Everton 0 - 2 Arsenal
I was dreaming with my idea to set off at 11.15am for the early kick off game. Picking up Ste in Prenton before heading through the tunnel. Once on the other side we were met with bustling traffic as we edged towards Goodison Park. We just about found a space before heading on to The Brick where we met a somewhat smug Gary and Sue who had thought ahead and arrived a lot sooner, so much sooner in fact that they managed to find a table in the busy boozer.
With just enough time to sling a beer or two down our necks we got the team news and Muhammed Besic replacing the suspended Gareth Barry being the only change was welcomed by all. Not that we'd have noticed mind you as all talk was about next month's trip to Wembley. To say everyone is excited is quite the understatement!
If we are to be successful when we get to Wembley we will, of course, have to play incrementally better than today's appalling display against an Arsenal side who simply wanted it a lot more than we did.
I suppose we did OK for about two minutes and Seamus Coleman almost got us ahead straight away when an early Leighton Baines corner, which was rubbish, somehow found it's way to Coleman at the near post who had to snatch at it quickly and could only prod the ball onto the outside of the post and away. Less than a minute later Danny Welbeck hinted at the problems he was to cause us throughout the half when he managed to wriggle himself into the penalty area and also struck the outside of the post.
This was sadly all we saw from Everton. Arsenal on the other hand really seized the initiative, Arsene Wenger getting his tactics absolutely spot on, especially in the first half. He knew Martinez will have wanted to play it out from the back, so he just didn't let us, instead putting three forwards on the pitch and pushing up and suffocating our half. We didn't have a clue what to do and it was no shock when a rampant Arsenal scored when Danny Welbeck was played in, bat the offside, rounded Joel Robles and slotted in. Arsenal ahead early on and thoroughly deserved.
With only seven minute on the clock you hoped a fightback would be on the cards but this just didn't happen. We really couldn't string a couple of passes together and just couldn't get out of our own half. A bit of pragmatism from Roberto Martinez would have helped, as on the few occasions in the first half that we did manage to penetrate the Arsenal half, we didn't do too bad. We surely should have gone more direct, even if temporarily but this is crazy talk for Martinez, and Wenger knew this, his team playing their game plan to perfection. Ours? Totally lost at sea, and we were punished on the counter attack by Alex Iwobi who slotted through the legs of the hesitant Joel Robles to put Arsenal two goals ahead just before the break.
The chat at half time was, as you would expect, all about who should be changed. At 0-2 down we had to go for it and felt the introduction of Niasse would be a bit of a no brainer and that a bit of Gerard Deulofeu magic might just unpick Arsenal. We were therefore staggered, flummoxed and disappointed to see John Stones on for Muhammed Besic as the only substitution at the break. Yes, that's right, 0-2 down so we bring off a midfielder and put on another defender. I guess the purpose of this was to stretch Arsenal more and get forward with the full back. This worked in that they got forward, but it meant that in doing so only an isolated Romelu Lukaku remained in the penalty area whilst Arsenal, with job done at one end, packed their team with defenders to nullify our attack.
The game ticked on and we were crying out, literally crying out, for a striker to come on (we had two of them on the bench) but neither of them were even instructed to do as much as warm up. When Martinez did eventually make his magic 70th minute substitution he brought on Gerard Deulofeu for Ross Barkley. I genuinely haven't a clue what system we were playing in that final 20 minutes and I'm not sure the players did either. Martinez didn't even bother using his third substitution. I just give up. I wish he would too.
Shuffling away at full time Ste and I bemoaned yet another home defeat. Goodison Park has been a fortress time and again over the years and to win only four at Goodison Park this season, with an abysmal EIGHT defeats is just woeful, especially with the players we have.
You assume that Farhad Moshiri won't allow another season like this next term.
Robles: Seemed a bit hesitant with the second goal and I can't even imagine the flak Tim Howard would have gotten for conceding them goals. Occasionally he distributed well but otherwise it was poor. He really isn't convincing me at all. 5
Baines: One of few players to really leave the field with any credit. Kept going and was full of effort. 7
Jagielka: Struggled with the pace and strength of Wellbeck and couldn't do anything to influence the game in the second half. 5
Funes Mori: Made a few good tackles but his distribution was awful at times. 5
Coleman: My man of the match. Along with Leighton Baines and perhaps Aaron Lennon, he was one of few that didn't deserve to be on the losing team today. 8
Besic: Really poor, didn't contribute and was hauled off at half time. 4
McCarthy: With Gareth Barry suspended more responsibility was required from McCarthy though we didn't get it. He ran around a lot and tried to make a few tackles but we needed more going forward from him and it didn't happen. 5
Cleverley: Worked quite hard with little end product. 6
Barkley: A bit in and out of the game but really shouldn't have been substituted...not for a winger at least. 6
Lennon: Worked hard second half but couldn't turn the game around. 7
Lukaku: Was so isolated it was ridiculous. 6
Stones: Perhaps the pick of the centre backs as he at least tried to make a positive impact in the second half. 6
Deulofeu: Couldn't work his magic. Difficult when there's nobody in the penalty area mind. 6