Arsenal 0 - 0 Everton
Everton and Arsenal battled to an entertaining stalemate at the Emirates Stadium, earning a point that does neither side many favours in the chase for the Champions League apart from the avoidance of defeat and any consequent damage to morale.
For Everton, who knew coming into these last six games of the campaign that they would have to win at least one of their trips to the Emirates, Anfield and Stamford Bridge, the draw heightens the importance of the remaining matches on their calendar, particularly the visit to Chelsea on the final day if they are still in reach of any of the London sides above them by then.
David Moyes and his players would have desperately wanted to win this one, however, and though they put in an impressively robust and determined performance, they just lacked the guile and the killer blow to nick what was a tightly contested encounter. They came close but also had to rely on some excellent defending of their own to keep Arsene Wenger's side at bay and a draw was probably a fair result.
The first 20 minutes had the Blues' intent written all over it. With Marouane Fellaini playing in a more withdrawn role to compensate for Leon Osman's absence with a groin strain, Moyes's midfield enjoyed superiority for the first quarter of the game, harrying and chasing everything that moved and reducing the Gunners to incessant whining at what they perceived to be an overly physical approach.
Jack Wilshere in particular proved singularly unable to cope with the heat and appeared to spend more time prone on the floor than with the ball at his feet in the first half — indeed, his constant moaning was enough to prompt Kevin Mirallas to cheekily squirt him with a water bottle as the players trooped off at the interval which sparked a spate of "handbags" in the tunnel as the players squared up to each other.
Everton had clearly got under Arsenal's skin by that point and could count themselves unfortunate not to have been ahead by half-time, although it was Olivier Giroud who had had the best chance of the first 45 minutes but missed a sitter when Aaron Ramsey picked him out with a wicked cross from the right that the Frenchman despatched wide of Tim Howard's left-hand post.
Mirallas had the first sight of goal as early as the fourth minute when he latched onto Ross Barkley's nicely-weighted throughball but an inadvertent touch put the ball into Wojciech Szczesny's grateful arms before he could get a shot off.
Two minutes later, an even better pass by Phil Jagielka dissected the home defence again with Steven Pienaar anticipating it brilliantly but while he got to the ball ahead of the goalkeeper who had come steaming off his line, his touch was, unfortunately, too heavy and it flew over the crossbar.
Mesmerising skill by Mirallas that took him past his marker against the touchline in almost impossible fashion set up another move that ended with Pienaar threading the Belgian in but he was fractionally offside, before two moments involving Barkley kept the Arsenal rearguard on their toes. The first was when he tried to bend a speculative effort around Szczesny but didn't get enough lift to beat the Arsenal 'keeper from 25 yard-plus; the second was a delightful piece of skill that embarrassed his marker but though he found the run of Victor Anichebe with a pass through the defence, the big striker's shot deflected off a defender and Szczesny got enough on it to be able to smother the ball after it had squirmed under his body.
Arsenal, for their part, had been muscled out of their rhythm by some tenacious tackling by the likes of Fellaini, Barkley and Gibson, with the Irishman picking up a yellow card somewhat harshly for a foul on Theo Walcott. Gibson then had the Emirates houling for a red card when he blocked off the same player just five minutes later, compounded a minute after that when Steven Pienaar was booked for an almost identical body check. Thankfully for Everton, while Neil Swarbrick should have been left with no alternative given the precedent he had set with the Pienaar decision, the referee kept a level head and merely gave Gibson a stern talking-to.
In between, Kieron Gibbs had tried to punish Fellaini for an awful clearance across his own penalty area but smashed his shot high and wide of the target from 20 yards and, in the last serious action of the first period, a superb sprawling block by Jagielka had prevented a Santi Cazorla cross from finding a target near the Blues' six-yard box.
If Everton had shaded the first half, Arsenal would enjoy the better opportunities in the second, although the first chance after half time fell invitingly to Mirallas from 25 yards but his weak left-footer was easily gathered by the goalkeeper.
