Everton 1-2 Arsenal - Match Report

If you are an Arsenal supporter - and I imagine you are if you're here - this day could hardly have worked out any better. On our front, the Gunners grabbed all three points in a fairly difficult venue, while our nearest and dearest contrived to concede three at home to Sunderland. As it stands, we are now just two points behind the leaders. Hear those footsteps, lads?

Everton are a tough out though (last season's 1-6 hammering of them on their home field aside), and they started the brighter. The Gunners were pinned back in their own end for much of the first 15-20 minutes, but we still had the best chance during that time. A brilliant individual run by Samir Nasri took him around several defenders, but Sylvain Distin stayed with him and made an excellent block at the last.

The blue scousers came right back though, and Tim Cahill arguably should have put the home side ahead. An Arsenal corner came to nothing, and the fantastic Seamus Coleman took full advantage on the counter. That kid has a motor on him, and his blazing run left Gael Clichy for dead. He looped a perfect cross to the back post, but Cahill's header was uncharacteristically high and wide. That was a let-off, no doubt about it.

After Everton blew that chance, the men in yellow started to find their rhythm and get themselves into the game. Another opportunity was left begging, as Phil Jagielka had to make a last-ditch block to prevent a chance from Jack Wilshere after a series of incisive passes. The theme of desperation continued as Everton started to foul anything with a pulse, the worst culprit being John Heitinga. Roughly 2.7 seconds after getting a final warning from referee Howard Webb, he committed another brain-dead foul to force Webb's hand into a booking. Honestly, he was a red card waiting to happen the longer the half went on, and he can have no complaints about being replaced at halftime for Jack Rodwell.

Finally, Arsenal made the breakthrough in the 36th minute. Tim Howard made a solid save to deny Nasri's drive from outside the penalty area. The Everton keeper was back up on his feet in the time it took Andrei Arshavin to collect the rebound and pass it back, but could do nothing about Bacary Sagna's rocket into the top corner. Incidentally, Howard had done an interview before the match with the quote: "90% of goalkeeping analysis is rubbish." He's not wrong, you know...and even though he'll probably be slaughtered by the press tomorrow for conceding at his near post, it was right in the upper 90 at tremendous pace. I don't care who you are, you're not saving it. So, let's give the plaudits to Sagna for a peach of a goal, and move on.

It looked like the Gunners would play out the half with the same level of control that they had exhibited in the previous 15 minutes or so. However, a mistake from Lukasz Fabianski almost led to the equalizer. Off an Everton corner, Fabianski misjudged the flight of the ball and weakly flapped at his back post. He missed completely, allowing Louis Saha a free header. Luckily it was Saha and not a competent striker, so it wasn't too surprising to see him smash the ball against the post. It bounced off the back of Lukasz's head and out, but strangely Webb had blown for a goal kick by that point anyway. I couldn't tell if they were saying Saha committed a foul, went offside or if the ball went out. Either way, the Gunners escaped to the dressing room with a one-goal lead.

During the interval, Wilshere was withdrawn in favor of Denilson. I'm not sure if it was due to injury or some tactical reason, but I was not super-stoked to see the Brazilian at the time. However, it should be said that he had one of his better matches for the club in quite some time...so credit where it's due.

Anyway, Arsenal tore into the hosts with renewed urgency, perhaps being sparked back into life by the lucky escape in first-half injury time. Cesc Fabregas forced another save out of Howard early doors, and it only took one further minute for the Gunners to extend the lead. With Alex Song marauding further up the pitch, it was left to Denilson to stay in the holding role. From an attack he broke up, he initiated a quick counter. He helped it on to the captain, who then left Jagielka in his wake with some fine skill. He played a one-two with Marouane Chamakh, the Moroccan's return ball leaving Cesc with all the time in the world to slot home past the helpeless Howard. 2-0 to the Arsenal, and it all looked easy from there.

Oh, who am I kidding? This is Arsenal, and they rarely take the easy way of, you know, killing off games and stuff. Immediately after the goal, the corpse of Everton re-animated enough for them to attack again. Cahill's through-ball to Saha had Sebastien Squillaci beat, so the defender took his French compatriot down from behind. There are some in the post-mortems that say that Clichy was close to the play, but in real time I thought Squillaci was the last man and had to go. For once, the Howard Webb Roulette Wheel spun in our favor, and he produced a card to match our away shirts instead of the home strip.

Seconds later, Cesc was guilty of a foul that has been ridiculously overblown, even compared to his admittedly-bad one from last week. This was nothing of the sort, and the fact that utter cunts like today's Guardian minute-by-minute dweeb (Jacob Steinberg, who is an end-of-the-bench guy there as far as I can tell...with fucking good reason) can make a moral equivalence between this and a Karl Henry special is mind-boggling to me. The prick even made a "not that sort of player" crack, which I wonder if he would do were it John Terry or Gareth Bale who made that challenge. Die in a fire, you fuck.

That aside, this should have been over as a contest in the 61st minute. A fine pass from Denilson sent Nasri in behind the Everton defense, but Howard came out to bravely block at his feet. Next, Arshavin's killer ball found a completely unmarked Chamakh - a simple side-foot would have been enough to deposit the ball into the unguarded net. Instead, he managed to Chris Iwelumo it over the bar...an astonishing, astonishing miss.

To the credit of David Moyes, caution was abandoned in favor of a balls-to-the-wall 3-4-3 formation. Phil Neville and the ephemeral Mikel Arteta were removed in favor of Aiegbeni Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford. It was valiant from the Scot, but it should have resulted in Arsenal pressing on the counter-attack to take advantage of the gaps left on the flanks. Instead, the men in yellow decided that 2-0 was safe enough to try and just play out time. It's beyond frustrating to begin with, but doubly so against a side that mugged United at the death to snatch a draw a few short weeks ago.

Needless to say, the men in blue began to find some openings. The resurgent Beckford powered a volley towards the top corner of Fabianski's net, but the Pole was more than equal to it. he also brilliantly parried a drive from Saha. However, in the 89th minute, he couldn't keep out Cahill's hooking volley off a corner. That's not to say that he had much of a chance at it...once again, our defense went to sleep at a vital time in a match.

That set the stage for a nervy finish, and Everton in fairness played their part. They swarmed forward with one sortie after another, dealt with to varying degrees of success by the Arsenal backline. The boss took off Chamakh for Emmanuel Eboue, so the bunker was well and truly built. With four minutes of injury time, things got a bit nerve-wracking...but the defenders endured and the points were won.

At the end of the day, there's two ways to look at this. On one hand, this was a great result against a side that had gone 7 unbeaten. On the other, complacency crept into the team's game for the umpteenth time, and there is an argument that the only things between Everton and a draw at minimum were Fabianski's brilliance and Webb's bizarre decisions. It is indicative of just how up in the air this season is where we can lose to West Brom, Sunderland and Newcastle and still be in 2nd place, just 2 points behind the blue fucks.

Like I've said before, this title is there if the team wants it. I think I speak for us all when I say that all we're looking for is a little more killer instinct.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Fabianski 8, Clichy 6, Squillaci 5, Djourou 7, Sagna 7, Wilshere 6 (Denilson 7), Song 6, Fabregas 8 (MOTM), Nasri 8, Chamakh 6 (Eboue N/A), Arshavin 7 (Rosicky 6)