Everton 1 – 4 Arsenal
1 – 0 Cahill (19)
1 – 1 Eduardo (47)
1 – 2 Eduardo (58)
1 – 3 Adebayor (78)
1 – 4 Rosicky (90)
Bendtner sent off (74)
Arteta sent off (86)
An excellent result and good performance. Yes, good performance. Before the derision of the spectacles having too much rose in colour this morning, bear with me. It was good but not from the technical perspective, not when considered against the benchmark that has been set this season with passing and movement because frankly we were awful in the first half. It was good in that yesterday showed that this squad and the manager have learnt the lessons from the past.
Plan A went out of the window when Arsene elected to use 4-4-2 rather than the usual 4-5-1. Plan B was wiped from the map by a very good Everton first half performance. In the past that would have been the end of the matter, another defeat in the North West. Plan C knocked Everton out of kilter because put simply, they did not expect it. Long balls from the back is something that Arsenal have been criticised in the past for not being able to deal with nor bring into play. They can now and very effectively as well.
Everton deserve considerable credit for their first half performance. They hassled and harried to knock Arsenal out of their stride, by fair means and foul. Yet when they had possession, they attacked and were effective in that. Toure and Yakubu had an almost epic battle which swung one way and then the other in the first forty five although the longer the half went on, the more on top of the situation the Ivorian became.
In midfield it was a different matter. Arsenal passed and moved yet the missing player was noticeable. Too often the outlet, apparent with a five man midfield, was not there. Adjusting to a new formation ought to be relatively straightforward for such technically accomplished players but 4-5-1 has been utilised home and away for a large portion of the past two months, the mentality which that imbues is not so easily shaken.
The Everton goal was something that irks. Sloppy to concede and messy to score. Well, I do not mind the latter when Arsenal do the scoring but sloppiness in conceding seems such an anathema to those of us brought up on raised arms appealing for offside. Bendtner’s contribution to squirt the ball up to Yakubu and Cahill summed up his afternoon; a tough baptism of fire.
The second half displayed the mental characteristics of a title challenge; the result going against the team and something had to be changed. The simple thing to do would have been to change the personnel; Arsene admitted afterwards that he had been tempted to do so. He did not for which he will be extremely grateful this morning, for I suspect that both Bendtner and Eduardo may have made way. Not so much that former being missed but we would have been denied a masterclass in the art of goalscoring.
Let the sceptics deride the goals as being route one but in both required the Croat to finish. He did so very coolly indeed, slotting home deftly when faced by Howard for the first; the second required use of his hand to bring the ball under control but the cut back inside and calmness in front of goal were superb. Remember a masterclass includes the ‘dark arts’ as well as the good. It is still too early to say whether he has fully adjusted to the English game but if he is going to score regularly then at the moment, it seems to be an adaptation that can happen on the pitch from the start as far as I am concerned.
I have to say that I feel somewhat let down by Adebayor though. Having worked hard to create the error, he capitalised but the match scenario demanded that he stop the ball on line, laid on the floor and headed the ball over the line.
The fourth was a taste of the norm from Arsenal. Adebayor picked the ball up in the centre of the pitch and headed toward the touchline, the two accompanying defenders assuming that it was a jog to the corner flag. Reversing the ball inside to Diaby, he did indeed head to the corner flag before receiving the return pass, cutting inside to Diaby again was unexpected and full marks to Diaby for continuing his run as well. Once the ball was then shifted to Rosicky, the Czech worked the opening for a glorious curling shot into the top right corner of the goal as everyone expected. Rosicky promptly shot low to the left side of the goal, Howard stranded.
One of the reasons for the lateness of the post today was due to watching MotD this morning. I never particularly liked Alan Shearer as a player; as a pundit he is faring little better in my estimation. Cutting edge analysis that Arsenal reverted to the long ball game because they had a front two made me wonder if he had watched the game. If that is what ‘Big Al’ brings to the table, Newcastle would be well served by having an extended bargepole to hand when ‘Big Sam’ gets the push and shoving it firmly into Shearer’s chest.
“It’s a straight arm, he’s not gone to throw it in his face” spouted Shearer. Exactly as the videotape runs and shows Arteta doing exactly that. The comments are nowhere near as stupid as those of Moyes afterwards. Displaying a healthy dose of the famed Scouse wit, his perfectly valid point regarding Bendtner’s dismissal was lost with the pathetic attempt to insinuate that Fabregas over-reacted to Arteta’s flailing limb. In doing so, Moyes explodes the myth that the players are solely guilty for the spate of red cards. The Everton manager has publicly condoned his player’s actions instead of chastising him for raising his arm, over an opponents shoulder. When that happens, there is a very strong chance that the landing place will be the face.
Bendtner meanwhile, ‘got lucky’ in receiving a second yellow. His tackle on Johnson was a straight red. Whilst he may have had one foot firmly rooted on the ground, the ‘tackling’ foot was over the top of the ball, down into Johnson’s shin. There can be no defence for such a tackle; it is not a ‘forward’s challenge’ as Shearer so crassly decided to describe it. Put simply, it is a lack of technical ability to execute a tackle. There may well have been no intent, no maliciousness intended but it was serious foul play and reckless, deserving of red card its own. If the referee has made a technical error – his description in his report of the incident will determine this – Bendtner may yet find his suspension increased to three games.
It was a harsh lesson to learn but I suspect he will do exactly that. If it makes people more appreciative of the hard work that Adebayor brings to the team rather than derision then perhaps it will be of a wider benefit.