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Arsenal 2-1 Everton

By Lyndon Lloyd :  02/02/2011 :  Comments (25) :

There is a depressing inevitability about this fixture, one that Everton haven't won in 15 years. For many a year, a trip to Arsenal usually ended in a sound beating ? the nadir, of course, being that 7-0 drubbing at the end of the 2003-04 season that was laughed off in the context of David Moyes's side having just finished in the Champions League places ? but in four of the last five seasons now, the Blues have actually put themselves in the driving seat at the Emirates but failed to come away with a precious victory.

Where last season's 2-2 draw was agonising in its cruelty ? Tomasz Rosciky's injury-time strike taking an all-important deflection off Lucas Neill to take it past Tim Howard's despairing dive ? tonight you were left with the bitter feeling that Everton had surrendered this one rather than being out-played or out-witted by a superior team.

Make no mistake, Arsenal are, of course, the better side but they were frustrated into an at times dirty and cynical performance by a rousing first-half display by the visitors that yielded a hugely contentious goal by Louis Saha that meant Everton led 1-0 until the last quarter of the match. It could be argued that the Gunners took their fury at referee Lee Mason for allowing a goal that was either clearly offside or legitimate because the last touch was a deliberate one by Koscielny out on their opponents but Cesc Fabregas had raked his studs down the back of Mikel Arteta's a quarter of an hour before Louis Saha's superb finish had flown past Szczesny.

As expected Moyes named an unchanged line-up and retained the formation that had proved successful against Chelsea. Jack Rodwell was again deployed behind Saha and Everton took the game to their hosts in impressive fashion from the first whistle. Indeed, Arsenal didn't get near the opposition penalty area until the 14th minute and though that triggered a fairly swift shift in momentum away from the Blues for the next 10 minutes, Arsene Wenger's side weren't able to make it pay.

A typically sublime move that carved Everton open down the right ended with Robin van Persie back-heeling into the path of Fabregas but the Spaniard rapped his shot wide of the target after 15 minutes, and seven minutes after that Theo Walcott found himself with just Howard to beat from the angle but the American saved smartly with his feet.

At the other end, Everton were moving the ball about very nicely at times but had only shown flashes of creating an opening until Seamus Coleman drove forward and poked the ball forward towards Saha. The Frenchman was a couple of yards offside at the time the ball was struck but when Koscielny stuck out a boot and sliced the ball into Saha's path, play was allowed to go on and Everton's no. 8 belted it unerringly into the far corner from outside the box.

The home crowd were incensed and Arsenal responded by upping the tempo, Djourou glancing a corner dangerously across the face of goal, Fabregas racing into the clear only to effect a poor first touch that let Rodwell get back to cover, and Wilshere picking Van Persie out with a deft chip that the Dutchman couldn't clip over Howard, the ball sailing over the bar instead.

Half time and so far so good for Everton. So quite why Moyes, as he is so annoyingly wont to do, chose to mess with a system that was working in favour of his legendary defensive setup would be anyone's guess if we didn't know the manager so well.

When the second half kicked off, Rodwell initially looked to have been pushed back into defensive midfield and Arteta moved in behind Saha but it quickly became apparent that the striker had been deserted completely, left to chase lost causes up front asn Arsenal seized the initiative and pegged the Blues back.

And yet despite having surrended so much possession and territory, Everton held firm for the first half an hour after the restart. Rosicky shot well wide from 20 yards, Van Persie despatched a direct free kick lamely into the defensive wall, Diaby headed over from a corner and Van Persie again shot straight at Howard.

But there were signs as the half progressed that Arsenal would eventually find a piece of magic to unlock the visitors' defence, not least when Andrey Arshavin clipped the ball over the top to Van Persie but he scuffed a half-volley wide. When the Russian found himself on the end of a similarly deft chip from Fabregas, though, via a back-header by Rodwell, the substitute side-footed past Howard to level the game and break the back of Everton's defensive stand.

Five minutes later, after Nicolas Bendtner had planted an overhead kick into Howard's arms, Leon Osman caught the heels of Walcott in full flight setting up a free kick that Van Persie fired towards the top corner, only for Howard to claw his effort behind. From the resulting corner, though, Koscielny was allowed to peel away from his marker ? Sylvain Distin or John Heitinga, it's hard to know which as they both were guilty of ball-watching ? and he had the simple task of nodding home from six yards out.