At the other end, Howard did well to push Cazorla's fizzing half-volley behind, Giroud swept a first time shot narrowly over from the edge of the box after good work by Gibbs, and Sylvain Distin had defied the years with impressive acceleration to catch Walcott in full flight down the Arsenal right to dig the ball away from the winger and prevent another Arsenal opening.
With 56 minutes gone, another moment of magic by Mirallas put the excellent Seamus Coleman in on the overlap down the right but while Anichebe couldn't quite dig the ball out from under his feet to get a shot away and the ball was cleared to the edge of the box, Pienaar went down under a late tackle from Mikel Arteta that set up Leighton Baines with a direct free kick attempt. Unfortunately, the wall was allowed to encroach and his shot was charged down.
Then, after Jagielka had done very well to snuff out more danger from Gibbs after Ramsey had slipped him into the area behind the fullback slot and Everton had cleared the resulting corner, Barkley came within an inch of lighting up the contest with a lovely shimmy that opened up the space for a shot that he whipped an inch the wrong side of the upright from 25 yards. It was tremendous effort, evocative of another young Blue prodigy who made his name in a game against Arsenal a decade ago.
Being the home side and with a record of having a significant majority of their goals in the last third of the game, it was not surprising that Arsenal became increasingly dominant as the match wore on and Everton started to tire a little in the later stages. The emphasis for the Blues was more and more on diligent and courageous defending, though they didn't help themselves with Howard persisting with the tactic of knocking balls long in the direction of Anichebe that didn't, at any stage of proceedings, ever look like it was going to work. It played straight into Per Mertesaker's hands and Everton were rarely able to pick up the second ball.
That meant that the ball would often come straight back on the visitors' defence but Fellaini snuffed out the substitute Lukas Podolski's attempted cross, Ramsey's attempted backheel from the resulting corner was smothered by Howard, Coleman made an outstanding saving tackle to deny Giroud an almost certain goal after the Gunners had broken quickly with a man advantage, and the French striker blazed wide of the angle of crossbar and post with Jagielka in front of him.
Despite Nikica Jelavic replacing Barkley with 14 minutes left, Everton weren't much of a counter-attacking force in the final quarter of an hour. Anichebe was labouring by this point, having gone down with his weekly knock that always looks like it will necessitate him coming off but he ends up finishing the match anyway. The surly striker was involved in the Blues' last chance of the game in stoppage time, however, but with Coleman in plenty of space outside him, he ballooned a shot from 30 yards and a last-gasp chance to mount a significant attack went begging.
Unquestionably a point well earned, then, in the final reckoning but Moyes will have been disappointed his men couldn't pinch the three points. Arsenal, on their own turf and on a run of four consecutive wins coming into the game were always going to be supremely difficult opponents so it would have taken the creation of more chances and better finishing for Everton to win.
Unfortunately, though Anichebe ran his socks off and kept the Gunners defence constantly working, he wasn't as effective as he has been over the last couple of games in particular. Pienaar, too, was a little below par in his use of the ball in the final third where Everton generally lacked a creative spark able to unlock Arsenal's back line. Mirallas and Barkley came very close but it needed a clinical marksman to bury the chances.
The real plaudits rightly went to the defence, where Distin was impressive and Coleman and Jagielka were simply immense, the pair vying for the man-of-the-match accolades that consensus appears to indicate the Captain shaded. Fellaini, too, was excellent in his favoured position and Barkley showed genuine flashes of the player many believe he will blossom into in time and he did more than enough to perhaps earn another start against Sunderland at the weekend.
With games running out, every game is a cup final for the Blues, including the visit to the Stadium of Light to face a Black Cats side who will be bouncing after surprise Tyne and Wear derby win at Newcastle on Sunday. It's dropped points in games like those that have left Moyes with so much to do against the division's best teams so, again, only a win will really do.
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354 Posted 17/04/2013 at 07:13:54
355 Posted 17/04/2013 at 07:20:28
357 Posted 17/04/2013 at 07:56:26
Good performance, although I didn't think Pienaar and Anichebe played well. We were positive from the start which was good to see. My only real criticism would be the poor use of substitutions, particularly as we were running on empty for the last 20 minutes and crying out for fresh legs to be brought on.
