Arsenal 0-0 Everton: Reader's Digest Version

Admittedly, this match didn't have my entire attention - I was working from home today, so watched it off-and-on around conference calls and so on. What I did see though was a hard-fought match where neither side managed to carve out enough serious chances to lay a serious claim to all three points.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. This was always the second-trickiest fixture that we had left on paper, and I have a hard time believing that a point and a clean sheet is a bad return considering the circumstances.

Arsene played largely the same team as in the Norwich match, except with Per Mertesacker and Wojceich Szczesny returning from suspension and poor-form purgatory respectively. Much like the tilt against the Canaries, the Gunners were slow coming out of the blocks. Unlike that match, they were facing a determined opponent in decent form.

Everton's physicality seemed to shock our guys, and that lack of rhythm showed. Kevin Mirallas had an early chance go begging with a poor touch, and Steven Pienaar blazed over the bar when it was probably easier to score. The one man in blue who caught the eye though was young Ross Barkley, who was in the lineup due to an injury to Leon Osman. If today's game was any evidence, Osman may have a fight on his hands for his place.

Arsenal recovered from that early surge to contest the rest of the half on more even terms, though the midfield struggled to fashion chances. Gibbs was the closest to scoring, but let's just say Tim Howard wasn't overly threatened in the Everton goal.

How differently would this match have ended though if referee Neil Swarbick didn't completely bottle a clear second-yellow call towards the end of the first half? Darron Gibson had been booked earlier on, and his cynical, professional foul on Theo Walcott was a red card all day. Disgraceful officiating.

The visitors had arguably their best chance soon after. A glorious through-ball from Barkley played in Victor Anichebe, but a brilliant recovering tackle from Kieran Gibbs caused the ball to bobble off of Mertesacker, off of Szczesny, and from there was corralled by the Polish stopper. That so easily could have bounced back to the striker on another day, though I chalk that up to instant karma for the non-call on Gibson.

Arsenal would have the last word in the half though, though unfortunately that word would be "DAMMIT, Giroud!". No question about it, Olivier Giroud is in woeful form at the moment. The excellent Aaron Ramsey tore down the right and crossed it in. Howard was nowhere, but Giroud failed to simply toe-poke it in, instead directing it well wide. That should have been 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Seconds later, Cazorla was in alone after a devastating feint around several blue-clad defenders. Phil Jagielka bravely slid in to block, though.

Everton's impetus had bled away by that point, and the second half was largely dominated by the Arsenal. Cazorla had an early effort swatted away by Howard, and later Giroud almost got on the end of a low cross. Barkley again refused to be outshone though, and his fantastic curling effort flashed just wide of Szczesny's post.

That was enough for Arsene, who dipped into his subs bench immediately afterwards. Jack Wilshere and Walcott made way for Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The subs had an immediate impact, as we looked far more dangerous after the changes for the second match running.

Oxlade-Chamberlain didn't take too long to make his presence known, as he burst into the area thanks to a killer ball from Cazorla. He had a clear shot on goal, but maddeningly he opted for the pass to Giroud. The Everton defense easily cleared it, leaving us to wonder what would have happened if the Ox had tested a goalkeeper who hadn't seen that much action.

The visitors were reeling a bit now, and Giroud again could have made them pay a minute later. He was in alone on Howard, and while the angle was a little tough, he could have done a lot better than skying one miles over the bar.

Everton managed to get their bearings back though, and broke up our momentum with substitutions and some timely defensive interventions. Despite five minutes of injury time, Arsenal couldn't come up with one last chance to make Howard work in the opposing goal.

I think we can all agree that this is somewhat of an opportunity lost, considering the poor finishing on display. However, there are positives here - the defense looked sharp, Szczesny looked OK in goal despite not being tested that often, and we fashioned chances against a very good side who had everything to play for.  If we keep playing like this, the points will come. I promise.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Gibbs 7 (Monreal N/A), Koscielny 7, Mertesacker 7, Sagna 7, Arteta 7, Wilshere 7 (Podolski 7), Ramsey 8, Cazorla 8, Walcott 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 7), Giroud 5

 Man of the Match: While Ross Barkley was arguably the best player on the pitch, I'm sure as hell not giving the award to the enemy. Among the good guys, Aaron Ramsey had a great game but was slightly eclipsed by another virtuoso Santi Cazorla performance.