been played towards teammates who are not in crowded spaces. Everton on the other hand were often able to gain vertical territory by knocking it long.

The second major factor in this game was Everton pressing intensity. That too was expected but it’s difficult to say whether the degree would have been same if they’d not been chasing the game from the first minute. In any case, Moyes’ side were able to push Arsenal really deep with a combination of clever long passes and intense pressing.

Apart from the goal the Gunners hardly had any shots in the first half. A Vermaelen free-kick and a Cazorla attempt come to mind but both were from outside the box and largely harmless. Everton were able to create a number of chances and promising moments in the Arsenal box.

The Everton equalizer came as a result of a string of errors from the Gunners, many of which were forced by the pressure put on the players. First, Ramsey was caught on the ball just inside the Everton half. Then Sagna and Arteta had a misunderstanding, with the full-back putting the midfielder under pressure with a pass played in front of the midfielder. The Spaniard was dispossessed but the ball ran towards the Frenchman. In an inexplicable manner, he played it square towards Fellaini rather than clearing it away from goal. The Belgian gladly accepted the gift and placed the ball in the corner. Vermaelen couldn’t close him down effectively.

The second half followed similar patters but without the goals. Arsenal did get tighter at the back and seemed to be making fewer mistakes. There were spells on intense Everton pressure but the Gunners were dogged in front of their goal.

At the other end, the Gunners also created more chances but the hosts were often in a position to block the shots. There was a difference between the two sides’ defending. Everton looked more assured with greater structural integrity whereas the visitors were relying on somehow getting the ball away.

If we look at the clearances made by both sides, we can see that Arsenal were making theirs from deeper areas.

Even for the ones inside the box, Moyes’ side made a number of those from the area between the penalty spot and the edge of the box. In contrast, Arsenal made more on the edge of their six yard box or between the penalty spot and their goal.

In essence, the Toffees were able to get really close to the Arsenal goal. There were a number of occasions where just a touch could have diverted the ball into the goal. That said, it’s important to note the inherent inefficiency of their tactic of creating from the wide areas. Most of their penetration in-behind did come from the flanks. Arsenal’s back four must also be commended for a really determined and focussed effort. That sliding tackle from Gibbs when Naismith was about to pounce on a cross was just one of many examples of their good work.

The limitation of their tactics and the hard work of Arsenal defenders meant that the Blues only had two shots on target from inside the box and those came within a minute of each other. Granted, their first goal came outside the box but the percentages of such a goal being repeated are low.

Arsenal weren’t able to get that deep as often. Everton were also more in control of their shape. As a result they were able to get closer to the attackers and block many shots when the Gunners did get in and around the penalty area. In the second half the Gunners had 8 shots, a major improvement on the 3 from the first, but 5 of those were blocked and only 1 – from outside the box – was on target.

Another good indicator of Everton’s strong shape was their ability to block some of the crosses. Both sides had comparable numbers with the hosts completing 5 of their 26 attempted crosses while the visitors managed to find a teammate with 4 of their 27 tries. Both were 1/6 on corners. But Everton blocked at least 6 of the crosses, as the following chart shows, while the Gunners allowed more balls to get into threatening areas before dealing with them.

It seems safe to say that both sets of defenders had a good game while the Everton attackers created more threatening moments as they used the long pass to bypass the first line of defence on a number of occasions.

There was also that penalty shout against Arteta. I have seen those given and would be disappointed if Arsenal didn’t get such a call in their favour when attacking.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: There was a moment in injury time when he parried a ball he should have caught, which put the team in a spot of bother. Other than that it was a good game from the Pole. Made the saves he had to, not sure if he could have done much for the goal. I have seen such shots saved and have seen some sneak in as well.

Sagna: Made a few uncharacteristic errors under pressure including the big blunder for the Everton goal. Had a tough game in general as he was defending the flank that Everton prefer to attack. The full-back also lacked consistent support as the players in front of him kept interchanging positions and were often caught chasing the game. Did OK when all things are considered but his own standards are higher.

