Arsenal 4 (Ozil 7, Arteta 68 (pen), Giroud 83, 85) – 1 Everton (Lukaku 34)
Man of the Match - Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Arsenal came one step closer to lifting silverware with a comprehensive win over Everton. Having already knocked sides like Tottenham and Liverpool out of the FA Cup, Everton became the third Premier League side to be drawn to play the Gunners in the FA Cup this season.
Arsene Wenger made a few changes to the squad, with captain Thomas Vermaelen marking his return from injury, which kept him out for 2 months, replacing Laurent Koscielny. Elsewhere, Mathieu Flamini, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came in for Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Lukas Podolski. Yaya Sanogo too got the nod ahead of Olivier Giroud. With Jack Wilshere ruled out for at least 6 weeks in a testing run of games coming up, there was good news in the form of returns for Aaron Ramsey and Kim Kallstrom. They, however, did not feature.
Everton have reached thus far by overcoming Queen’s Park Rangers 4-0 in the 3rd Round, Stevenage by the same margin in the 4th round, and Swansea 3-1 in the 5th round. They made a quick start to the game, with England left-back Leighton Baines causing some confusion in the Arsenal area with his cross.
However, it took Arsenal less than 7 minutes to make movement in the scoreboard. Santi Cazorla escaped the attentions of former Wigan midfielder James McCarthy and played a delightful pass to the beleaguered Mesut Ozil, who finished beautifully despite being under pressure from Everton’s defenders. His celebration showed a palpable sense of relief. His first goal for over 2 months now.
Young Spanish goalkeeper Joel Robles was being given a testing time as Yaya Sanogo and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both saw their efforts being pushed away. Bacary Sagna was lucky to escape the attentions of the referee with a last ditch tackle on South African midfielder Steven Piennar, with replays clearly suggesting the French full back didn’t get the ball.
Kieran Gibbs linked up with Mesut Ozil, but saw his shot being blocked before Per Mertesacker’s attempt was saved. Joel Robles looked nervous with some dodgy moments. Mathieu Flamini got another yellow card, for his challenge on John Stones.
Everton hit back with an equalizer, as Arsenal continued to press for a second goal. After an Arteta shot was blocked, young Ross Barkley charged upfield before sending in a cross met by the falling Kevin Mirallas, before falling into the path of his compatriot Romelu Lukaku who had the easy task of bundling the ball home. Cazorla saw his shot go just wide, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed great determination in winning back a ball he had lost to Lukaku.
Both teams came out in the second half in conservative fashion. After clearing an Ozil free-kick, Everton saw Cazorla volley the ball high above the bar. Everton should have taken the lead on 54 minutes, when Thomas Vermaelen conceded possession to his Belgian teammate Lukaku rather carelessly, but Barkley could only shoot over having been set up by the pacy forward. Sanogo came off for Giroud soon after.
Arsenal won a penalty when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was fouled by Gareth Barry in the box. Mikel Arteta stepped up and scored, but the goal was ruled out after the referee caught Olivier Giroud’s encroachment as Arteta was taking the penalty. He retook it, with the same result. Arsenal were in the lead.
Baines was still looking to cause havoc on Arsenal’s right, but Everton were unable to capitalize on these chances. Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley, both missed. Tomas Rosicky replaced the lively Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with 12 minutes to go, with Arsene Wenger looking for an experienced head in the closing stages.
The Czech played a vital role in Arsenal’s 3rd goal, releasing Bacary Sagna on the right. Sagna looked up to track Giroud’s position, and played a fine ball to the French forward who slotted the ball home from a tight angle. He was again involved as Arsenal emphatically sealed the tie.
Tomas Rosicky made a run on the right, with Everton at a loss of defenders, Ozil and Giroud making advances. Ozil received the pass and set up Giroud to tap home the 4th. There was no turning back for Everton after this.
The scoreline maybe a bit flattering, but not undeserved. Arsenal controlled the game throughout, creating several chances, and taking them with aplomb in the end. Sanogo was a bit aloof, but he is still learning. Most impressive was the performance of Mesut Ozil, who would definitely be feeling rejuvenated after a commanding display on the sunny afternoon. After his finish, there was an air of confidence in his movement and passing. He combined well with Cazorla and this will bode well with a tough run of fixtures.
The Spaniard was lively throughout. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put in another blooded performance, and since his return from injury has been a vital component of the side. Arsene Wenger will be pleased with the return of Thomas Vermaelen. The team was always on a thin line with only 2 fit centre-backs and the return of the captain will allow him to chop and change. Apart from the one mistake against Lukaku, he put in an immense display.
With Wigan upsetting the odds and Manchester City, Arsenal have become the new favorites for the cup. But, after losing to Birmingham in the League Cup Final of 2011, and getting knocked out of Cup competitions by lowly Bradford, Blackburn and Sunderland, nothing can be taken for granted.
Wigan will go all out in their defense of the Cup. Before the Wigan match, Arsenal will face Bayern, Tottenham, Chelsea, Swansea, Manchester City and Everton. And oh, the quarter finals of the Champions League too sandwiched in between after we beat Bayern tomorrow night!
While you are about it, follow Blazing Cannons on twitter. @blazingcannons
And do like, the Facebook page as well.
Go ahead you lazy bum, that’s all I ask of you!