Arsenal 2 - 1 Everton
A trip down to The Emirates with roads in rush hour mode, our record on this ground ensures we will play a game of footy at a venue where we don’t win and then head home again. I could have written that at any time and been spot-on. After the Man Utd game, we were not expecting much; we did get a better display from our lads but no improvement result-wise.
The team as announced was same again except Deulofeu replaced Naismith. Playing with two wingers was unexpected but as the game unfolded it was seen that Lennon’s switch to the left flank was an attempt to counter the very speedy right back Bellerin.
The game started and the first 15 mins were a bit flat with the teams no more than sparring but Galloway was showing well and seemed nerveless whereas more senior pros were not and our Ref, Lee Mason, set the tone for wanting a quiet night when he ignored Lukaku being flattened, acting like he never saw it; maybe it was the rain that came down like a curtain at times... so no excuse for not zipping the ball around.
After 15 mins, Arsenal started to take control and looked dangerous at times. Coleman set off at pace up the right but Sanchez caught him, took the ball and played it long to Giroud who was one-on-one with Howard, who won the battle and deflected the ball away with his legs. Then the Ref blew for our free kick for a foul on Stones. Giroude disagreed.
We broke when we could and did play some joined-up stuff but without really threatening near goal. Arsenal did threaten and I started to get that involuntary leg movement as I tried to help with a clearance, daft init? On 20 mins, Jags had to make a last-ditch tackle to deny Ozil at the expense of a corner which we cleared.
I am sure the rain was even heavier now but Galloway was gliding up and down as if on a surfboard and in one foray he gained four throw-ins; after the last of these, he gained a corner for us where we should have taken the lead. The cross came in, Cech pushed it out straight to Stones and from a wonderful position he showed why no-one will buy him as a striker. What a chance... What a miss!
Between 20 and 30 mins, I thought we had a good spell yet never really carving out that boss chance in the box whilst the nearest Arsenal came was from an Ozil corner that beat everyone and went out for a goal kick. Then Deulofeu went on a direct run up the right but seemed to no more than run into a defender and that move broke down. 35 mins came and I thought if we can go in all square at the break then who knows...
I didn’t have to think too hard or too long as Arsenal put a move together that saw Ozil down their right near the touchline. Galloway went with his man but Lennon didn’t go to Ozil to close down and the German took a touch and put in a beaut of a cross that had Jags, Stones and Howard on different planets and Giroud merely nipped in and glanced home. Shambolic defending came to mind.
Whilst our noisy end went quiet, well, we went 2 down when a wicked arcing free-kick came into our box and with Howard’s arms flailing an Arsenal head well in front of him headed home. I hope Howard could not hear some of the non-compliments paid to him from the length of the pitch away. After thinking we were doing okay, to be 2 down in the blink of an eye was hard to take.
We tried to respond and Deulofeu had some good direct and some good twisting runs but, each time he reached the edge of the box, he fell over and then gesticulated at all and sundry as he had heard no whistle. He needs to cut that bit out of his game.
Half-time loomed and, from a possible 0-0 scoreline, we were going in 0-2; I just thought if only we could get one back, it may change the second half. A Blue on high must have heard my plea as, from another Arsenal attack, we cleared the ball to Deulofeu and he made a strong run from our half well into theirs and didn’t fall over, instead he picked out a peach of a through ball and put Barkley in. Two touches and he lets ‘Big Bertha’ go, gets a deflection and finds the net. The faithful find full throttle again and on the whistle half-time is a whole lot easier than it would have been.
At Half-time, the chat was a touch subdued but the Howard debate was in full swing. Many differing opinions but the greatest agreement was that he didn’t like crosses that came into the six yard box. Somehow they seem to disorientate him.
The second half could not have started any worse as Arsenal came out all guns blazing and pushing us back and with just about 2 mins gone Jags goes into a last-ditch block tackle and as soon as you spotted his hand gestures you just knew here is another 8 weeker out. He was treated on the park then helped to limp off and on came Funes Mori. That could be a big blow to us.
Funes Mori settled quickly and helped settle the players’ nerves as we went on the attack when we could... but doesn’t it just madden you when you see players you know to have talent make basic errors? First, it was Barkley who was at the end of a good joined-up move and hesitated and had the ball whipped away from him, setting Arsenal up on another move that saw them get Sanchez one-on-one with Howard. Luckily the ball was on the ground and he likes them there better; he won the dual and deflected away for a corner which we cleared but only back to them for Giroud to have a shot which Howard saved for another corner. Again, we cleared but Arsenal were now putting more and more crosses in after sussing our less than effectiveness at marking and clearing. Surely they practice this stuff, don’t they?
The hour mark came up and we started to get some confidence back. Howard caught a couple of crosses, Funes Mori was playing with an authority that suggested he was the first-pick centre-back as he demonstrated pace, poise and positioning. On 70 mins, we had a shock when Giroud hit the bar and the same player was booked for fouling Barkley and then Lennon was subbed off for Mirallas, much to the delight of many in attendance. More bad news for rail travellers when it was announced the train to Lime Street was cancelled and that was the last one. Huh, the Gooners cheered.
The closest we came before the end was when Barkley after some good work put in a great cross that missed everyone except the lively Galloway who had raced to the back post and his diving header hit the side netting. It looked a nailed-on chance; I just wondered if those jumping in front of him gave him little time to see it. If not, he has missed a sitter.
Deulofeu joined in when Lukaku put in a good cross that was shuffled out but only as far as the Spaniard who took aim but the on rushing Cech blocked the grass cutter. I thought if only Ossie had that chance, he usually aims for the roof of the net. Had Deulofeu done that... 2-2. We had a grandstand finish but a goal would not come for either side so once again we leave Arsenal without a win yet again.
I can’t find a player to nominate as Man of the Match today but as the performance was much better than last week I will give them all 6½.
We have had the first 10 fixtures and all the talk pre-season was of how hard that opening was. Well, we got three wins, four draws and three losses so that’s 13 points out of 30. Not exactly top four form but it will be interesting to look at the points total after the Stoke game.
I think the manager can play a big part in our results as what I have seen so far this season is a collection of players of some talent who do appear to dig in for each other and individually play some good stuff from time to time. What is missing for me is a team display that has all the players understanding their roles within the manager's framework and playing with a purpose that does not leave anyone isolated so that we have smooth quick passage from front to back that should see the numbers required in both defence and attack.
The formation doesn’t bother me as it is the tactics used in any given formation that the players should be drilled in, so allowing them to switch as and when required. I would hope this would stop the spells of passing across the back until the keeper just hoofs clear as I am sure that happens when players are not sure of their roles and so don’t make the moves that allow playing out from the back.
This is my observation and maybe my rant — and all because I think we have got the players that can do things but they don’t always sing from the same hymnsheet. Over to you, Roberto. Oh and please don’t refer to either hard or easy fixtures; instead, call them ‘winable’...
See you Sunday to lay a bogey
UP THE BLUES