Mertesacker: Made a number of important clearances, was strong in duels, and won some fouls that helped ease pressure. Distribution was steady but Arsene will probably have to find a way to use his passing range as he often gets more time than the others.

Vermaelen: Very similar to Mertesacker. Made a number of useful clearances and was generally getting into the right areas. Could he have done better for the goal?

Gibbs: Didn’t start but came so early it was almost as good as a start. Another one who had a very busy day at the back with numerous vital clearances and duels.

The Arsenal defenders had a very tough day, which was expected, and they did well to restrict Everton to 1 goal. They had support in terms of bodies but not in the form of a solid shape that could help control the game defensively. The percentages worked for them and they put their bodies on the line when they had to.

Arteta: Almost played this game as an auxiliary defender rather than a midfielder as he probably made the biggest defensive contribution for the Gunners. Made the most interceptions and tackles, and conceded fouls when he had to. Distribution was steady but just a notch below his usual standards. That and the few times when he lost possession was down to Everton’s pressure.

Cazorla: Again a very hard working game from the Spaniard and took quite a few blows for the team’s cause. But he wasn’t able to influence the game in an attacking sense. Execution was disappointing on more than one occasion when a teammate was well placed. Also shaped to shoot when he had time and space in promising areas rather than picking passes to unlock the defence. Looks like he’s fast approaching the ‘red’ zone from a physical exertion point of view.

Wilshere: An impressive defensive game from the youngster from a positional point of view as he stayed deeper at times and took responsibility to protect the spaces in front of the back four. Only won 2 of his 5 attempts to take people on and was another one who lost possession on a number of occasions under pressure. It seemed he was given the job of spreading the play towards the flanks and keeping things safe. Attempted the most number of passes but majority of those went towards the wide areas.

Ramsey: Among the midfielders he was the one who struggled the most when pressed on the ball. He was caught on the ball in the build-up to the Everton goal, and again in the first half Bained forced a mistake from his that could have been decisive but for Jelavic’s greed. That said, he was again the player who worked hardest to make something happen in the attack. Got the assist for the goal, also created a chance for Giroud, and played a lovely ball that Cazorla failed to control. He also popped into useful areas to take a couple of shots that were blocked. He’s still a long way from his best but the effort is visible as are the areas of improvement.

It’s difficult to say Arsenal played with a midfield four but Ramsey and Cazorla often swapped places. It wasn’t a flat four from the Gunners but there seemed an attempt to free Theo so he could stay wide and higher when out of possession, and move into central areas when the team had the ball.

As a side note, it’s worth mentioning that even Fellaini – despite all his supposedly physical qualities – lost the ball on numerous occasions, probably more often than any Arsenal midfielder. These things happen in a game of this intensity.

Walcott: Took his chance well and his pace was integral to its creation. But on the whole it was a disappointing game from the Englishman as he didn’t use the time and space that was available to him in an effective manner. Apart from that cross for Giroud there was very little in the form of attacking threat despite the freedom afforded to him by the team’s tactics.

Giroud: Played a good pass in the build-up to the goal. Once again he didn’t get much service in the box and looked like a very average player outside it. I like the fact that he’s trying and doesn’t shy away from the effort despite the numerous mistakes in the form of poor touches and misplaced passes. If he has to make it at Arsenal and help the team he will need a much better all-round game.

The attackers didn’t get enough in the form of quality service but many of their individual limitations were, at least partly, responsible for creative difficulties of the team.

Subs: Gervinho got into one or two useful positions but couldn’t make anything out of those. Coquelin hardly had any time. Koscielny was another one who hardly had any time on the pitch.

Wenger: It seemed AW tweaked his system a bit. I’ve been hoping to see Walcott being freed of defensive duties, particularly when the team is under pressure and playing on the break. But the whole team needs to adapt their thinking if his pace is to be used as Theo has to be released quickly. Link play with Giroud can be vital for that. Let’s see if we see more work on this approach in the coming weeks.

