ARSENAL 2 – 2 EVERTON: POINT RESCUED IN THE SNOW
Arsenal came from behind twice to rescue a point against Everton at a snowy Emirates Stadium.
With Britain ground to a halt by a couple of days of snow, Arsenal’s match against Everton was the only surviving Premier League match to kick-off at 3pm. I delayed leaving to get the train until i was certain the game would go ahead and not be called off at the last minute, as it was for Wednesdays tie against Bolton. My mate and i arrived at the ground just after 2,pm although it was cold, no signs of snow yet. But we didn’t have to wait long, just as the game kicked off the snow started to fall.
Everton started brightly, they clearly had a point to prove following their humiliating 6-1 home defeat to Arsenal on the opening weekend. They were first to every ball, won every 50-50 and generally looked far more interested. The first chance fell to Saha when he broke the offside trap but he blazed over from the edge of the area on his weaker right foot. It didn’t take long before Everton had another chance after the sloppy Denilson gave away possession on the edge of the area resulting in an Everton a corner. We all know that corners are like penalty’s for teams playing Arsenal. Sure enough debutant Donovan swung in the corner which was met by the on-rushing 5ft 8in Osman to head home from 8 yards unchallenged. Dreadful defending against a side who are always dangerous from set-pieces. Makes you wonder if Arsene even discusses such things in training?!
The goal woke Arsenal up, we saw more of the ball but were doing very little with it. The front three of Arshavin, Eduardo and Nasri were quiet, only Nasri looked like he was interested. Diaby was not really in the game, and Ramsey looked of the pace but Denilson was dreadful, continuely misplacing passes and getting shoved off the ball. Just after the half hour mark Arsenal were level in fortunate circumstances. Arshavin’s neat footwork saw him feed the ball to Eduardo who laid off to Denilson 25 yards out, his tame effort hit an Osman’s leg and deflected past the wrong-footed Howard for 1-1. Lucky goal and lucky to be level. Almunia nearly presented Everton with a golden chance to score a second when he came for, and completely missed, a cross but Gallas was on hand to clear Cahill’s goal-bound header. How long is Wenger going to continue with him?! Its very rare a team wins anything without a class keeper, and Almunia is far from class.
The rest of the first half passed without much going on, Arsenal dominating possession but Everton looking dangerous on the break. So at half time Arsenal were fortunate to be level. Everton were the better side, working harder and surprisingly passed the ball better, Arsenal just hadn’t turned up yet.
The second half started and it looked like Arsenal had come out with intent, knowing this was a great opportunity to close the gap on Chelsea. Arshavin was now operating from the left wing, with Eduardo playing through the middle and both players looked more comfortable. Ramsey had been switched out to the right with Nasri coming into the middle of midfield. We were looking more balanced and were passing the ball better but yet to really test Howard.
As the half passed the snow was getting heavier and starting to settle on the pitch. It had become blizzard conditions and must have been extremely difficult to play in, at least the players were running around to keep warm. Sitting in the stands was painfully cold and with little on the pitch to get you out your seat there was no signs of warming up anytime soon.
Rosicky and Vela came on for Ramsey and Eduardo. A couple of decent crosses just missed the outstretched legs of Arshavin and Eduardo, and Arshavin burst to life with a typical run down the left but his shot was blocked out for a corner. With Arsenal camped in Everton’s half in search of the winning goal Everton hit them on the break in devastating fashion, a break that the Arsenal fans were used to seeing during the early 2000’s. A sloppy pass by Rosicky on the edge of Everton’s area left Arsenal exposed at the back. Cahill, under pressure from Arsenal’s two remaining defenders, passed into acres of space for Pienaar to run into and he found himself one-on-one with Almunia. Everybody around me was screaming for Almunia to come out and put the Everton man under pressure but he froze leaving him in no-mans land, he then made Pienaar’s decision for him by going down early and the South African finished with a Carlos Vela Esq lob, a superb finish and a superb break away. I’d back Fabianski to have at least put some pressure on Pienaar and come out early to force a decision. Almunia has to go.
Now we had a game! With 10 minutes plus stoppage time remaining Arsenal had to find a way back and start creating some chances. I told my mate to do a snow dance and hopefully the game would have to be abandoned! But that was doubtful as there was only 10 minutes left and the snow was easing off. Straight from the kick off Everton nearly made it 3-1 under controversial circumstances. Densilson had possession of the ball in midfield and with nobody near him mysteriously collapsed like he’d been shot. Cahill ceased on the opportunity and sent a pass through the static Arsenal defense, who like the rest of us in the ground were expecting to hear the whistle, and Vaughan was in but this time he shot straight at Almunia who made a smart block. As soon as the chance had passed, the referee decided to blow up to see what was wrong with Denilson. Astonishing decision by the ref, a player collapses whilst in possession and under no pressure…what did he think…that he was diving or faking it?!!? Needless to say Denilson was carried off on a stretcher and replaced by Merida, he will be assessed tomorrow to see what the damage is.
The injury meant that there was 5 minutes of stoppage time, the minimum in my opinion, 6 would have been fair, 8 if we were at Old Trafford. Arsenal were throwing everything at Everton and grabbed the equalizer on 92mins. Diaby drove in from the right, skipping passed a couple of challanges and just when the crowd were screaming ‘SHOOOOOT’ he laid it off to Rosicky who made up for his earlier mistake by slotting home with the outside of his right foot via another deflection. We went mental, not just because it was important not to lose, but i genuinely thought we could win this with 3 minutes to go. We nearly did when Arshavin ran in behind the Everton defense in the last minute, Gallas and Vela were supporting him but Arshavin’s cut back was blocked and the chance had gone.
So the game finished 2-2, a very entertaining draw on a freezing cold day in London. Arsenal created little and were lucky with both goals. David Moyes got his tactics spot on, his team were well organised, fought for every ball and hit Arsenal on the break. If this performance doesn’t show Arsene the need for a striker i don’t know what will. In my opinion, to win the league, we also need a new keeper or give Fabianski a chance. We wont win it with Almunia in goal, that’s for sure. A back up for Song is also required, Denilson just isn’t strong enough for the job, and lets be honest, we don’t have anyone else in the squad who can play the role! Diaby? Nope…to attack minded and doesn’t have the positional discipline. Ramsey? Same as Diaby. Nasri? Possibly my preferred choice, at least he puts it about, but still likes to go forward too much. So i suppose Arsene will now promote Eastmond for the trip to Bolton now that Denilson is injured? Cant wait for that one, he cant do a worse job than Denilson did today that’s for sure!
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