Moyes responded quickly but with two more utterly baffling decisions, pulling off both Phil Neville and Coleman, throwing Phil Jagielka on at right back and Victor Anichebe up front. Jermaine Beckford, the more mobile and more prolific striker was mystifyingly left on the bench in favour of a bigger physical presence and there was little surprise that it yielded almost nothing but a series of balls pumped aimlessly towards the Arsenal box.

Five minutes of injury time and no sign of anything approaching an Everton equaliser ensued before time was called on another disappointing game against Arsenal. From a position of real strength, the Blues let it all slip away by sitting back and inviting Arsenal forward, compounding that error with poor defending, and then leaving themselves impotent with poor substitutions when chasing the game.

It puts the pressure squarely on their shoulders when they return to Goodison Park for the visit of a Blackpool side that doesn't lack spirit or gumption. Given Everton's frailties, particularly in front of their home fans, it will be a severe test of their mettle at a time when a relegation scrap looks far more likely than one for Europe.

As the first half here showed, this is a decent Everton side that is far too good to go down when it plays the right way but sooner or later they're going to have to start winning... and for that you need to score more than once if you can't successfully defend the lead. The manager appeared to have the right idea against Chelsea on Saturday but for me he got it all wrong tonight and it's hard to escape the feeling that, with such a small pool of players and no prospect of any fresh blood on the horizon, once again we appear to be going nowhere.

Player Ratings: Howard 7, Neville 6 (Jagielka 6), Heitinga 6, Distin 6, Baines 7, Coleman 7 (Anichebe 5), Arteta 7, Fellaini 8* Bilyaletdinov 6 (Osman 5), Rodwell 7, Saha 7

Reader Comments

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Garry Corgan
1   Posted 02/02/2011 at 02:02:00

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Have to disagree with Rodwell's rating. It was his poor defensive header that led to the ball dropping nicely to Arshavin to score their first. He either needed to head that ball harder and further, or leave it completely and turn to make the tackle.

And if that wasn't bad enough, it was Rodwell again who let Koscielny step in unmarked to head in the corner.

I'm not bashing Rodwell, but it was ultimately two costly mistakes from him that led to their two goals. And I didn't think much of the rest of his game either.
Garry Corgan
2   Posted 02/02/2011 at 02:09:34

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Actually I take that back. There doesn't seem to have been anybody marking Koscielny but it was Distin that failed to pick up his run.
Dick Fearon
3   Posted 02/02/2011 at 04:06:40

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Llyndon, a good report, pretty much as I saw it on TV. As you say, Moyes baffling substitutions contributed toward our defeat.

Bringing on Osman was incomprehensible but with him being the slowest player in any division to have him on the same wing as Arsenal's lightning fast duo of Walcott and Sagna was an act of lunacy. This was another example to make me wonder if Moyes deliberately wants us to lose.

Tony Cheek
4   Posted 02/02/2011 at 05:23:36

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In a nutshell, Wenger's substitutions contributed greatly to Arsenals win; Moyes's substitutions contributed greatly to our defeat. Says a lot about how good one is and how absolutely clueless the other is.

Problem with Moyes when he has one of his favourites on the bench (Jagielka), is that he has to think the whole time how he can get him into the game. When really he should be trying to get Beckford in... but he is not one of Moyes blue-eyed boys.

Julian Wait
5   Posted 02/02/2011 at 06:27:40

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I originally was convinced it was offside, but being a nerd I looked up the law.

From FIFA.COM: Law 11 - Offside

What does gaining an advantage by being in that position mean?

The International Football Association Board defines it as

- playing a ball that rebounds off a post or the crossbar after having been in an offside position, or
- playing a ball that rebounds off an opponent after having been in an offside position.

Well the ball didn't rebound off the opponent (Arsenal defender), he made a deliberate play on the ball. It didn't go where he wanted it to (clearly) but it was not a "rebound".

So I stand corrected (by myself).

According to the laws of the game, he was not offside. And I admit I am surprised, but it was a second phase thing and it was played (deliberately) by the Arsenal player, and it ended up with Saha.

I think the key is not to get confused with the conditions of the pass-back rule i.e. it must be a deliberate pass back. In this case it must just NOT be a rebound.

Bizarre eh?
Paul Olsen
6   Posted 02/02/2011 at 07:33:24

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I for one definetely don't think we deserved anything from this game, Arsenal were better the full 90.

