Everton prove hard to beat but draw not disastrous 17 April, 2013Posted by lasagnechef in Arsenal News.
Last night’s match against Everton was always one we were wary of when looking at the season run-in. With the inclusion of our next opponents at home, Manchester United, this was always earmarked as a possibility of dropped points. Everton are a good side, a team in form and yesterday I have to admit I was pretty nervous about the game. In the end I think it’s fair to say they didn’t really threaten to beat us, a few chances aside you can’t say they deserved any more than a draw. Where you have to praise them is their hard-to-beat setup. I haven’t seen us play such a team in a while where we really struggled to create chances and break down a defence for the whole game. Fellaini was absolutely everywhere, winning every header and making some great tackles and it inspired his teammates to a solid performance.
In the closing stages as they tired we were getting in behind them more but the Everton defence were still there to sweep up every attack, be that even on a couple of occasions a last ditch goal-saving challenge. If we had a bit more luck, some improved finishing or perhaps having a shot on goal rather than passing we could be celebrating a hard-fought win last night but it wasn’t to be. I would’ve taken a draw weeks ago looking at the run-in and I would’ve still taken that point yesterday afternoon so I think we’re still on track.
What that draw does mean though if we have to take all the points from our games against lesser opposition. If we can beat Fulham, QPR and Wigan I think we’ll be in a good position going into the final day up in Newcastle – hopefully it might even be wrapped up by then depending on the form of Chelsea and Tottenham. As for Man United any points we can take from that game will be a huge boost. Not that I’m just expecting us to lose but I think we may perhaps afford one loss dependant that we clean up elsewhere.
Back to last night and I was very surprised with the starting XI. After the Norwich game Wenger admitted he’d rushed back Jack Wilshere so I was a bit shocked to see that he’d started him again 3 days later. As it turns out his ready-made replacement, Tomas Rosicky must be even further behind as he didn’t even get on as a sub when we were struggling to create. However Jack did start and I’d say his performance improved from the weekend but it still wasn’t up to the standard we’ve seen of him this season. He was getting more involved due to Everton’s frustrating tactics but I didn’t find him as creative as we’ve seen before his latest injury.
I would’ve had Cazorla in his place, in his preferable central position but Wenger chose to stick him out on the left again. I’m not alone in thinking he’s 10 times more effective down the middle and I can’t see Arsene’s obsession with playing him out wide. Both on Saturday and last night our creativity massively improved when he moved behind Giroud so I can’t see how that’s not a sure sign to start him there. If Rosicky recovers well for the weekend I’d start him ahead of Jack but failing that it’s got to be Cazorla.
Expecting Santi to be in midfield, I was also shocked by the front three. Walcott was given his first start since returning from injury on the right and we had Giroud down the middle. I just can’t understand this worrying obsession with omitting Podolski from the team. He came on (and with Chamberlain) turned the game around on Saturday and I fancied him to get a start last night but still no. I understand he’s been injured recently which wasn’t widely known and maybe they’re easing him back in but still this season has been lacking in opportunities for Podolski. I’d like to see him start at Fulham but I’d be surprised to see it.
As for Giroud, well he didn’t have the best of games last night but we don’t have another choice. He saw the most chances fall to him but none went even close. If we had another option we could’ve tried to shake it up but our ‘massive’ squad contains just one centre forward. Work that one out. Arsene says he’s been testing Podolski out centrally in training which is interesting, I’ve been calling for that for some time but when the German can’t even get on the pitch I don’t see us trying it – even when he does look the most dangerous in front of goal. I’m still giving Giroud the benefit of the doubt, I do like him but I wish he had some competition. Surely that’s got to be top of the shopping list this summer.
As a team we struggled to click last night but that was mostly down to Everton. They defended very well and were physical with it too, the referee made it obvious for all to see that he had stepped up from the Championship for the evening with the amount of challenges he was letting go. I think maybe a more established Premier League ref would’ve let less of the Everton aggression pass and perhaps it would’ve been a different game but I’m not going to get into that. As frustrating as it was last night I’m okay with this draw, a win would’ve been brilliant but it never looked like coming and fair play to Everton for that.
I believe finishing above Spurs is now officially out of our hands again but they’re not going to win every game. I still fancy us to finish above them and a win at Fulham will put a tonne of pressure on them. We could be 5 points clear of them as they go into their match against Man City on Sunday and if they went on to drop points against the Champions things won’t be looking easy for them. We’ve got to prepare well now for the trip to Craven Cottage as that has not been a happy place for us in recent years, we need to turn that form around and get back to winning ways. Chelsea are the visitors there tonight so it will be an interesting one to watch for us.
Thanks for reading, build up to Fulham to come this week.