This was our game in hand and a chance for us to increase the gap between us and the other two teams, as well as deal Everton the crushing blow to their dreams of a top four finish. The final result meant that we didn’t quite achieve the target that we wanted. However, let’s not kid ourselves here. On reflection, the result does not mark the end of the world.
First up, it was Everton that we drew against. Not Reading, nor Blackburn and certainly not Bradford. They are challenging for a top four spot for a reason and that reason is simple, David Moyes has a very good team. Neither Manchester City nor Sp*rs have picked up more points against Everton than we have this season. Not to forget that they are on a very good run themselves and is the only team ahead of us in terms of league form, going into yesterday’s match.
That’s not to say I want to give excuses over our performance yesterday. I do realised that it was 2 points dropped, given what went on in the match. The real implications on whether the result will cost us a Champions League spot, will only be known at the end of the season. Even then, one could just as easily look at the defeat at Carrow Road and point that as the reason why we failed to achieve the minimum target.
If we achieve 28 points (that’s 13 from the last 5 matches and 15 from the next 5 matches) come end of the season, I doubt this drawn match would have a significant impact on where we stand in the league table. It would be represent a period of the season where I find it hard to complain, given the result. To put things into perspective, let’s look at champions-elect, Manchester United. Thebest run they have this season is 9W1D. So there.
We did have chances to win the match yesterday. A combination of poor finishing and lack of selfishness meant that we didn’t convert those chances. Olivier Giroud couldn’t get 2 shots on target from very decent positions while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain chose to look for a team mate when the better option would have been to have a go at Tim Howard. Chances were few and far between but in matches as tight as this, we should have taken them because we know there won’t be many second chances.
Everton put up a good fight and set out trying to intimidate us with their physicality. Darron Gibson should have been sent off before the 1st half ended but was showed leniency. All because he was already on a yellow card. Referee, Neil Swarbrick (never heard of him) chickened out on making the correct decision. Immediately proved when Steven Pienaar committed an offence similar to Gibson and was shown a yellow card. No one can say for certain that we would have beaten a 10 men Everton but it would certainly made the job slightly easier.
Aaron Ramsey had another storming game in the middle of the park. Comparatively to the likes of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, he pales in comparison with the skills and techniques they possessed. However, Ramsey doesn’t lose in the valiant department. Big credit goes to him for overcoming the poor form and the boo boys that plagued him in the earlier part of the season.
He has learnt to move the ball quicker and joins in the attack whenever possible, quite an engine he has. He rarely gives possession away and this is proved by statistics. Only 2nd to Mikel Arteta in terms of the pass success percentage. I discounted Per Mertesacker and Ignasi Miquel’s numbers for this point. The former has less variety in his passing (mostly to Arteta or Ramsey in front of him) and the latter because he only played one match.
The two returnees in Wilshere and Theo Walcott, didn’t have the best of games in consecutive matches. That shows how important it is to have consistent games and Ramsey is the perfect example to illuminate that fact. Any player missing a couple of matches will have problems finding their pace and rhythm again. Some comes immediately, while others take longer to reach back to that level.
Yes, our good run has hit a bump but we can still continue on the right track, should we beat Fulham this weekend. Let’s hope that we find our shooting boots for that one.