Everton Preview: Cup Glory Or Sticky Toffee Puddings?

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Saturday, matchday, FA Cup quarter-final day or one of them anyway. That the matches are spread through the weekend highlights the war on footballing culture that broadcasters have and continue to wage. War On Culture, by coincidence, is this morning’s playlist, here or in the right sidebar.

Everton arrive in town for the FA Cup quarter-final, a stage of the competition only reached twice in the nine years since Patrick Vieira scored the winning penalty in Cardiff. Given the frequency with which the two sides have met in the League through the decades, it is somewhat surprising to discover that this is only the fourth time they have been drawn together, the first since Everton won at Goodison Park in 1981 ending Arsenal’s hopes of a fourth consecutive appearance in the final. If I recall correctly, Kenny Sansom netted an own goal in his first FA Cup outing for the club. By coincidence, Arsenal returned to Goodison a week later and won the First Division match.

Ahead of the match, Arsène’s biggest concern is Laurent Koscielny. That is not to say he isn’t worried about the absence of Jack Wilshere, simply that the midfielder is definitely out. Koscielny is doubtful, a further scan will be carried out before deciding on whether or not the defender plays. The risk for Wenger is that the French international plays and aggravates his hamstring causing him to miss a crucial period in the Premier League. For today, I wouldn’t take the risk; Thomas Vermaelen is a decent back-up and fit once more; the Belgian is more than capable of deputising against Everton and Bayern. We talk of rotation and Koscielny’s absence may be more keenly felt in the upcoming matches against Tottenham, Chelsea and City.

Future matches or the immediacy of the trip to Munich, will not impact on team selection according to the manager. Had the team been riding on the crest of a wave, it may have been a different matter but last weekend’s defeat in Stoke resulted from an abject performance. There were many who were out-of-sorts on that afternoon and they need to erase the match from their minds. As tempting as it must be hard for Arsène to accept but the Champions League is almost gone and as such there can be few complaints if the line-up in Bavaria is the one which might normally have been considered a domestic cup XI with the likes of Sanogo and Podolski leading the attack.

Wenger spoke about the ‘magic’ of the FA Cup and the fond memories he has of the competition. Asked about the diminution of the cup’s reputation by the prioritising of a top four finish, Arsène contradicted the stance assumed by many in similar arguments,

I don’t think it needs to conflict with the Premier League – you can finish in the top four in the league and win the FA Cup. It can conflict with the Champions League programme sometimes, that’s true, but overall it’s still something special in my mind.

So a top four finish and cup glory are not mutually exclusive. How novel. Of course finishing in the Champions League places is important financially and the competition helps to attract the best players to the club. When we actually get our negotiating hats on and complete deals, that is. I wonder how long before that shine begins to dim and fade? Arsenal have come close to winning the trophy just once and whilst the record of continually qualifying for the tournament is remarkable, reaching the knockout phase to routinely fail lessens the appeal. We are told that playing the likes of Barcelona, Bayern, Real Madrid, these are the glory nights. Only when you win them is the omitted proviso and let’s be honest, it misses out that there is a lot of dross to be endured in between. Arguably, Arsenal have a better chance of winning the FA Cup so should that take precedence over the Champions League when they clash?

Injuries force the manager’s hand sometimes but the answer is to have a stronger squad to cope with the challenges and that situation is something Arsenal are moving toward. And today, the priorities are reversed. Home defeat to Bayern has all but killed the faint hopes of European glory; domestic stars are shining brighter and the FA Cup has been a useful stepping stone to clubs as they progress to the top of the table in the following seasons. It is I guess, a winning habit which is maintained or used as a stepping stone to League success. For that reason, I hope Arsène eschews his habits of previous years – previous rounds this season even – and fields his strongest XI:

Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Flamini; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Cazorla; Giroud

The likelihood is that Fabianski will start, Jenkinson too with possibly Gnabry, Podolski and Sanogo. Wenger committed to picking a team which will win today not his strongest XI. That is the fundamental problem he has to wrestle with in himself; he rates the Champions League more highly and it needs the pragmatic streak to overrule his heart in this instance. The reality is that the FA Cup remains Arsenal’s best chance of silverware this season.

