Arsenal vs Everton, FT 2-1
[Premier League, 24/10/2015]
In a way that only Arsenal can manage, the overall dominance of the game was overwhelmingly in their favour and yet in the final stages an Everton equaliser was not at all beyond the realm of realistic likelihood. The unofficial motto of the Gunners, ‘Arsenal gonna Arsenal’, was certainly present in subtle undertones during this match.
The Arsenal centre-backs were Gabriel and Koscielny; for Everton Stones and Jagielka until the latter’s injury in the 49th minute, at which point (a few minutes on from the moment itself) he was replaced by Funes Mori.
The game started in a manner which befitted the reputation of the atmosphere at the Emirates, nothing of note happening in the first ten minutes or so. On occasions, Jagielka was pulled across to his left to pick up an Arsenal midfielder, who were doubling up on the Everton left-back Galloway. Galloway in turn was getting very little support from his winger, Lennon, which was odd, as Lennon was not really offering anything offensively to serve as an excuse.
A lack of communication between Stones and Jagielka in the 14th minute, in hindsight, showed what would be to come for both of Arsenal’s goals. As a long ball was played from Arsenal’s half, Jagielka followed Giroud’s run onto Stones’ side, both Everton defenders going for the same header with the Frenchmen, both falling over upon landing. Fortunately, though the ball bounced to an unmarked Ozil, it was judged to be a foul and Ozil missed anyway. They would not be so lucky later on.
The Arsenal centre-backs had very little to do in the first half, Gabriel winning several headers against Lukaku, Koscielny more occupied with Everton activity and being proactive in trying to cut it out.
In the 33rd minute, Stones showed a glimpse of why he is rated highly, Sanchez tearing down the Arsenal left and approaching the side of the Everton box. Stones began to charge towards him (and the Everton player Sanchez was battling along with), but stopped himself, instead holding a good position to cut out the cross.
His next five minutes were not as good. Arsenal’s first came in the 36th minute, a fantastic cross from the Arsenal right by Ozil being nudged over Howard by Giroud. The Everton marking was a cause for concern, Giroud running off Stones, who let him run without giving his partner a shout, and behind Jagielka. Given the quality of the ball by Ozil he may not have been able to do anything anyway, but neither Everton CB covered themselves in glory.
Jagielka’s lack of awareness was shown again within the next two minutes, from an Arsenal free-kick delivered from the right hand side of Everton’s box by Santi Cazorla. This time it was Koscielny who ran between the two Everton centre-backs, again with Jagielka in front, his back to the run, and Stones behind. Again the former was not aware enough of the run to do anything meaningful about it, again the latter did not do anything to help his partner. Runs between them, usually by Giroud, would trouble the Everton centre-backs for the entire match.
Gabriel had a couple of moments worth noting towards the end of the first half. The first was in the 39th minute, when he tried to go the wrong way round a Lennon block to tackle a charging Everton midfielder, a poor decision which took him out of the action and left his team momentarily exposed. 5 minutes later it was a case of bad luck rather than poor judgement, with a hopeful shot from Barkley deflecting off his leg and passed the wrong-footed Cech into the net.
Jagielka was injured in the 49th minute, clearing a ball after the whistle had blown for an Oxlade-Chamberlain foul on Galloway, his leg colliding with the aforementioned Ox. Gareth Barry filled in for a few minutes until Funes Mori was substituted on in the 52nd minute.
In the 59th minute Giroud almost scored again, the ball tantalisingly close to the end of his boot as he slid, trying to reach the pass across the Everton six yard box from the Arsenal right. His run had started on the edge of the box, where he had been being marked by Stones, who didn’t notice the run behind him until it was too late to catch up. Had Olivier’s foot been marginally longer, Stones would have been at fault for a third Arsenal goal.
Funes Mori had a brief moment of good performance in the 65th minute, covering well for Stones who was generally doing an admirable job of trying to prove that Chelsea had done something right this season in deciding not to buy him. It was back to usual four minutes later though as he was passed through as if he wasn’t there by Ozil, leading to quite a good Arsenal chance.
In the 78th minute, the phase of play following an Everton set piece saw three players completely unmarked at the back post. In some defence of the Arsenal centre-backs, they can’t have been expected to physically mark those players, as they were largely out of the game until a crossing opportunity became available. Realistically, it was the job of one of them to pull a midfielder (or, ideally, the left-back) over to help, but Koscielny did fairly well to challenge Lukaku when a ball was played in. It was an Everton chance, but not as good a one as the Sky commentary made it out to be, though the header was fairly close to dipping under the crossbar.
The last ten minutes were fast-paced and showed up the Everton centre-backs, Stones doing as good a job of tracking a Flamini run as Flamini did with his header from the cross from the Arsenal right, it going squarely into Howard’s hands. It wasn’t that Stones didn’t expect him to be there, he just didn’t look. In added time Funes Mori was outdone a couple of times by Giroud runs behind him, not always exploited, while on the other side of the pitch Gabriel made a good and important tackle as Everton countered.
Gareth Barry was sent off for a second yellow literally seconds before full-time.
Arsenal were in form though should have scored another, their centre-backs having little to do, neither overly impressing nor giving much cause for concern. The Everton CBs, on the other hand, notably struggled to deal with an in-form Gunners attack.