16 Responses to Everton 1 -1 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Joe highlite says:

    Good analysis, point blank i would add…Giroud is not an Arsenal striker and Ramsey does not fit in the Arsenal way of play…both of them will be excellent in the lower leagues…Arsenal missed Diaby and Rosicky

    • jeff says:

      yeah.. we miss both of them.. they can beat player with their own unique style.. we miss rosicky’s technique,his burst n quick passing definitely and we miss diaby’s unpredictable move. cant wait to see cazorla-rosicky combo.. i think santi will enjoy playing alongside rosicky.. and i was shocked when rosicky was in the squad yesterday!

  2. santori says:

    An excellent analysis Desi!

    I’m really enjoying the graphs + dissection of key points. An instance where statistics are used to good effect.

    Disappointing result with Villa in mind . 2 out of 6 points and 12 off the leaders, 6 of pace of third spot. But Everton were tough and made it very difficult.

    Fellaini – again a real thorn. In some ways, I wouldn’t have mind us setting 3-5-1 with TV slightly ahead of Per and Koscielny and Gibbs/Sagna employed as wing backs to defend slightly higher,

    Your observation of our 4-4-2 is astute. With Walcott often playing higher up, we did not cover Sagna well enough with Baines and Peinaar targeting his flank.

    Better performance by Vermaelen, good to see the captain regaining some confidence. Can’t put too much blame on him or Szsc for not keeping the goal out. Sagna should not have cleared in that direction in the first place.

    Ramsey is decent going forward but lacks combative ability defending. For that reason he is better up field just behind Giroud. Playing him left side to me was wasteful as he constantly switched in field (and lost a number of balls in that position)

    I’m not sure why Wenger has an aversion towards playing Arsharvin. Perhaps he is trying to keep the Russians resale value much like Walcott earlier in season but to me, it is a mistake.

    We should be leveraging on the Russian’s finesse/distribution efficiency at very least for 30 minutes in the game.

    It would IMO, relief Santi of some pressure and afford him an added outlet (creative to feed off) where Walcott (scoring as he is at the moment) tends to lack .

    Quite frankly, that Wenger has dragged proceedings into January with Walcott’s contract must mean he is close to prepared to pay the money asked but is weighing up options if a good offer comes in.

    And I know it may sound like heresy on account of Walcott’s form at the moment but I think we will be the stronger for it if we do sell Walcott, provided (THIS IS KEY) we actually use the money to reinforce in a striker (someone quick but also with physical presence) and a wide man who can articulate his moves more creatively and complement Santi better.

    If not, we should just sign him.

    Finally Giroud, yes another hard working display and deprived of support. Like his muscular ability but I do still think we need another striker as amply demonstrated in our options sans Podolski. Actually thought we could have tried Gervinho more central but I’d like to see someone who can add pace whilst keeping the physical presence up top.

    In that, my preferred player might be Leandro. The Brasilian refused to got to spurs o na low 20m bid, without CL and the fact that they are well..a bunch of hens.

    He’s quick, strong, technical and good in the air @23. I ‘m not sure there is much else in the market at the moment that would cost less and I hope we keep tabs on him, buy him (also not cup tied) with the extra money in the kitty,cos base on where we are at right now, we will need another massive push this season +something extra special to come back into third again.

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      I have just watched the match on the player, and I think you and Desi have spent too much time on it.
      It was a Draw. Not going to change. But if we win the return legs of these draws then we will get 4 points from a lot teams?
      Deatail of the match:
      MOTM – Leighton Baines … yes, I know, but it is the bald truth?
      We were muscled out it in midfield, couldn’t keep possession, after 52 seconds the attack never clicked, but credit the defence for getting the draw.
      Swansea next, with some important, refreshed players ….Please!

