Arsenal 2 (Giroud 39, Rosicky 89) – Everton 0
Man of the Match – David Ospina (Arsenal)
Following the shenanigans of the 3-1 capitulation at home to supposedly the weakest left in the top tier of European football competition, Arsenal faced the prospect of a tricky home tie to Everton. Now, Everton have had a poor season by their standards so far. A side, which in recent years that has been around the fringes of challenging for a top 4 position, languishes in 12th position in the table, with just 28 points picked up from 26 games.
European football next season may be a far flung dream, but most of it has been down due to the erratic form of the Toffees. Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku who powered home 15 league goals last season was bought in for a whopping club record fee of £28 million, but he has only 7 goals to his name this season. However, Everton haven’t been an easy team to beat ever.
Arsene Wenger decided to drop/rest Per Mertesacker and gave Gabriel Paulista his first league start, while Olivier Giroud kept his place in attack, despite a horrendous display against Monaco. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored the goal that still leaves us with some slight embers of hope in Europe came in for Danny Welbeck. Theo Walcott got the start too, and Andre Mariner, the same referee who took charge of Arsenal’s 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea last season had the prospect of manning a side that had Gibbs, Walcott and Chamberlain!
The opening 10 minutes were slow and nervy, with Arsenal looking to bounce back from the 3-1 loss, and Everton struggling with mediocre form. A Santi Cazorla corner was too high for everyone in the penalty box. Sanchez received it, beat a defender and crossed, but the cross too was high. Everton saw more of the ball in the opening exchanges, as Arsenal’s midfield lacked the composure required.
Everton had packed their midfield with Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Bosnian youngster Muhamed Besic. Everton had a great chance to go ahead, when a nervous piece of defending allowed Romelu Lukaku to have a go at goal. David Ospina, though, was equal to the big Belgian as he blocked his run and then produced a fine tackle outside the penalty area to clear a dangerous situation.
The Gunners were looking nervous overall, and Gabriel, probably anxious to make a good impression made a couple of basic errors. Arsenal’s first real chance of the game, when an Alexis Sanchez ball into the area saw Giroud diving in to head it home, but it went just wide. It was a brave attempt considering he almost been struck by a boot from Phil Jagielka.
Bright English midfielder Ross Barkley was then stopped in his tracks by a great Koscielny tackle, even though he should have gotten a yellow card as he was the last man. The game started to open up more, as Cazorla released Bellerin in the box, but the Spaniard’s shot was blocked by some committed Everton defending. Everton responded with a counter, and Kocielny contrived to make a costly error when he mistimed a tackle on Lukaku, which gave the Belgian another chance at goal. It required a timely challenge from Gabriel to stop him in his tracks.
There was relief around the stadium 3 minutes later, as Giroud scraped a Cazorla corner with his shin into the goal. It put us ahead just before the half time whistle. 1-0 Arsenal. Arsenal’s confidence seemed to grow, as a Cazorla shot had to be tipped over by American international goalkeeper Tim Howard. From the resulting corner, some clumsy defending by Besic almost resulted in an own goal, but Howard was alert. Arsenal went into the break with the narrow lead.
Olivier Giroud picked up a yellow card early in the second half, and from the resulting effort, Ospina had to be assured and alert to palm away a dangerous cross. Everton seemed determined to get the equalizing goal, as there were a series of corners, which Arsenal managed to clear somehow. On the other end, a rare foray saw Giroud and Jagielka hustle for the ball with their body strength, which the Frenchman won, but his shot was blocked, with what seemed to be a handball.
The game slowed down a bit, and became sluggish as it became a midfield battle with both teams squirming out in midfield. Bellerin got some rare space on the right hand side, but his touch deserted him, as he lost control of the ball, and it went out for a goalkick. Giroud and Cazorla then combined well, and the Spanish international’s shot from the edge of the box went way over.
Arsenal seemed to be looking for the perfect goal again when they constructed a fine passing move, but the final pass had too much weight, and Everton managed to clear the danger again. Ospina had to be alert in the 64th minute, when Lukaku got ahead of Gabriel and his powerful volley towards goal was saved from short range.
There was a pause in the game when Giroud and Coquelin accidentally quashed their heads against each other, with Coquelin bleeding from his nose. Former Sp*rs winger Aaron Lennon, who had come on for the ineffective Kevin Mirallas then tested Ospina, who had to hold on to the ball, with Lukaku lurking nearby. Gabriel seemed composed by now, and a sliding tackle on Ross Barkley helped clear some danger.
Laurent Koscielny then picked up a yellow card for a bad foul on Aaron Lennon. The heat combined with the players’ fatigue lead to both sides committing several mistakes. This meant more chances, and Arsenal had a great one, when Alexis won the ball in midfield, leading to a 3vs2 situation, but Mesut Ozil took too long to react and Everton averted the danger.
Tomas Rosicky was the first substitute on when he replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 80th minute. Ospina provided another brave moment when he had to come out and produce a punch in a crowd of players, thereby taking a hit on the ribs. Then, Sanchez came off for Welbeck and the bleeding Coquelin came off for Callum Chambers, as Arsenal looked to close down on the win.
And close down they did, as a Giroud header into the path of Ozil on the left flank, allowed the German to play a perfect pass to Czech Rosicky who had approached the edge of the box. His piledriver deflected off Jagielka and ended up into the back of Howard’s net. Arsenal could have had more, when Bellerin’s cross was met by a Giroud header, but it went just wide.
Arsenal kept the pressure on Everton in an additional time, that lasted 7 minutes. Cazorla dribbled his way into a crowd of Everton defenders but failed to capitalize, and another Rosicky shot saw Howard parry it away. Arsenal eventually saw off the 2-0 win. A vital win, that moves us into 3rd, 4 points behind Manchester City, and 1 ahead of Manchester United. Also, a much needed morale booster after the 3-1 loss to Monaco.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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