Everton played well when they visited The Emirates in December and deserved their point. Arsenal were certainly below par for much of the match although one might argue that it was the visitors brightness which exacerbated the initial laxity in their hosts performance. Whatever the reason, it is something Arsenal will need to be wary of and alert to. The slow starts were thought to have disappeared but last weekend was a slow start, middle and end so perhaps the problem isn’t quite as solved as we believed. More than anything, for their own sakes, a good performance and win is essential for the rest of the domestic season. Going into a run of difficult Premier League fixtures with two good results (a win and draw?) from this week’s matches would boost confidence and belief for the rest of the month, crucial in ensuring what has shaped to be the best season in years, does not dissolve into the usual struggle for fourth.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

278 thoughts on “Everton Preview: Cup Glory Or Sticky Toffee Puddings?

  1. What has noticeable is the running off the ball was better and Ozil was the man in that regard. I also think it demonstrates the fallacy of our strikers scoring. If we create chances, good decent chances we’ll score goals. We came to life after 61 minutes, though I thought we controlled the tempo of the game.

    Arsene, please make the lads watch the game on blue ray and point out what movement in front of the ball carrier can achieve. Thought Ox and Ozil were excellent today and a sweet little brace from our crap striker to boot 🙂

  2. C, given past experience, I don’t see Poldi starting if AW thinks we have a strong chance to turn this tie around. But I could be wrong and would certainly like him to get in there and maybe poach a goal early to make it interesting.

  3. We done it the hard way though. Knocked out the entire merseyside plus Tottenham. Thats 3 out of the top 6 in the PL no?

  4. MA, I’d just add Cazorla to the list for praise in our attack. Those three all played well.

  5. Good point, Poodle. Will probably have to knock out City to win it, which would make 4 of 6.

  6. maybe Wigan can knock out City? if not i hope City meet Sunderland in the semis. Sunderland could always come up with a surprise no? If we have to the we have to but it would be incredible if we would have to knock out 4 out of the 6 top teams in the PL to win the FA cup.

  7. @Lime

    Fair call of Cazorla. I just enjoyed how hard Ox and Ozil were trying to create movement in front of the ball carriers, it has in my opinion been our biggest issue. I thought Giroud kneed his first in and thus it looked very lucky… fortunately the replay showed he used the inside of his foot. Good ball from Saggy (he’ll be missed).

    @C

    To your point earlier, Giroud can play facing the goal if he has other people creating space and movement in which to draw the defenders. He scored two good goals, the type of goal that win games, just apply the finish from the work of others.

  8. Again, a good point, C. It is great he can hold up play bt Giroud has to face the goal more and get into position for Ozil, Cazorla et. al. to create chances for him.

  9. For me , it would make my day if Chelsea lost today. Then we can make up the points against Tottenham.

  10. Martin Tyler is busy in London today–allying our early FA cup match and ten getting over to Chelsea-Spuds. That is a big game for us. Spud draw or *spitting in disgust* a win would help us out a bit.

  11. I like us better when we counter with speed than when we try to play possession football.

    Against Bayern i think we should defend and him them on the counter. We cannot allow them to expose us if we commit too many players forward.

  12. @Lime

    Tough call on the Chelsea v Spurs game. A loss for Spuds offers a potentially larger gap between fourth and fifth.

  13. Ozil’s goal and Giroud’s second should be shown in all Schools. How to score by placement rather than power.
    Gibbs saw a lot of the ball and did well but I wish he could use that right foot of his……..what a player he would be.
    Now for Bayern on Tuesday with memories of a year ago.
    Get a early goal and it will be sqeaky bum time in the Fatherland!

  14. The ox was beast, had to say it again. But he can make all the difference against Bayern.

    Just stick him out wide and let him run at them.

    And also, please for the love of god, move the ball FASTER! We are incredible when we play the ball quickly and expose teams because they don’t have time to set themselves up to defend.

    Bayern is no different.

    Break with speed and aggression and i think we can do it.

    No dilly dallying side to side passes, be direct and hit them with pace..

