Yesterday was a day of recovery from a heavy Friday night which completely punished my body. I’m not as efficient with the amber nectar as I used to be it seems. As a result, doing anything that didn’t involve sleeping and water wasn’t on my agenda, even blogging suffered. I also had to prepare myself physically for entertaining The Management’s family with a full Sunday roast style dinner. The net effect was that I didn’t even manage to watch the game yesterday in real-time, having to settle for watching the game in full after the family had departed late last night.
Why am I telling you this? Well, mainly to explain that I find it very interesting how the end result affects the general narrative of a match, as well as the response from the media and fans. I am not somebody who can wait for something. When I was eight I knew my parents had a Lego pirate ship in their bedroom wardrobe fully six weeks before it was my birthday. It was annoying having to wait for it, but the very fact I was getting exactly what I wanted meant that I was contented.
I started off yesterday evening in full belief that I could avoid all contact with the outside world and watch the game as if it was in real-time. But the Lego pirate ship peaking boy inside me came to the fore and I switched on the radio at intermittent periods yesterday as I was cooking the dinner. What I heard from the commentators was an Arsenal team that were completely out of sorts, that didn’t deserve to pick up a point and yet by the end had smash and grabbed their way to a draw against a good Everton team. So it was with some reluctance that I watched the game yesterday late afterwards, knowing the result, which certainly took some of the worry out of watching Arsenal, but also gave me a different perspective.
For example: Everton. Described as composed on the ball, deadly going forward and thoroughly deserving of their 2-0 lead by half time. I’m not quite sure I saw it that way come the first half. Ozil switched off at the back post for the first goal, whilst for the second, there was most certainly a foul on Mertesacker and then an incorrect decision given by the lino (I am still not comfortable with calling them referees assistant) not to call Naismith offside before he slid the ball under Szczesny. The decisions were so obvious that even Jamie Redknapp had to admit them at halftime and full-time. By the time full-time analysis appeared on my TV screen, it showed that in the entire match, Everton had mustered just two shots on target which was both of their goals. Yet the media love a David vs Goliath killing and they love a sequel, so perpetuating the idea that we were watching a repeat of last season’s drubbing was easy for them.
I don’t think we played well at all yesterday. The passing was off, there were too many players that played at a six out of 10 pace, we were trying to be too intricate in the final third. The triangle passing football we play which gifts us such viewing pleasures as the Norwich/Wilshere goal last season looks amazing when it comes off, but it felt like there as a lot of that which just wasn’t finding it’s man yesterday. But then again, that might have had something to do with the fact that Everton scored their goal and sat 11 men in front of Arsenal and defended in numbers. Sit deep, tight and in numbers and you can frustrate this Arsenal team. So it proved.
The second half provided us with a bit more by way of opportunities, with Olivier Giroud the chief protagonist in a number of good opportunities going begging. He got us the winning goal and for that we should all be grateful, but his limitations will once again provide us with frustration this season I fear. That’s why I’m interested to see how we line up with both Theo and Alexis fully fit. An Alexis that does not, strangely, only last until half time. In the first half he ran his guts out and pressed high from the pitch. He did look slightly off-key (only slightly though), but again it’s interesting how the limitations of some commentators become more obvious when you re-watch the action. Alvin Martin, for example, was giving Mesut Ozil a savaging and saying that Alexis was by a million miles the better of all of the Arsenal players in the first half. Firstly, I think Ozil was quiet, but he did not stand out as the worst performer in my opinion. Secondly, I suspect that the reason he saw him as a stand out performer was not because of his play in thee final third with the ball, but because he was perpetually in motion throughout the half. That is his game and part of it, but for Alvin Martin, from an era when a player running around a lot was the sign of a good player, that’s what his barometer of success is.
But what about Ramsey, eh? What a player he’s going to be this season. Providing he isn’t Shawcrossed by anyone, this kid is going to bang 20 goals for us this season. He’s got that instinct to find the right places inside the box and you can see why he’s being compared to Fat Frank, who would always be that player arriving on to balls into the box, as well as be known for his engine in the Chelski team once he’d dropped the timber from his midriff that he carried in his early years. It’s why his departure from the team through suspension on Wednesday will be a massive miss. When that type of ball is slid in by a Cazorla or a Ozil on Wednesday, will there be anyone on the end of the ball to get there? I hope so. I really do. But I’m not so sure.
So let’s look at hindsight. Let’s ignore all of what went on yesterday and look solely at the point we gained at Goodison. Was it a good one? I think so. It was a point that was hard fought and the late nature of the comeback might even give the players more belief that they can turn anything around. Remember how United were always the ‘sign of champions’ with their late goals? There won’t be many teams that don’t rock up there and beat Everton off the park. That fixture is out-of-the-way and it also means that we have already arrested (if only a little) the worrying trend from last season of losing away from home to every team in the top seven (except the Spuds). We may still go on to lose the rest of the games away from home, but the important thing to keep hold of now is that we have already amassed more away points from that top five than we did last season. At this early stage of the season the importance is picking up points. The fluidity can come in September. We have an important game against Beisktas on Wednesday now, followed by a another away trip to Leicester on Sunday, where another break occurs before a chance to properly get our form going by beating Moneychester City at home.
Catch you tomorrow.