      • Gerry Lennon says:

        Okay this is for people who did not like my abrupt dismissal of last night’s game.
        Like many, I look to this January transfer window to where we break tradition, and bolster our side with some quality replacements. However, the above suggestion of Leandro does pose a problem should Bendtner return? Because if he does not get another loan, well, he either gets added to our squad, or only plays in the Next Gen series as an overage player, if that is possible for a non squad member? Therefore any signings will depend on outgoing sales/exits, so do not expect any great numbers covering all areas. It simply will not happen. If Chamakh goes, one striker, if not our Nick. If Arshavin goes, then a replacement. Walcott, ditto, but it may be just one player for the two positions. If Sagna goes, replacement, although Jenks more likely promoted. Goalkeeper, no chance in this window methinks. That leaves us with what some of believe, including myself, is an essential signing, a proper DM. The only way that might happen is if the fringe centrebacks goes, or a surprise bid for one of our current midfielders, apart from the aforementioned Arshavin. Rosicky would be the obvious candidate, but perhaps Diaby?
        So who would we like? Well I found a Bleacher .. sorry, a BR report naming 20 players who could be bargains(26/11/12). Not complimentary on Zarate, and you would not believe the price for M’Villa either. But those aside there are a fascinating list where I am sure contributers to this site could spend AW’s £40m. I certainly could. But will AW? It is a fun read if nothing else.

      • santori says:

        Don’t get me wrong I agree with you.

        It is a poor showing and IMO we should be beating the likes of Everton (and Villa), particularly with Chelsea opening the door for us.

        And we can’t blame squad depth either. West Brom aren’t a more talented’ squad than us but they are gunning at the moment.

        With regards Leandro, I think any striker coming in (leandro or otherwise) is likely dependent on our outgoing (yes, Chamakh, Bendtner, Park). This is the issue Wenger has with loading on at the moment.

        Similarly as cover for Arteta, Wenger has to weigh taking on someone now versus say Sahin becoming available for a Santi in the summer.

        Walcott. I may be committing heresy at the moment to say that as good as he is this season, we can replace him for better. Much depends on pricing in the market. I think Wenger is prepared to come close to paying the price asked by Walcott and co which is why he has dragged procceedings into the season. If he doesn’t fined the right market price/offer, he may likely consider signing Walcott on for another duration for that price. But first instincts may be to sell.

  3. Charlie says:

    I wasn’t able to watch the match because it was on a 2:45am here so I appreciate the report as always Desi and I don’t think i’ll bother to watch it recorded now. I’ll know what to expect, more ponderous, ineffective passing much like the last 6 or 7 games. This isn’t the Arsenal that i’ve come to expect since Wenger arrived. They look like a mid-table team at the moment, no exaggeration. A point away against a good Everton side is not a bad result but the lack of a goal threat is very worrying.

    • santori says:

      Lack of goal threat. That is it.

      We need more invention. We do not get enough of that. Ramsey is a good developing (improving) player but he does not add that extra special something to our team dynamics where Arsharvin can.

  4. Redcore says:

    Agree with you charlie. I think this Arsenal side struggles a lot to keep possession compared to previous versions, but it also has to be said that the emphasis is not on keeping possession anymore but on transitioning quickly to attack and dropping back and getting into proper shape when we don’t have the ball.

    Getting back Diaby / Rosicky should help as both can drive forward and start attacks once we gain possession. Also I think we will see fewer matches now where we actually dominate possession stats.

  5. EIE says:

    Wenger out!

  6. Mike says:

    Good analysis. Enjoyed reading. Ramsey is getting a lot of unfair stick at the moment. You mention his positive contributions in the attacking third and actually the stats show he doesn’t give the ball away more than anyone else. The main point is that he’s getting played out of position at the moment which is the managers fault. He’ll be ruined as a player by Wenger. His confidence will be shot because of all the stick he gets due to being played out wide.

