Well, what can you say. With the midweek fixture frozen out, I was eagerly anticipating this game to continue our wonderful momentum in the league. Bizzarely, except for Abou Diaby, no other Arsenal player shared my sentiment. Even worse is that even though Chelsea did not get to play today, they were the biggest benefactor from the weekend’s game. Both their nearest rivals only managed to draw, leaving them the chance to open a little bit of gap at the top.
Everton show more resoluteness and looked more like a side who wants the points more than Arsenal. Barely 5 minutes have passed and we’ve already missed Alex Song. For all of Wenger’s praises leading up to this game, Denilson is not the answer. As a Brazilian, he has a woeful first touch and ball control. Twice he lost the ball at the halfway line which set Everton into dangerous counter attacks. He was very lucky to have scored with a deflected shot and will probably miss a couple more games with a late injury.
The Everton goal left me bemused. If it had been Cahill who is know for his good spring or Fellaini who is amazingly tall or even Heitinga who scored, I could’ve maybe understand the logic. But how on Earth did we let a player the size of Arshavin to win a header direct from a corner is really beyond me. Notwithstanding his height, there was absolutely no one marking Leon Osman who had ample time for a late charge into the box before planting a header into the top corner. A fellow Arsenal fan of mine commented that Almunia could perhaps have done better with the header. It definitely came at the right height and I will have to look at it again, but I’m pretty sure I saw the keeper retract his hands at the last minute.
For the second goal that we conceded, it was just another poor decision making. I know we’re chasing for the win to keep ourselves in the hunt for the league title. And I know that time is running out with barely less than 10 minutes to go in the match. But how could we have left Armand Traore as the sole defender on the halfway line when we had a corner. The players should have known that if the set-piece broke down and Everton countered, we would be absolutely ripped apart. That was exactly what happen once Cahill slipped Pienaar through on goal. Up to that point, it was a team fault and just poor defending. But once Piennar was through, Almunia, like the first goal, maybe could’ve done slightly better. It’s a simple basic principle for keepers. When faced with one on one, try to stay as big as you can and as long as you can, stay on your feet. But Almunia chose to go down early and allowed Pienaar an easy opening to lift the ball over the keeper. After he collided with Traore outside the box, a ball which I thought the French left back had it covered and do not need the keeper to come for it. I think it’s time to give the gloves to Fabianski and let him have a go at it. At this point, it can’t possibly get any worse.
Andrey Arshavin, the so-called other world-class player with Fabregas’ absent, had another poor outing. It is becoming an increasingly boring subject to pick on, but it is too obvious not to point it out. When played centrally, he becomes very static. He doesn’t come deep and collect the ball or pull out wide. Simply put, there was not enough variety in his game as the main striker. Once that happens, it becomes despairingly easy for opposition defenders to cope with him. On a night like this, you would really expect him to step up, what with the surroundings looking like his hometown. Maybe he doesn’t really fancy snow, maybe that’s the reason why he left Russia. Ramsey also had another of his off-day, so we can more or less expect him to shine in the next game.
The second equaliser came in the last minute of normal playing time. Diaby continued his good form into the game as he exchanged passes with Fran Merida and played Rosicky in despite being in a position to shoot. A second deflected shot and we were level once again. No one would fault Diaby if he had taken the shot, his decision to pass the ball showed his growing maturity of the game. Striding forward and breaking from a midfield position remains the best attribute about Diaby, which is why he may not be the solution in the defensive midfield role, should Denilson be out for some time. Although, fair credit to Diaby, he was on hand inside Arsenal’s penalty box to make a clearance before the ball ends up in the shooting path of Everton players.
A point from this game is not half bad, all things considered. It horrendous conditions, the boys showed heart to equalise both times but cracks are appearing in defense. Gallas and Vermaelen were both crocked and needed medical attention very early on in the first half. It’s a precarious situation for Arsenal to be depending on just 2 players in central defense. Wenger will need to do some sorting these few days, but could bring some cheer if a back-up to the defensive is found, sooner rather than later.