Arsenal Bounce Back Against Everton in Gritty Fashion


Arsenal welcomed Everton to the Emirates on Sunday reeling from a tough European defeat midweek and really needing a response.  A couple interesting things about he staring team before the match though.  Per Mertesacker, who had a pretty horrid night on Wednesday was dropped in favor of the new Brazilian, Gabriel.  

Contrastingly, Olivier Giroud who had maybe his worst performance in an Arsenal shirt to date on Wednesday was kept in the side.  I think the boss had a big decision to make in regards to Giroud.  He seems to be a fairly emotional striker so dropping him may have been a big blow to the confidence of a man who has been in great form overall and knows how badly he played midweek.

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The match was a relatively drab affair in and the first real moment of danger didn’t come until the 17th minute.  On this occasion Gabriel lazily closed down on a long Everton clearance which was over his head and Romelu Lukaku saw his chance to pounce.  

Coming from behind the Belgian stole the ball from Gabriel’s feet and went forward.  Ospina though could see this disaster unfolding.  He got just enough of the ball with his hand to push it out of the box, but not far enough from Lukaku. Luckily though The Colombian finished his move and made a sliding clearance to put the ball out of bounds, and indeed out of danger.

The day as a whole saw the Arsenal side sitting much deeper than you might normally expect them to.  This was surely a result of the embarrassing defeat against Monaco midweek, but it did nothing to entertain as they frustrated the Merseyside visitors and also limited their effectiveness going forward.  

“We were highly focused on our defensive performance today because we were a bit easy on that front on Wednesday night.”- Arsene Wenger

The next chance didnt come until the 27th with Giroud missing a free header from a great Alexis cross.  At this point you really began to wonder if giving the handsome french bloke the start was the right call.

It was Lukaku again in the 37th who may have scored had it not been for some brave defending.  Lukaku gathered the ball near midfield and dribbled through the Arsenal defense and into the penalty area. Right as Lukaku was about to pull the trigger on the shot, Gabriel came in with a brilliant sliding tackle to send the ball out for a corner.

Just two minutes later the homeside would break the deadlock with a Giroud goal from a corner.  

An in-swinging corner from Mesut Ozil dropped to the feet of Giroud, who slotted it home at the far post, with his momentum going the other direction and also using his weaker right foot.  It was a good bit of skill from Olivier and definitely good to see him back on the scoresheet.  Hopefully his confidence can get back to where it has been the past couple of months.

Cazorla came close near the end of the half with a shot that needed a clever touch from the American keeper Tim Howard, but the Toffees held the deficit to only 1 goal against a somewhat resurgent Arsenal attack as the match went into half time.

I’ll call the second half even more drab than the first, by that I mean that Everton saw most of the ball and we didn’t have much possession with real purpose.  It never really felt like Everton would get their goal, but it was no where near comfortable either.  The waves of Everton chances started just one minute after the break from a free kick outside the box.

Arsenal FC
Arsenal FC /

Arsenal FC

The free kick initially looked rather tame, but it must have somehow caught Ospina off guard.  It hit the Colombian shot-stopper right in the hands, but he failed to hold on to the ball.  It was eventually careened out of bounds, but it was a real moment of danger.

The back and forth continued in the 53rd when Giroud had another shot cleared away by a Phil Jagielka forearm sliding clearance by Phil Jagielka.  On the replays it was a clear hand ball. One which I thought had unquestionable intent, but the ref didn’t have a good angle and a good bit of acting by the England international saw the appeals dismissed.

Lukaku and Aaron Lennon both had decent shots saved by Ospina in the 66th and 72nd respectively, but the next real moment of interest was not until the 89th when Arsenal put the nail in match’s coffin thanks to a goal from Tomas Rosicky.

Ozil picked out the energetic Czech about 25 yards out, who let it rip.  The shot took a pretty nasty deflection off of an Everton defender, but the important thing is that it ended up in the back of the net.

I seriously love watching Tomas score.  The look of pure joy and the inevitable “rock on” gesture that followed brightened my day. Give the guy an extension please.

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As a whole the Arsenal side left a little to be desired yet again.  Although we managed to grind out the three points.  If we can keep this league run alive we might just get that 2nd place trophy.  

After all we are only 4 points behind the citizens now.

“It keeps us on a good run in the Premier League, It will be very intense and it will be very tight at the end but we know that and that’s why to have that type of focus we had today is very important.”- Arsene Wenger

In addition Gabriel (with the one early exception), looked pretty superb on the day.  It’s looking more and more like we got a really solid defender in the January window.  The only person who might not be thrilled about this is our very own BFG, Per Mertesacker.  

While I’m not saying he’s been permanently dropped or even that he should be, its just one of those things which I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision about.  One thing is for sure though, no matter what certain English tabloids would have you believe, the chances of any of our three first choice center backs leaving this summer are about as likely and Sp*rs winning any silverware.  Bazing!  Until Wednesday…..   (#COYG)

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Next: Gabriel Now First Choice?