This was never going to be an easy game and many Arsenal fans would have been happy to take a draw before the game started. But not me. I wanted a win. Yet, I ended the day happy.
Everton have become a very good side, and their manager seems to have impressed a lot of people with not just his tactics, but also his ‘niceness’. They had an injury to Barkley, but we were without Arteta and Gibbs, while still bedding in our new signings. Crucially, we were also just coming off a midweek game away in Turkey on an energy sapping pitch. Like I said, this wouldn’t be an easy game.
We welcomed back 2 of our World Cup winning Germans, with BFG replacing Koscielny (presumably carrying an injury) and Ozil playing on the left. Alexis Sanchez got his first start in the striker position, with Ox coming in to add some speed and directness. This made Micky very happy. But it also seemed to make Tim Howard happy because just as Arsenal could not find their feet, the Ox could not find the goal with any of his shots. Arsenal went behind to a headed goal from a brilliant pass by Gareth Barry, huffed and puffed some more, but couldn’t cause Everton any problems.
Arsenal then conceded once again on the stroke of half time after Lukaku bundled over Mertesacker, and got a clear path towards goal when Chambers dived in instead of covering. He then passed the ball to an offside Naismith who scored between Szczesny’s legs. Yes, it was a dirty moment in the game and one that both the referee and the linesman should be ashamed for allowing to happen. To be fair, some blame might also rest on our defence because Everton actually had a brilliant chance to score prior to this when Mirallas got in behind our defence.
Still, to be 2-0 down just before half time to an undeserved goal was a bit of a kick in the teeth. Wenger then did the unthinkable and made a half time substitution (please let this not have been due to an injury to Alexis).
With Giroud providing more of a familiar figure and a target man to bounce things off, Arsenal slowly started to get into the game, although it still took them a further 20 minutes to register a shot on goal. In the meanwhile, Everton retreated, secure in their ill gotten gains and unleashed the krack-head Naismith to kick, dive, moan, and try and get Debuchy sent off. That the referee didn’t is probably a huge surprise because he was certainly aiding and abetting this behaviour. Maybe he was just feeling the love from the Toffee crowd but Arsenal ended up getting heavily punished with yellow cards and fouls, while Everton were allowed to constantly get away with worse. It made our tough task even tougher.
While a lesser team would have collapsed, we kept trying. Wenger brought on Campbell and Santi for Wilshere and Ox with around 15 minutes to go. And it was Santi who was to finally provide a sumptuous ball across goal that Ramsey turned in, as he is wont to do nowadays.
There were now 7 minutes left on the clock and only a goal in it. Game on!
In the 90th minute Ramsey overhit a cross from the right, which was kept in by Ignacio Monreal. He in turn crossed to Giroud, who got between Jagielka and Distin to score with his coiffed head. He might have missed a chance early in the second half, (which I felt wasn’t an easy one to take though no doubt people will say a ‘world class’ forward would have scored that) but he made no mistake at the end of the second half. Arsenal tried to continue attacking, but time was running out. Sadly, Giroud’s final act of the half was to get injured trying to block a clearance and the manager says it’s not looking good, and so we get to maintain our record of an injury a match.
However, even that does not dampen the positivity around the spirit we showed in very challenging circumstances. A point gained rather than two dropped, and now Arsenal switch their attention towards reaching the Champions League, where no toffee has gone before.
Match analysis written by Shard
Player ratings from LB
Szczesny: another solid game as far as I could tell, don’t really see how he could have done much to stop either of the goals. 7
Debuchy: made a huge stride forward, I thought, better defensively, better in attack, better all round, if he can improve that much in the space of three games he is going to be all and more that we hoped for. 7
Chambers: this was the stand out player for me over the whole 90 minutes, there was one slip again which naturally gets highlighted but Mertesacker does that every game and certainly did today on more than one occasion the difference being that if the opposition don’t score no one bats an eye lid. 8
Mertersacker: good to have our vice captain back, yes, he looked a bit rusty but what did we expect, it was his first competitive game, got more and more into his stride as the game went on. 6
Monreal: we shouldn’t forget that the Spaniard is a stand in for Gibbs; yes, he got skinned on more than one occasion but as he was the one who sent in the cross for Giroud to head home and save a point all is forgiven with me. 6
Ramsey: had a poor first half, his passes were going all over the place, but just when you are about to get frustrated with him he pops up to score the goal that gave us a life line. 6
Flamini: his role is not a glamorous one, protecting the backline is a thankless task on the best of days, he’s not bad but he’s not good. If we qualify for the CL I hope the potential revenue generated is spent on an upgrade in this position. 6
Wilshere: if he is not an attacking midfielder which he clearly isn’t, then what is he?
We have so many better options. 5
Oxlaide-Chamberlain: well we got our wish, he played but was not that effective I have to say, lots of running, all the chances falling to him in the first half, not quite what we hoped for: 5
Sanchez: first time playing up front, I thought he was brilliant; he was my MOTM for the first half. The problem of course was that the new system was so different nobody quite knew what to do. It wasn’t that he was doing things wrong it was the players around him. 9
Ozil: we heard all the jokes about him still being on the beach; still, changing flip flops to boots at half time helped, obviously not match fit but got better as the game went on. 6
Giroud: there is not a plan A and a plan B, different players are better suited to play against different opposition. If Wenger attempted to motivate Giroud by playing Sanogo ahead of him then it worked to an extent but nowhere near as much as it fired him up when he saw Sanchez get the nod ahead of him. This man had a point to prove when he took to the field for the second half. Competition for places, you gotta love it. 8
Cazorla: he aint a left winger. If he is played in Arshavin’s grave yard then we should expect below par performances. We shouldn’t forget that the reason we fell in love with him was because he used to play in the hole just behind the CF. We got a glimpse of it when he came on; he is still a quality player. 7
Joel Campbell: a few good touches, not enough time to influence the game.