Everton 3 - 0 Arsenal
After a hectic week, Arsenal travelled north to face Everton. The race for fourth was well and truly on, and The Gunners needed to win in order to create some breathing space. Drawing would have sufficed, but losing? Catastrophic.
In typical fashion, Arsenal started the game poorly.
Cazorla and Podolski were avoiding their defensive duties, with the former doing almost nothing creative when in possession.
Everton were closing down well, and attacking with purpose. However, Arsenal were making it far, far too easy for them. Flamini was all over the place, whilst Arteta was simply too slow off the ball.
Baines, Naismith, Coleman and Lukaku were finding it all too easy to get into space. Cazorla and Podolski were avoiding their defensive duties, with the former doing almost nothing creative when in possession.
Predictably, Everton’s goal came in the thirteenth minute. Mertesacker was dragged wide, Lukaku was passed the ball into the box, and let off a shot which Szczesney saved. Unfortunately, the ball only bounced to Naismith, who slotted it into the bottom corner.
Everton’s second goal came after more midfield domination, Lukaku found space on the right flank in the thirty-fourth minute, cut inside with ease, and smashed the ball into the far bottom corner. It was oh so easy.
Replays showed Naismith was standing in front of Szczesney in an offside position for Lukaku’s goal, but the linesman - as ever - missed it.
Arsene Wenger, despite his side’s performance crying out for change, left the team as it was going into the second half.
As a result, Everton continued to boss the match. Giroud was making tired runs, Podolski wasn’t trying and Cazorla was doing the usual. Quick feet in unimportant areas, followed by, well, nothing.
Everton got their third and final goal in the sixty-first minute. Sloppy play at the back allowed Naismith to go through on goal. Szczesney came out, took the ball, but could only push it into open space. Arteta raced Mirallas to the ball, but ended up putting it into his own net. It was Arsenal’s performance personified.
The race for fourth is on alright - and we’re losing it.
It took Wenger until the sixty-fifth minute to bring on Ramsey and Chamberlain. Both looked lively. Aaron Ramsey got Arsenal forward twice in two minutes after coming on, showing Cazorla, Podolski & co how it’s done.
But it wasn’t enough.
Everton were too confident now, and Arsenal were too depleted. Sanogo was also thrown on, but Arsenal just looked drained.
Chamberlain had a great shot pushed on to the bar by Howard in the closing minutes, before Sanogo put the ball in the net seconds before the final whistle. He was clearly onside, but the same linesman who allowed Lukaku’s offside goal earlier, now cropped up again to disallow Sanogo’s rightful consolation.
The Toffees now sit just a point behind Arsenal, with a game in hand. The race for fourth is on alright - and we’re losing it.
Arsenal Player Ratings
Couldn’t have done anything for any of the goals. Lacked protection.
Only thing that was missing was his crossing (again). Other than that, he worked incredibly hard, made great tackles and linked up well with midfield.
Naismith & Mirallas were running rings round him. He was needlessly pulled wide for Naismith’s goal, and pulled wide again on at least two other occasions. A huge off day for Per.
Vermaelen: [7.5/10] - MOTM
Should have reacted quicker to Naismith’s run for the first goal, but Mertesacker’s positioning meant he had a lot to do. Other than that, he really put up a fight against Everton’s onslaught. Did well against Lukaku, made tackles, won headers.
Podolski and then Cazorla were leaving him exposed to Lukaku and Coleman all game. Did relatively well, got forward when he could.
Off the pace again today. He couldn’t keep up with runners, he passing wasn’t fantastic, and he - like most of the team - looked knackered for the first minute. Slightly unfortunate with the own goal.
I keep expecting more from Cazorla, but maybe it’s time I learnt my lesson. He was defensively poor on both flanks, and created absolutely nothing. Ramsey and Chamberlain came on and made more of an impact in ten minutes than Santi did for sixty. Needs to be dropped.
Also left the defence exposed, and also created very little. Although, he tried to get in behind the Everton defence, and he had a good shot saved by Howard in the first half. With Ramsey now back, he too should be dropped.
Had a very good shot in the first half, and actually got forward quite well. However, he was woeful at the back in the opening half. His first touch was poor, his passing wasn’t great and he looked uncomfortable. Grew into the game though.
Couldn’t really get hold of the ball. Rosicky tried making positive moves when in possession, but a sheer lack of movement from everybody else made it impossible.
Poor positioning, poor finishing, poor movement. Just poor.
The Ox: [7/10]
Looked positive, and had a brilliant shot pushed on to the bar. Should come in to replace Podolski.
Not a great game to return to, but he played very, very well. Got us forward quickly, made runs and looked for positive passes. Should come in to replace Cazorla.
Energetic, but showed a poor finish when he came on. He followed that up with a good run and finish seconds before the whistle though, before being wrongfully flagged offisde.
Well, that didn’t go as expected.
It was yet another scouse shambles, but at least this time it was only by three goals. Our entire team looked slow and disorganized, whilst Giroud looks to have somehow got even slower.
Podolski and Cazorla were the two biggest disappointments. When will they actually begin creating chances? Podolski had a shot or two, but Cazorla did next to nothing, and it’s becoming an extremely expensive habit.
Arteta is also looking older by the week, reacting slower and running less.
The FA Cup semi-final is next up. Perhaps Wigan might be a beatable opponent for us. Perhaps being the operative word.