It seems I was one of but a few who found a decent stream to watch the match if Twitter is anything to go by. I decided to break my self-imposed ban on the social media site during a match just to check if it is still a place best avoided. Generally the mood wasn’t as confrontational as I had feared, but the need to have second by second updates meant the bigger picture was lost in the immediacy of judgement on such a medium. I don’t mind admitting I get sucked in by it all. The ban will be reinstated.
We could not have got off to a better start. Theo Walcott raced from right to left, exchanged passes with Aaron Ramsey, and clipped a deflected effort inside the far post. One minute, one-nil. The mood changed almost immediately though when Laurent Koscielny hobbled off with what appeared to be a thigh strain, and hopefully not a serious one. Kieran Gibbs came on at left-back and the skipper switched to the centre alongside the excellent again Per Mertesacker.
Everton’s response told us everything about why they started the match a point and a place ahead of us. Generally workmanlike all over the park, they have stand-out performers in Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini. Both caught the eye as the hosts stood toe to toe with us, and backed us up to the ropes with a series of jabs at at our defence. The equaliser, when it arrived just before the half hour, was no more than they deserved. Disappointingly though it came after we had three opportunities to relieve the danger, but Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, and Bacary Sagna contrived to give up our advantage and Fellaini placed a curling finish past Vermaelen’s half-hearted challenge.
That may seem harsh, but it is such lapses in concentration that are costing us dear at present. Set into context the side were under a lot of pressure from confident opponents and generally defended well as Everton pressured hard. The scoreline at half-time was a fair one. The second half provided more of the same, with both sides looking to win the game, but we were relying more on the counter attack while Everton were determined to press as high up the pitch as possible.
For the neutrals it must have been absorbing stuff, but the tension involved for the strictly partial detracted from such an appreciation of the game as a contest. It also didn’t help that Michael Oliver riled both sets of supporters with his inconsistent handling of the match, something I would have avoided saying had we lost.
Memorable moments in the second half included an immaculate block by Gibbs and a fine reaction save from the impressive Wojciech Szczesny as Everton sought a winner. We looked capable of nicking the points as well and came closest with an Olivier Giroud header and a couple of efforts from the otherwise subdued Santi Cazorla. As the final minutes ticked away both teams appeared to have settled for a point apiece. From our point of view this was a much better performance than the draw at Villa on Saturday, largely because the opposition were so much better.
If your glass is half full then we are now unbeaten in six and face not the harshest set of fixtures in December. If it is half-empty then we are still not quite firing on all cylinders and that is proving to be a real frustration. Our only defeat in November, often a poisonous month for us, came at Old Trafford on the third. Our only wins came in a four day spell against the little club up the road and Montpellier. Rather than argue with each other let us accept that there is something for both sides of the debate to point to in all of that.
Emirates Stadium Family Tour Competition
Check back to the match preview for your chance to win a Legends Tour of the Emirates Stadium for four courtesy of Experience Days. There is some confusion over the identity of the second FA Cup Final goalscorer. Eddie Kelly (whoops, it is him!) is mentioned on the Experience Days site and not the official Arsenal site as a Legends tour host these days. I will accept entries as being correct if you name the other one only.
Get your entries in before 9am UK time on Friday.
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