I am hoarse, and somewhat relieved this evening that Arsenal managed to dig themselves out of an almighty hole today. Playing the club that they had not lost to for eleven years was a home banker surely? I had suggested in my pre match review that an Everton side high on injuries and low in confidence would be defeated, but when I predicted the score 2:1, I had not envisaged the line up and first half display that unfolded at the Emirates.
Ok cliché apart, this was a game of two halves. The first half was mainly the fault of Arsene Wenger, who later got a reprieve through the unfortunate injury to Kolo Toure. Now I have labelled Arsene Wenger stubborn in the past, he has been called a genius, but never on this blog have we accused him of being bereft of ideas and inspiration. That is until now…
What ever possessed Arsene to put a defensive midfielder at Right back, then place a right back in right midfield with a licence to roam out of position leaving the right back exposed was close to one of the longest suicide notes in history. It begged that we go behind after an opposing move down the exposed right flank. Why devoid of ideas? Well normally when this Arsenal squad plays poorly, Arsene is seen on the edge of his technical area, putting things right. Today he was absent when his team needed him.
Add to this the flat tempo of the passing and with Fabregas misfiring, Adebayor diving and Robin van Persie missing chances that three seasons ago he would have buried, I wondered from my Arsenal seat in the Orange Quadrant, if I was witnessing the wheels coming off the Wenger limousine. Granted he knows his players, but all around me agreed that even a tired Theo Walcott would make a difference to the five man midfield that Everton organised with some success.
Silvestre made a very positive no nonsense debut and Clichy was electrifying as usual. Samir Nasri was the man of the first half and tried single handedly to lift the team with his jinxing runs. But it was Everton who scored first after Denilson failed to win a fifty ball and then didn’t bother to track the run of Osman that had won the ball off him then placed the ball wide only to receive it back and fire it past Almunia’s near post.
Arsenal 0 Everton 1 (Osman 9’)
The half petered out following the two dives of Adebayor that rightly received a yellow card. Kolo Toure was on the end of two very heavy challenges which lead to him being replaced by Theo Walcott, and Eboue went to right back, with Song playing as centre back. The tempo of the play improved and almost immediately Everton were forced onto the back foot. The previously forward position of Arteta changed and the midfield five became stretched out wide which enabled Denilson more time on the ball, and his second half performance was outstanding.
This was just as well as Fabregas failed to get out of second gear all game. With the Arsenal shape looking more balanced as Eboue was forced to stay in position. Arsenal began to impose themselves on the game with the kind of football that we have grown accustomed to and have somewhat taken for granted. The equaliser came quickly after a wonderful low powerful drive from Nasri near the right hand edge of the box which left Howard stranded and unsighted.
Arsenal 1 Everton 1 (Nasri 48’)
Arsenal were rampant now with the crowd coming to life, and Arsenal making more chances by trying to shoot at every opportunity. Everton were very lucky not to have been reduced to ten men after Hibbert went through Denilson near the touch line in a disgraceful tackle, which saw Clichy receive a yellow card for remonstrating his anger with Hibbert. The crowd sang “You’re not fit to referee” to Peter Walton, who up until then had been very fair. Robin van Persie could have got a yellow card for persistent fouling, and to his credit he tried to allow the game to flow.
The second goal came from the head of van Persie which is a rare beast indeed. Following a probing run down the left flank by Adebayor, he passed to Fabregas when perhaps shooting was easier, the resulting rebound or parry from the keeper left van Persie with a simple tap into the net from 1 yard.
Arsenal 2 Everton 1 (van Persie 70’)
This was the old Arsenal, with Theo Walcott creating havoc with his runs, the midfield suddenly opened up and despite the substitutions by Moyes, Arsenal seemed destined to score again. How fitting that the final goal came from the boot of the player that had redeemed himself by lifting the spirits of the faithful. It was a simple right right footed shot reminiscent of the goals that he scored for England recently. From the right side of the penalty area low and hard past the keeper into the net. He was mobbed by his appreciative team mates and the few remaining Gooners who hadn’t gone to catch the tube, left in the Emirates erupted.
Arsenal 3 Everton 1 (Walcott 90’)
Whether it was by design of by accident, the changes made by Arsene Wenger at the beginning of the second half were pivotal to the victory. I still cannot understand what caused Wenger to adopt the first half formation. It gives me no pleasure to accuse our manager of being bereft of inspiration, but a Mourhino would have made the Theo Walcott substitution in the first half. I would never wish ill on any player (except Ashley Cole) but I am quietly relieved that Toure was unable to continue, which saw the early introduction of Walcott. This is because Arsene Wenger almost never makes a substitution before the 65th minute.
Why? Who knows. The team are then left with only 25 minutes to make a difference. This time, we had plenty of time to retrieve our honour. The team always finds it hard after the International break to win the next league game, but with a tricky fixture in Turkey after this weekend in the Champions League, it was vital that the squad left these shores with a win under their belts and a degree of confidence. The second half performances of Denilson, Walcott and Clichy were assured and robust. Silvestre marshalled the back four splendidly and Almunia recovered his composure to make at least one sensible save. Gael Clichy was my man of the match.
The patterns and formations employed by Arsene Wenger have in the past enabled us all to believe that he walks on water, however for 45 minutes of the first half of this match, his feet were positively drenched as he sank two inches below the water line. Arsene Wenger is no mug, he is no fool, but he may just be a little too trusting of some of his players, who when the chips are down, appear to let him down badly. But of course, I wouldn’t dare name names…lol
Well done Arsenal, next up Fenerbache….
Fabregas the King.