If there is a more atrocious refereeing display this season, I want you to tell me so. For this was game where Arsenal not only have to up against a spirited Everton side but also had to contend with the bias calls from referee, Lee Mason. It was like there are 2 separate set of laws when it comes to interpreting what we and Everton did. Despite all that, we kept pace with Manchester United by winning another league game.
This was our 10th game in 30 days and the first half reflects this. We simply found it hard to move out of first gear. Arsene Wenger decided to bring Tomas Rosicky in for the injured Samir Nasri but the replacement was ineffective yesterday. Maybe Everton got their tactics spot on and deny us by keeping it tight in midfield but that is also not helped by our players losing easy possession to the opponent.
Louis Saha has been a clear threat from the early stages. Johan Djourou had a couple of dodgy moments in trying to shield the ball but came out either losing it or making the foul. It was no surprise that Everton scored via Saha. The scorer was to be expected but the manner that it happened wasn’t. Seamus Coleman chipped a ball forward for the offside Saha but the linesman did not flag as there was a touch by Laurent Koscielny. Quite how the officials messed that up and got the decision wrong was unbelievable. Saha finished with aplomb and suddenly we were trailing.
We could have easily gave up the fight but there is something changing in this Arsenal side. They showed spirit and desire to come back. Nothing epitomize that more than the clashes between 4 players and each time it is between players from the same country. Robin Van Persie got into a pushing game with John Heitinga while Cesc Fabregas and Mikel Arteta kicked each other. It was almost as if their cause for the Arsenal goes beyond their own passport.
Mason’s ineptitude continued when he failed to give yellow card to Everton player despite an Arsenal player collecting one for a similar foul just minutes earlier. He compounded that when he decided that there was no foul when Theo Walcott was clearly dragged back in one of our fast counter attacks. Things were conspiring against us and had to dig deep. Alex Song was hurt when trying to stop an Everton attempt and got himself accidentally kicked by Wojciech Szczesny. He did not come out in the second half and was replaced by Abou Diaby.
However, the most crucial substitution took placed after the hour mark. It was refreshing to see Wenger making early changes instead of waiting for his players to come good. Andrey Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner came in for Rosicky and Jack Wilshere respectively and we switched to the 4-4-2 formation. Thankfully for us, it worked.
I think we can all see the signs of change with Arshavin in the last couple of weeks. The workrate is there but things haven’t exactly come off for him. It did come off for him in this game. Fabregas’ chipped pass to him was not dealt with by Jack Rodwell and Arshavin’s finish was as composed as you’ll find. This was in the 70th minute. Equaliser and overall an event which sparked us to life.
We got the winner via a corner. Koscielny found himself free and planted his second headed goal direct from a corner in a week. It was no less than we deserve out of the game. If you want to know how much it meant to the players, then look at the pictures of the celebration. Players were piling themselves on top of Koscielny. Arshavin is in the middle of that pile when normally he would’ve just stood beside and at best, gave them pats on the head. When we look back at the season, I’m very sure that this will be one of the those game that we will take as a major psychological boost.
We had so many things going against us but most importantly, we managed to win. This was doubly important as United and Chelsea also won their respective games yesterday. There will be a lot of tired and bruised legs to be healed before Sunday’s game.