359 Posted 17/04/2013 at 08:07:21
379 Posted 17/04/2013 at 09:12:36
388 Posted 17/04/2013 at 09:59:04
I still can't believe that Coleman only cost us a six-figure sum; Outstanding.
Barkley: Raw, but definite potential in him.
It was pleasing to see Moyes (for a time) double the number of strikers to try and win the match.
However, I have never seen Jagielka hoof the ball ONCE whilst wearing England colours;
Six games unbeaten.
407 Posted 17/04/2013 at 11:16:45
Arteta is (or was!) one of my all-time favourite Evertonians but his pathetic actions of constantly running to the referee after every legitimate challenge and him being the reason for Gibson`s booking for a fair ball-winning tackle, has made me see him in a completely different light. The fact that he left us for a so called 'bigger club' with the excuse that he wanted to win trophies has now come back to haunt him with The Gunners as far away from winning anything as we are, makes me feel a whole lot better.
Probably the worst case of whinging was that full back of theirs who, quite aptly, insists on wearing those `girly beads` in his hair, rolling on the floor holding his head when even I could see from my seat behind the goal that Pienaar's boot had missed him by 3 feet! Episodes like this must be looked at retrospectively because it is nothing less than cheating and just cannot be tolerated any longer.
Although looking highly unlikely, I would love to clinch a Champions League place over those whinging under-achievers to really rub our old friend Arteta's nose in it!
421 Posted 17/04/2013 at 12:36:15
Even better he was a 5 figure sum.
I can't remember seeing a player improve as much as Seamus has in one season.I wasn't sure about him to be honest.How wrong can you be
441 Posted 17/04/2013 at 13:29:25
Thought Gibson was immense and Felli had a better game
Disappointed with Pienaar and Mirallas who both contributed very little IMO.
450 Posted 17/04/2013 at 13:40:53
People were rightly praising our back 4 last night, but to be honest, I think only 3 of them deserve real praise, and Baines wasn't one of them. I lost count how many times we looked in danger due to him being too far forward. It's fine when we are playing well in the final 3rd, but we weren't, so his focus has to be what is going on behind him. I know he has been brilliant this season, and I may be being a little harsh, but at the moment he is a left back with little emphasis on the word 'back'.
Victor needs to be better, and stronger than he was last night. Everything bounced off him, and when it didn't, it was he who was bouncing off a defender and onto the floor. I don't think he had the best service, and very little to his feet, but even so, he knows his role, and that it is a thankless task, but he needs to do it and do it well.
Barkley needs to start every game for the rest of the season. We have seen how a run has improved Coleman, and its time for Moyes to back up the words he has used to describe Ross by giving him that chance. It's strange because Moyes has started him in 2 of the toughest away games in Spurs and Arsenal, yet he is nowhere to be seen when the likes of QPR and Reading come to town.
452 Posted 17/04/2013 at 13:50:58
462 Posted 17/04/2013 at 14:13:40
478 Posted 17/04/2013 at 15:31:23
Have no idea if young Ross can go back to games at full-tilt. But would like to see him start this weekend.
And Coleman! To think a player like that was available for a glass of beer and a bag of chips. Looking like as big a bargain as Gibson. Maybe bigger.
15 points left out there gents. Go get them all and let's see where we end up.
580 Posted 18/04/2013 at 00:14:07
Excellent work too by the boys in blue. All any Evertonian can ever ask from the team is to give it their all. And their all they did give!
Great to have something to look forward to at this point of the season. Still all to play for, which speaks volumes for the team and Moyes.
642 Posted 18/04/2013 at 12:28:01
Our defenders were outstanding and Coleman was unbeatable as were Jags and Distin. Barkley also impressed but I'm afraid Anichebe spent too much time running after lost causes.
We seem to be focusing on the very remote chance of getting into the CL but we should at least qualify for the Mickey Mouse version.
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