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Everton 2-2 Arsenal | Everton have had the edge against the North Londoners in recent times, with their last meeting at Goodison ending in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Toffees. Martinez and co. looked for an encore, but Arsene Wenger and his team showed a new resolve to claw back from 2 down, and rescue a point.
Everton started off very brightly, earning a 2 goal lead in the first half, with some great attacking play, and stout defending to keep the Arsenal passing carousel far far away from goal. A smartly worked set piece, and a lightning counter attack led by Nacho Monreal’s nightmare, Romelu Lukaku, saw them get the lead they so desired. On most occasions, Everton are good enough to see this lead off, and keep the 3 points, and Arsenal struggle to fight back against the sides around them in the table. However, an intelligent change at half time saw Giroud come on and turn the game around for the Gunners, as they pushed Everton back throughout the half to score twice at the end of the game.
Everton: Howard; Coleman; Jagielka; Distin; Baines; McCarthy; Barry; Mirallas (Atsu, 85); Naismith; Pienaar (Osman, 10); Lukaku (McGeady, 76).
Arsenal: Sczcesny; Debuchy; Chambers; Mertesacker; Monreal; Flamini; Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Joel Campbell, 74); Wilshere (Cazorla, 74); Ozil; Alexis (Giroud, 45).
Goals: Coleman (19′), Naismith (45′) // Ramsey (83′), Giroud (90′)
There are many possible interpretations as to what Arsenal’s formation was, especially with the variety of movement that Jack Wilshere displayed. However, what was important was that they were looking to minimise the influence that Barry and McCarthy had on the game. The midfield 5 successfully lined up across the middle of the pitch, making it very difficult for Everton to play the ball on the ground and through the middle of the park. Of course, this meant that Everton had to switch to a direct style of play, and play it above the Arsenal midfield.
Another technique they used very well, especially in the first half, was breaking up the Arsenal midfield. While the Gunners tried hard to keep Barry and McCarthy quiet, the duo was able to influence the game. Both of them worked hard, and got into good positions on the ball. Barry in particular was excellent, dropping deep to draw out Arsenal midfielders and getting forward into gaps left behind by them to play the ball.
The Everton backline played a large number of passes to each other, just to disrupt the formation in which the Gunners had lined up. The top 4 passing combinations for Everton involved members of their back 4, and their keeper, Tim Howard. Of course, Everton were able to create chances, but the real domination came from Arsenal. Having more men in midfield will always allow you to control the area, and despite the fact that they got attempts at goal, Everton were at the mercy of Arsenal for large parts. The only reason Arsenal really struggled to break through in the first half was the lack of a real presence in the box. Alexis ran hard, and linked play with the midfield really well, but couldn’t make much headway with Everton sitting deep, and holding their positions.
Everton are a team to admire, not only for their results, but for the fact that they can be quite effective playing a number of different styles of football. While their passing game is quite renowned, especially under Martinez, they have a direct style as well, that can be quite damaging, as Arsenal found out in the first half. They played 47 long passes over the course of the game, and most of them were directed into the channels where willing and able runners like Mirallas and Lukaku were positioned. Arsenal’s roving full backs were targeted with this ploy, and it worked very well, with a long pass to Lukaku on the right side setting up Everton’s second goal. Morover, with Arsenal putting a number of bodies in midfield, it became almost necessary for Everton to go direct, as playing out from the back got tougher.
On the occasions that they did attempt to play it out from the back, Arsenal’s midfield and Sanchez pressed hard, forcing Everton players to drop deeper to help out, and leaving them without a real link to the front man. This, again, made it hard to find potency in attack, meaning it was best for Martinez to exploit the strengths of Lukaku to set his side up for success.
In the first half, Arsenal enjoyed possession, and their attack was quite impressive. Possession and completion percentages only told half the story, as the new boy Alexis linked up well with the horde of talented and technically gifted midfielders Arsene Wenger had put out. The slick passing and one-twos were very pleasing in an aesthetic sense, but essentially, it didn’t affect Everton, as they were quite happy to maintain their defensive shape, and let Arsenal keep knocking at the door. Prior to half time, the Gunners had 5 shots, with none of them on target. They needed to attempt 246 passes just for these 5 ineffective shots. In the second half though, Arsenal had 8 shots, of which 2 ended up in the back of the net. The increase in the number of passes was relatively marginal, with Arsenal attempting 272 in the second half. So what changed so drastically? How did Arsenal suddenly become so efficient in the final third? The answer is probably a much maligned name; Olivier Giroud.
While Arsenal lacked a presence in the box in the first half, allowing Everton to defend their area comfortably, the introduction of Giroud saw all this change. Balls were played into the box, and Giroud proved his mettle. While the sheer numbers at the back made it difficult for players like Ozil to find that killer pass, Arsenal were now willing to get the ball wide and cross it in. Indeed, both their goals came from crosses. There were a number of attempted crosses as well before the goal, and even Giroud’s first touch almost resulted in a goal. Full credit to both Giroud and the man who brought him on, Arsene Wenger, for making the change that saw them secure a point from a very difficult position.
Generally, 1 goal in 20 crosses can be looked at as a good conversion ratio, but Arsenal did really well, scoring 2 goals in their 23 attempts. The generally solid combination of Distin and Jagielka might have done better dealing with some of the bombardment, but even the full backs need to shoulder some of the blame for allowing Arsenal such easy access to crossing positions.
For the Toffees, this must have been very frustrating. After throwing a lead away last week, they’ve gone and done the same this week too. They looked good for large periods of the game, but failed to close it out, and have paid for it. Martinez will want to work with his team, and sort it out in style against the juggernaut from Stamford Bridge next week.
For Arsenal this was a great result. Most teams will be happy with a point at Goodison, and Arsenal achieved it in a very satisfying manner. After their well documented struggles against some of the top sides last season, they’ve shown some grit and character to bounce back after half time, and this, complemented by some intelligent use of his options from Wenger will really encourage Arsenal fans to dream.
Written by Vishal Patel