Howard 7, Neville 7 (Jagielka 5), Heitinga 6, Distin 6, Baines 6, Coleman 6 (Anichebe 6), Arteta 7, Fellaini 7* Bilyaletdinov 6 (Osman 5), Rodwell 7, Saha 7
David Lane
7   Posted 02/02/2011 at 08:25:08

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At least I made some easy money out of Moyes's failings. Everton winning at half time, Arsenal winning at full time at 28-1 against. Thanks Moyesie.
Amit Vithlani
8   Posted 02/02/2011 at 10:57:50

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Distin and Nev looked out on their feet and were showing their age, which is deeply concerning.

Distin has been our best player, bar Fellaini. And we just dont have any decent right backs. Coleman is an excellent attacking full back but poor defensively and lets not even get on to Hibbo.

Distin looked jittery and struggled to cope with Van Persie. This may have contributed to us defending so deep, because several times when we tried to hold our line Arsenal forwards were breaking through.

Nev looked like a very old man out there. He had an average first half but looked decidedly vulnerable when Arsenal looked to break. Jags has more pace but is no better than Hibbo or Coleman in that position. If Distin is wobbling, just as well that he got some game time....

I would not have left Saha on, because he is finding some form but will now probably miss the Blackpool game as he too has little left in the agree with most posters that we needed Becks, if we were going to defend deep he provides an outball...
Liam Reilly
9   Posted 02/02/2011 at 11:07:33

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Julian #5
I think it's hard to dispute that Saha's goal was offside. It was lumped forwards and he's offside. The fact the defender slices it to Saha is irrelevant. The only way it would have been valid is if the ball was played backwards initially.

On topic: when I saw the team sit back in the second period, it was only a matter of time beforfe they scored. Cannot, for the life of me, understand changing tactics that are clearly working.
Oliver Molloy
10   Posted 02/02/2011 at 11:13:24

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Bilyaletdinov is not up to the physical challenge of the Premier League, I think that was very obvious last night and it's the reason Moyes hasn't started with him until now. The guy gives the ball away is pushed off the ball far to easily. He needs to try harder, or he will be on the bench again!
John Nelson
11   Posted 02/02/2011 at 11:46:50

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Top and bottom is that Moyes's substitutions cost us the game.

Seriously, what did he think Osman ? the slowest, weakest, laziest player I have ever seen in a blue shirt ? would bring to the game?

What did he think Anichebe ? a lazy yard dog who thinks he is a cut above the rest, who also the general majority of us fans cannot stand or relate to ? would bring to the game?

And also why would bringing a centre-half on in Jagielka ? who's had a shit season ? help try and get us more goals?

Moyes's team selections and tactics have been wacky this year, but the substitutions aspect I believe to be just as equal in constributing to our shit season.

I just pray and hope we get it right for once and not only beat Blackpool, but score more than once AND keep a clean sheet ? wishful thinking I know.

On a sidenote, David (#7) I know we have had a shit season, mate, but I don't know how you can bring yourself to bet against the blues, no matter the circumstances. Bad form tha,t mate.

Dave Wilson
12   Posted 02/02/2011 at 11:35:18

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"This is another example to make me wonder of Moyes deliberately wants to lose"

How did such a ballanced article attract such a post?
Steve O'Malley
13   Posted 02/02/2011 at 12:04:20

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John (#11). Couldn't agree more. I just cannot understand for the life of me why, to "simple" fans like us, the points you make stand out like the proverbial dogs balls... but the supposed next Manager of Man Utd is completely oblivious to it!!!

How bad do players have to get before he gets the message??? Going 2-1 down, there was only one striker on the bench who had either scored a goal this season or even looked like scoring and he was still on the bench when the final whistle blew. Moyes and his mate Round have got me completely fucked.

Brian Hill
14   Posted 02/02/2011 at 14:54:40

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Why didn't Howard come and make what, for any competent keeper, should have been a routine catch inside his own six yard box?
Julian Wait
15   Posted 02/02/2011 at 15:11:59

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@Liam #11 - It was not a rebound, the defender played the ball deliberately. Onside.

This might help:
Julian Wait
16   Posted 02/02/2011 at 15:13:19

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Sorry @Liam #9
David Holroyd
17   Posted 02/02/2011 at 15:35:19

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Moyes substitutes have been crap since day one, Anichibe does not look like scoring Beckford would have been a better choice. Moyes v Wenger chalk n cheese of course Wenger has more options but its making the right one
Brian Waring
18   Posted 02/02/2011 at 15:45:36

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Julian, if that was giving against us, you and I would probalby be on here fuming, and calling the officials right twats.

