Everton named an unchanged side from the team that beat United on Wednesday and kept pretty much the same shape. Arsenal started with Wilshere and Cazorla as the wide attacking midfielders with Ramsey and Arteta in the deeper positions and Ozil off Giroud. Both sides were pretty much the same in terms of a 4-2-3-1 shape.
The game began with Everton playing at full throttle with complete domination of the ball to the tune of 66% in the opening 30 minutes of the game. The passing grid from the game below gives us an indicator of the main combination moves we used to out manoeuvre Arsenal for large periods of the game.
What was most impressive was the way Pienaar and particularly Barkley – the game’s top player with our most attacking third passes and chances created – were able to find spaces on the pitch to drive into Arsenal danger areas. Pienaar would come inside to receive and then look to release Ovideo out wide whereas Barkley was finding plenty of space further up field between Arsenal’s defence and midfield lines in and around the area usually bossed by former toffee Mikel Arteta who made little impact on the game. Arsenal were struggling to stop the flow and switched their wide midfielders possibly to give more defensive shape down our left but in truth it had little impact in repelling our bubbling momentum in the first half hour.
As we mentioned in the preview, Arsenal have scored more goals from counter attacks than anyone in the league so wouldn’t necessarily be too concerned with teams coming and having a go at them, but such was our quality of possession they found it pretty much impossible to engineer counter punches and didn’t register a shot in the first 30 minutes. Such domination of the ball on Arsenal’s home turf is pretty much unprecedented in the last 10 years.
In the final 15 minutes of the half however the game began to swing towards the hosts with Ramsey teeing up Giroud and then the Frenchman returned the favour for his midfield colleague shortly after. Tim Howard – who was superb throughout – foiled both openings superbly and we went in level at the break. If there was a worry at half time it was that despite having 62% of possession we had failed to have a shot on target.
After the break it was much more end to end than the first with some good sparring between two sides going for the win. Arsenal also played a lot more compact and we found it a bit trickier to get in behind them in the early stages of the second half.
There was also a fair bit of tinkering going on from the managers as the half developed.
Pre match Martinez predicted that substitutions would be crucial and so it proved. Wenger was particularly bold and made a triple change on 68 minutes with midfielders Flamini, Walcott and Cazorla all being introduced. In the opposite dugout Leon Osman, who was due to come on BEFORE the triple change, is then held back as Martinez tries to decipher the changes Arsenal have made to the midfield before playing his first card. After nearly 10 minutes of waiting in the ‘technical area’ – which included some ipad interaction with Graeme Jones – Osman is then introduced on the left with Mirallas moving to the right. The Belgian was subsequently replaced on 79 minutes for Deulofeu.
With the game increasingly looking likely to end in stalemate, Arsenal took the lead a minute later after substitute Rosicky whips get the ball in from our right flank. We looked a bit disjointed here following the substitution of Mirallas, with McCarthy sitting in the right mid slot but the Irish dynamo is unable to prevent the cross coming in. Defensively I’d say Oviedo is the wrong side of Walcott whose header back across goal allows Ozil to ghost in for a tap in.
A defeat would have been really harsh given what we had put into the game and with the clock ticking we were able to pull level and again it was Barkley who was key as he rides two challenges to play in Oviedo down the left flank. As we mentioned in the analysis of the Man United goal in midweek, one of the key variables of Martinez offensive approach to Moyes is the volume of players he gets in the opposition final third (if you look at the goal, we outnumber Arsenal in terms of outfield players 8 v 7 in their final third). From Oviedo’s resulting cross, Lukaku flicks on to Deulofeu who takes a few touches before exquisitely dispatching into the roof of Arsenal’s net.
This was a really good display in what was an intensive game from the toffees against the best side in the division. We controlled the game for the opening half hour, Arsenal shaded the second 30 minutes and then the final half hour was frenetic, end to end stuff that could have gone either way.
The way we bossed Arsenal for long periods on the ball will give us great belief, particularly as we have at times struggled to dominate the ball in our games against sides from the top 6 as we have done against the leagues lesser operatives. Off the ball we were equally impressive with McCarthy relentless in his pressing when we lost possession. If there is a slight critique it’s that we weren’t as good in the final third as we can be, but that really is being picky and the way this classy and bullish Everton side are currently playing you just need to sit back and enjoy, as its ace to watch.