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Arsenal didn’t lose that game- Everton won it

I have long criticised Arsenal for not trying, poor tactics, Badly coached defence etc. Now here we are having been beaten 2-1 by Everton which on paper should have been a fairly straightforward task.

Many Arsenal fans, especially those who travelled to the game will be traipsing out one or more of the above complaints, but I feel that today I will be defending the performance of the team. This was not a Man Utd. episode where we did not turn up, and there are many such examples I could turn to.

Sanchez celebrates

We started well, moving speedily and passing accurately. The movement of our forwards was at times dazzling and When Sanchez put us one up it looked certain to be three points in the bag. The commentators were saying that Koeman must not have got his message across to the players because they were not getting at Arsenal. Unfortunately whilst we did keep our movement up, we lost some discipline and Bellerin, who is arguably the best right back in the league began to be a bit cavalier with his attacks up the right wing. Monreal was doing the same to a lesser extent and with some justification. Until then Everton had stood back and given us room without much threat in return. Lukaku appeared to be well marshalled by Kos and Gabriel, so I sat back like most of you and waited for the demise of Everton and to being on top of the league.

It was then that the transformation of Everton took place. Koeman`s message began to have effect and suddenly the tackles were flying in and Clattenberg took a very lenient view of some of them. They began to snuff out our attacks mainly in their own half and by- passed the midfield with long balls diagonally as Leicester did last season. Xhaka was restricted to trying to ensure that the runners following after the long balls did not get possession and Coquelin was engaged in the same task, as is his norm. The silky passes which Xhaka mainly distributed, dried up and Ozil was closely marked so that he got less possession than he was used to. He went looking for the ball but wherever he went he was pursued by McCarthy or Gueye. Sanchez was hurling himself all over the place and looking for his mate Ozil in vain.

Coleman celebrates

Everton, to a man took heart and they fought for every blade of grass. Loose balls were relentlessly pursued and they got most of the second balls from the back to the front simply by aggressive challenges closing down our ball players. They have two very canny full backs in Coleman and Baines and they were the true architects of their subsequent recovery. Walcott had been moving infield to present himself to receive the ball from the marauding Bellerin which has been a feature of our recent games but in this case it did not happen. Bellerin only succeeded in stops and starts to get the better of Baines and Co, and the resultant charges by Baines were made into an empty space behind Bellerin where Xhaka or Coquelin should have been if not for the fact that they were fully occupied with Barkley and co. On the other flank, Monreal had made a few speculative gallops up the left wing until he ran into the log jam at the edge of the Everton defence. As Bellerin had done on the other side, he left gaps for Coleman to exploit and it was on such a situation that Baines who crosses well delivered a ball which found Coleman unmarked to head an easy goal. We ended the half distinctly on the back foot.

The second half was much of the same and although we had our chances, we were never back on the ascendancy. Gabriel has played well to replace Bellerin and now Mustaphi but the link with Kos is not as firm as that of Mustaphi and Kos, so in a situation where we were facing concentrated pressure from corners, free kicks etc. there was a looseness in the centre which Coleman and Williams were able to exploit.

Walcott was pretty ineffectual

Walcott was pretty ineffectual

Neither Walcott or Chamberlain were making any impact, so Wenger brought them both off and sent on Iwobi and Giroud. Unfortunately, it did not work, Bellerin was not having much more success with Baines, and Monreal was being harassed by Barkely and Mirallas so Giroud got few chances from the usual crosses. Iwobi gave the ball away the first two times he touched it in a situation which put us in trouble when we were making encouraging advance. Ozil then had the miss of the game when he mis-kicked when he was trying to score at the near post when the entire right side of the goal was empty. A look at his face would have told you the story. He was flushed with effort and anger at the time as he had had little protection from Clattenberg from the close attention he was getting from Jagielka and McCarthy. Williams scored the winner from a very similar position to the first one and although we mounted a cavalry charge ( including Cech) they were a bit lucky to survive for three points.

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In summary, was it any of the faults mentioned in my first paragraph. I don`t think so. The team Wenger picked was exactly my choice and we were dominating for 20 minutes as we expected to. What we did not expect was the transformation of Everton from the insipid roll-over team which had not won a match since October. To their credit, they rolled their sleeves up and put in a shift. Some of their players along with Jagielka, who was sent off, were lucky not to have went earlier. It was a blueprint of how to win against a better team. They weren`t pretty and their ball skills were far behind ours but when they missed a pass they chased the ball and harried us off it. They completely disrupted our game and reduced it to a game of physicality which we are not equipped for. There was an altercation in the tunnel at half time when Ozil appeared to take issue with Barkley, and Coleman and Baines initiated the shoving. That showed that it was not a lack of commitment that cost us. They all to a man put the effort in. I don`t think anyone is to blame. The transformation of Everton would have caught most teams by surprise and I think we just have to congratulate them.

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4 Responses to Arsenal didn’t lose that game- Everton won it

  1. DEW December 14, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    I think this is the reason why we need Elneny at the middle. When opposing teams aggressively close down players at the middle, you need players like him. He was successful at Barcelona, at Everton, at Westham, Tottenham last year.

    The other missing ingredient was rotation. Rotation is what makes arsenal strong this season please don’t gamble with it. Don’t trust players to perform at same level every three days. When I saw starting lineup, I said to myself there would be bad surprise. Because I don’t expect the replica of stoke game. On the stoke game the energy of the rotated players were amazing for whole 90′.

  2. Victor Thompson December 15, 2016 at 11:38 am #

    I agree with most of what you say. I like Elneny, but I don`t think he is an enforcer like Xhaka and he doesn`t find passes to open up defences like he does. He is more effective than Ramsey on present form but if he plays with Coquelin, Coquelin has too much on his plate. Xhaka is a blend of both and it is a better balance than Coq and Elneny.

    I do take your point about rotation and it certainly seemed to me that we tired in the second half.

    Thank you for your comment.

  3. DEW December 15, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    I agree as well Elneny is not enforcer like Xhaka, and interceptor like Coq. Elneny is more of tactical stability and physical presence. I think (as a fan) in big games Arsenal need stability and physical presence more than interception and creativity, because the opponent team come at Arsenal all the time. I expected laborious intensive game at everton, so Elneny was my choice, because of the point above and rotation. Last season on the same fixture, he was one of the guy that really frustrate them.

  4. Nick Birch December 19, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    Read this after reading your comment on my article and I do think you have to aim a lot of criticism at our team as a collective, opposed to simply praising Everton.

    When a team like that start getting in our face, if we want to be champions, we have to fight fire with fire by giving them some back in terms of work rate and closing them down.

    If we match them for bollocks, then our superior technique will ensure that we beat most teams. I didn’t think we did that against Everton and the manager had no answer to it, making like for like substitutions was never going to help.

    Just my opinion but agree with a lot of what you say….

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