Surely as soon as the ball has left Coleman's foot, Saha is already in an offside position, even before the ball is played by the defender, so that has got to be offside.
How many times do you see a striker already in an offside position, when the ball is played through, a defender plays it, but by the time it has reached the defender, the linesman is already flagging.
Mike Allison
19   Posted 02/02/2011 at 15:50:35

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"Bilyaletdinov is not up to the physical challenge of the Premier League"

That was true of Robert Pires when he arrived at Arsenal. He was a joke. A couple of years later he was the player of the season, and he didn't get there by sitting on the bench. Bilyaletdinov needs to play, regularly, for a long period of time to get used to the physical nature of the game. Arteta had to do that to an extent when he first arrived, although he was more influential early on than Bily has been. You could say the same for Pienaar.
Brian Waring
20   Posted 02/02/2011 at 16:38:07

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Spot on Mike. We had fans on here calling him a lazy bastard, I don't know how anyone can come to that conclusion, after the odd 5 minutes here and there.

If given a good run out, he will turn out to be class. Just hope that when Cahill is back in the team, Bily doesn't get benched again.
Julian Wait
21   Posted 02/02/2011 at 16:43:32

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@Brian #18 - Very true. I would be as biased as the next fan / player!!!

To be honest I don't know what the Advice for Referees is on this one; I am not a ref. Certainly when playing, I know I have appealed vehemently in certain situations like this, and now I have read the rules in some detail, and reviewed the examples on the FIFA site, to be quite honest it is not clear whether the play on the ball by the defender should be considered a rebound or a fresh start for offside purposes. I know what I think, but not what FIFA or the referees (in general) think.

What I do know is that at the very least, Saha is NOT committing an offence at all until the point where he actually touches the ball. Being in an offside position is only one part of the law, you have to interfere with play etc and by FIFA's definition (like it or not) he is NOT inetrfering with play. In fact I think he is smart enough to look disinterested until the defender plays it and then he moves to the ball. Very smart play by Saha in my opinion. The only question is whether the play by the defender is a rebound (and I guess a deflection counts) - the only cause under FIFA rules that would make it offside - or whether it is a deliberate play. The fact that he jumps in the air and makes a deliberate kick means, to me, that it is not a rebound.

To wit I think your statement "Surely as soon as the ball has left Coleman's foot, Saha is already in an offside position, even before the ball is played by the defender, so that has got to be offside" is in fact incorrect.

My main objective here is to understand the rule better when playing, watching and coaching the kids.
Julian Wait
22   Posted 02/02/2011 at 16:58:32

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To wit I think your statement "Surely as soon as the ball has left Coleman's foot, Saha is already in an offside position, even before the ball is played by the defender, so that has got to be offside" is in fact CORRECT.

However he is NOT committing an offence, just by being in an offside position. He does not touch the ball or otherwise interfere with the opposition (per the rules) until after the defender touches it.

No offence is committed.
Julian Wait
23   Posted 02/02/2011 at 17:05:23

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Correction to the correction (need to stop multi-tasking):

To wit I think your statement "Surely as soon as the ball has left Coleman's foot, Saha is already in an offside position, even before the ball is played by the defender, so that has got to be offside" is in fact PARTIALLY CORRECT.

No offence is committed. He is in an offside position but he is not offside. Pedantic? Perhaps.
Oliver Molloy
24   Posted 02/02/2011 at 18:23:45

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Mike @ 19...

You could be correct about Pires when he first arrived at Arsenal i don't know,and I am not questioning Bily's obvious abilty, I'm just saying he gives the ball away to easily, and needs to stand up to the challenge of opposing players much better than he has do date.

I don't agree with your assessment of Pienaar, who is smaller and lighter than our Russian, and certainly held on the ball much better,and knew how to win a free and looked at home very quickly...

If Bily is looking/ going to get a run in the team he needs to put into practise the advice of his Father: "try harder"!

Oliver Molloy
25   Posted 02/02/2011 at 18:23:45

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Mike @ 19...
You could be correct about Pires when he first arrived @ Arsenal i don't know,and I am not questioning Billy's obvious abilty,I'm just saying he gives the ball away to easily,and needs to stand up to the challenge of opposing players much better than he has do date.
I don't agree with your assessment of Pienaar,who is smaller and lighter than our Russian,and certainly held on the ball much better,and knew how to win a free and looked at home very quickly...
If Billy is looking/ going to get a run in the team he needs to put into practise the advice of his Father "try harder"

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