I’ve seen this hailed as a great match…
I’m not sure I necessarily subscribe to that point of view. The first half was stodgy, made more turgid by some poor refereeing. Neil Swarbrick allowed Everton to get away with a few too many physical challenges – Darron Gibson in particular was lucky to stay on the field after two hacks at Theo Walcott – and Arsenal’s passing game lacked the fizz to escape Everton’s clutching and cleaving.
The second half was a marked improvement as Arsenal finally began to build up some momentum. However, we were unable to capitalise and a tiring Everton escaped with a draw.
The three best chances fell to Olivier Giroud…
…and arguably, the Frenchman should have walked away with the match-ball. First he stretched to meet an Aaron Ramsey cross but poked his effort wide. Then a goal-bound effort from close-rage was diverted away by some superb defending from Sylvain Distin. Finally, he fired over with his right-foot after creating space inside the penalty box.
I’ll be kind and say he was unlucky in front of goal. However, the very best forwards don’t rely on luck. Giroud is a good player, but he is not exceptional. It’s clear to me that acquiring a world-class centre-forward is one of the most obvious ways in which Arsene Wenger can improve the squad this summer.
Giroud is popular among the fans, but that oughtn’t disguise our need for someone superior. His defenders will point to the 17 goals he has scored, and with some justification, but I’m reminded of Emmanuel Adebayor in 2007/08. The Togolese totem-pole racked up 30 goals, but was rebuffed in most quarters with cries of, “Well how many should he have scored given the chances he’s missed?”.
The same is true of Giroud. For every goal he’s scored, there’s another he’s let slip by. What’s more, unlike in 2008 we don’t have an Eduardo or Van Persie on the bench to support him.
Jack Wilshere struggled again…
Perhaps it’s just a fitness issue. Perhaps not.
In the past two games Arsene Wenger has deployed him in the number ten role. He’s done it to compensate for the absence of Tomas Rosicky and maintain continuity with a midfield shape that’s proved successful in recent weeks. However, I’m beginning to wonder just how suited to that position Wilshere is.
Wilshere is a player with immense vertical drive. He can burst past two or three players in succession. That quality is best deployed deeper in midfield, where he can open the game up with a moment of skill and acceleration.
In the more advanced role, the sole flaw in his game – his one-footedness – becomes painfully clear. His turning circle is relatively wide, and he becomes surprisingly predictably as he is constantly forced back on to his favoured left-foot.
Tomas Rosicky is admittedly similarly one-footed when striking the ball – his preference for the oughtside of his right over his left-foot is infamous – but he is a tighter dribbler than Jack. He turns on a six-pence. Jack’s spin is still very tidy, but requires space more akin to a ten pence piece.
It was notable that Arsenal managed to build up much more momentum when Santi Cazorla switched in to the number ten role. His two-footedness lends a genuine unpredictability to the Arsenal attack – he can go both inside and outside his marker. He’s also more comfortable dropping in to wide areas, which enables us to create an overlap and get crosses in to the box.
On the night, Wilshere ended up being outshone by Aaron Ramsey, who was again outstanding. He’s playing with confidence now, and it manifests itself in a busy physicality that makes me think he could have a genuine future as a first-team starter.
Szczesny should re-think his kicks…
In this game he lumped the ball up toward Giroud time after time. However, the Frenchman was superbly marshalled by the towering Fellaini. He barely won a single flick.
I don’t know why we’ve abandoned the policy of kicking towards Sagna that was so successful last season. The right-back would win knock-down after knock-down for Theo Walcott to race on to. Against the diminutive Baines and Pienaar, it seemed like an obvious ploy to use.
One for Arsene to come back to.
Arsenal looked tired by the end…
The likes of Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey and Cazorla were shattered. It’s been an exhausting period for the Gunners, but they’ve come out of it well. This result is not a bad one by any means, especially if coupled with a win at Fulham on Saturday.
The five fixtures we have remaining produced four losses and one draw last season. Arsenal will need to turn that round entirely if we’re to secure a top four spot.