    There are some positives. I think Vermaelen is playing much better.

    If you look at the fixture list then we’ve actually got some very winnable games in December while others around us are much harder. Hope to gain some kind of form before Chritmas.

  7. winston says:

    Mertesacker has a lot more time on the ball because opposition realise he is slow and deliberate and can do very little damage.As a result the opposition have plenty of time to organise themselves.From this follows the slow predictable side to side passsing with very little penetration and forward movement.Oliver Giroud bring something different in attack but needs good service from wingers with accurate crosses which has never been our strong point,Aaron Ramsey is another player who at present lacks pace ,confidence and gives the ball away with such predictability makes you wonder why he starts so regularly,Right now we are playing a brand of football which is neither effectve nor attractvie to watch.Hope it is a passing phase and the sooner it does the better!!

    • santori says:

      Ramsey is an improving player who adds to the game going forward but preferably from the middle.

      he is not good when dispossessed and does not hunt the ball back as effectively as say Coquelin who has his fair share of turnovers.

      thereby, he is a liability played in the Jack Wilshere position (not to say jack is in top form at the moment but he is more combative and able to glide past players better)

      he is also not our best choice out wide and does nothing to our team dynamics where we could(SHOULD) be considering the use of Arsharvin who has better vision/distribution (particularly wide with crosses to Giroud)

      What I thought could have worked for us in combating the Fellaini issue was to adopt a 3-5-1, or 3-4-3


      Thereby we get to defend on the flanks higher up with the fullbacks closer to the widemen, Vermaelen plays hatchet to Fellaini (much like diaby did with Stoke and Crouch) and Santi, Arteta can drop back to cover for Sagna or Gibbs if need be when Walcott or Arsharvin pull inline.

      I thought Walcott played too much of the Michael Owen against Everton and did not show enough for the ball (almost expecting to get service brought to him) because of his central position. As such, Sagna was sometimes bereft of his service (speed) when facing Peinaar and Baines.

      that Wenger did not make alterations bespeaks the critical issue that we face right now in not fine tuning the squad to get the best out of its assets.

      As mentioned, we may make excuses that we have to buy because we lack depth but truthfully, apart from City (maybe United, and even they complain), who has full depth? Chelsea are short up front with Torres. You cannot tell me that West Brom has better players than us but they are using their assets wisely.

      This is our main issue.

  8. Nick from Portugal says:

    Didn´t see the game but was following it on the R5 web. We appear to have been under the cosh. Plus ça change…not a great fan of Ramsey coming off the wing. I guess Wenger sees this as a dual role offensive and dropping in when we don’t have the ball. Talk about being hung out to dry……we do have a better second half to the season and a long break after Swansea. Send Santi and Arteta back to Spain for some R & R. We play a different team against Bradford, nice chance for Rosicky, Arshavin who should have played last night can play as can Chamakh and Santos, Djourou, Miquel etc. Swansea will be very interesting, they play with a springlike skip in their heels and murdered us last year at their place. We are playing like we are walking through a swamp. We need 3 points……

    • santori says:

      Arsharvin should be playing at very least 30 minutes against Everton in lieu of Ramsey.

      Considering Ramsey gets turned over easily (as does Andrei), I’d much rather the Russian for his experience, invention and technical distribution.

      Why Wenger has an aversion to playing him (much like he neglected Walcott for contrac reasons at beginning of the season to our detriment) is really quite beyond me.

      As much as we’ve let in goals, we are fairly OK at the back. What we lack right now is invention.

      Our passing seems to stagnate back to sideways without anyone truly having the gumption to risk something going forward as if we are afraid to try for fear of being dispossessed.

      Considering that, Everton were the more effective and efficient. We should take a page from them.

  9. […] team will also have to put more pressure on the ball slightly higher up the pitch. They sat back in the away game and this allowed the Toffees to bring the ball out, almost to the centre line, before they launched […]

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