Everton 0 Arsenal 1 : Gunners show maturity in defence
This was our 5th straight win on the trot and 6th consecutive win in the Premier League. The sort of run, no one thought we could make. The other results have gone our way. The teams (formerly) above and below us faltered last night and we’re into 3rd now with some cushion between us and Chelsea.
The scoreline says it all really. That this was a hard fought game where we showed plenty of resilience and focus. We can clearly see how Everton has managed to send Spurs, Manchester City and Chelsea back home pointless. At times, we rode our luck during the game but on other times, we defended brilliantly and just did not want to lose the tie. The attitude and the application were very admirable.
Arsene Wenger threw a surprise when he included Aaron Ramsey into the starting line-up in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Twitter was going into meltdown at the thought of the teenager being dropped and the prospect of Tomas Rosicky being forced to play out wide. This was the Milan experience. However, only one half of the statement was true. Rosicky stayed central and the Czech had another very good game.
Ramsey played on the left with Theo Walcott on the right. Somewhat keeping with the shape/formation that we were accustomed to this season. And it worked very well in the opening 15 minutes. The movement of the players were magnificent and Everton just couldn’t cope with us. We racked up a fair few shots on goal during that period and was unlucky to be only a goal up during that time. Majority of those chances falling to Ramsey.
The goal came via set piece. Robin Van Persie’s in-swinging corner was met by the on-rushing Thomas Vermaelen and Tim Howard had no chance of saving it. Replay shows the movement of Vermaelen was sharp and even his international team mate (Marouane Fellaini) couldn’t handle him. It was no less than what we deserved for our early attacking pressure. The Belgian (our Belgian) showing his aerial prowess and how much we’ve missed his influence on set pieces.
We had chances after that to increase the lead but didn’t. There were fears that those missed chances could come back to haunt us later in the game. Slowly but surely, Everton crept back into the game. Some may point towards a switch of position between Tim Cahill and Fellaini but it’s something more general. David Moyes got his side to press the ball more and close us down faster. No longer were we allowed time on the ball and everything became a little hurried.
That being said, even though we allowed them back into the game, we were still very much in control of it. Everton only had one shot in the entire first half despite their growing ball possession. That is testament to the amount of defensive work that we put in. Not only the volume of work but also the quality. Alex Song and Mikel Arteta worked tirelessly to support the defence. While it was good to see Kieran Gibbs was not found wanting even once in the match.
Everton could’ve equalised before half time but were let down by poor decision by the linesman. Royston Drenthe was clearly onside when he slotted the ball past Wojciech Szczesny but was adjudged to have been offside. Many more of those decisions came our way in the second half too. It’s not that the linesmen were the only ones at fault.
Referee Lee Mason chose to be opposite of his linesmen and gave most of his decisions on the side of Everton. Cahill was lucky not to be sent off for a two footed lunge while Nikica Jelavic had a hold on Mason every time he goes down, the whistle goes. There was once Jelavic step on Song but went down clutching his leg. Foul given against Song. It was unbelievable to say the least.
The second half petered out pretty much the same way the first half ended. Everton in the ascendancy but could not find the break through. Apart from one Fellaini header, Szczesny was almost trouble tree. That is purely down to the impeccable duo in front of him in Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen. Both put their bodies on the line and read every situation perfectly. Headers were won when it was needed and tackles were put in when it was needed. They even strode out of defence with the ball when there were no passing options. Perfect night’s work for the both of them.
Gervinho came in for Walcott in the 80th minute mark and we started to create a little in the attacking side of the game. He created the best chance to increase our lead but RvP sliced the ball wide, perhaps his balance was off when he hit the shot. In any case, this wasn’t RvP’s finest work but after all that he’s done this season, we can’t begrudge one below par performance.
We held out in the end for the 3 points. Maturity of performance being the key here. Song indicative of that by taking the ball to the corner flag even when we were on the counter and probably could’ve scored from that move. We were under a lot of pressure in the second half but we did not buckle. Everyone worked hard to defend and ensure that we do not concede. The one single shot on target for Everton showed how well we did.
Overall, we can’t complain about the result. There will be tough days like these and it is important that we get the maximum out of it, even when the going is tough.
St Totteringham day is back on the cards.