  15. Good game, enjoyed it. The dream of a trophy is a live, and the moral boost should also help in the league.

    We are stronger at home at the moment. What is it? The home crowd? Or the opponents having more of a go at us when playing at home? With the tough away games approaching something has to be done to be more solid in the away games.

    Can we just skip the Munich game please? An annoying inconvenience if you ask me.

    To avoid ManCity would be nice, but we’ll probably have to beat them to lift the trophy.

  16. MA, we gotta think bigger, I feel. I’m sick of the fight for fourth.

    Yeah, I said Sagna really bounced it off Giroud–could be his goal!

  17. Moe, the problem is going to be that with a two goal cushion they might not attack us too aggressively.

  18. Good game, enjoyed it. The dream of a trophy is a live, and the moral boost should also help in the league.

    We are stronger at home at the moment. What is it? The home crowd? Or the opponents having more of a go at us when playing at home? With the tough away games approaching something has to be done to be more solid in the away games.

    Can we just skip the Munich game please? An annoying inconvenience if you ask me.

    To avoid ManCity would be nice, but we’ll probably have to beat them to lift the trophy.

    And no points for the Tots today would be great. Here I’ve said it. We are fighting for the fourth with them again.

  19. My heart always sinks when we have someone running forward and our midfield passes backwards. That’s why I love TR, Ox, and Ozil on the ball.

  20. LSG

    Good point. Especially as they remember what happened last time.

    But maybe we should invite pressure and draw them out, they would have no choice but to commit players.

    Or is that asking for trouble?

  21. Giroud’s 20th goal of the current campaign… not to shabby, only 3 other players have scored more this season

  22. SV

    Nah, Tottenham win today and we are back in the race.

    But they will get beat though. Moaninho is too ruthless.

  23. MA

    I like Giroud, but i just wish we had someone who, when the team is not playing well, could do something spectacular.

    That special individualism that wins you games.

    Don’t you think sometimes we are too much of a team and not enough of individuals? Ramsey did that for us, and also Walcott. Unfortunately we have lost both.

  24. @Moe

    “Don’t you think sometimes we are too much of a team and not enough of individuals?”

    I can’t say I do. I think the idea is a fallacy, though perhaps a pleasant one in the mind. No player actually scores a goal on their own. Look, I still get what you say and I agree on some levels but like I said yesterday with Bill, the fact is the team has to work as a unit to achieve results. It isn’t down to one player as demonstrated today. I would love a Suarez type that has both pace and craft to his game, that type of player makes it harder on the defense. The thing is, today also demonstrated to me that the notion Giroud is not good enough is a fallacy. He applied two excellent finishes, it is what you want from a striker, well that and work rate. Is he better than Suarez or Aguero? No, his skill set is different but he can more than do a job for the club and if the team performs as they can do then we create space for shooting. Again, today for me it was down to the movement. The final goal a classic counter and one we haven’t seen a lot of.

    I’m all for players with gifted individual skills sets, but we need them to work as a unit to win something. I hope that makes sense.

  25. Miami
    Hmmmm I think you are being very generous with excellent finishes. The first bounced of him into the net and if he had missed the secon then he would have just retired from football all together. I’m glad he got a brace, hope he can push on from here. But excellent finishes, nope. They were excellent goals due to the assists.

  26. @Moe

    I thought Arsenal actually came to life from the 61st minute. That is not to say that we played badly but the running of Ox and Ozil was often missed and there were 3 separate occasions where you Ozil get trapped with no one to pass too. I don’t know what changed, perhaps it was Everton chasing the game earlier than the final 10 minutes or perhaps it was switch that went off but once it happened Arsenal plainly looked a better side. They moved forward in numbers of 3-4 rather than 1. We had runners and passers able to thread the ball. It was pleasing certainly to watch, but we have to build on these type of games and look to channel that energy in to the next. I said yesterday and I’ll maintain the cry for Ox to be a regular starter now as he has earned it has our best player of the last month.

  27. @PFish

    The first goal I thought the same thing, watch the replay from behind the goal and you can clearly see him side foot the ball in. Fox gave me 4 replays with the behind the goal the final one. Don’t try and Bill me with any excuses about why these goals also don’t count 🙂

  28. @PFish

    ” I’m glad he got a brace, hope he can push on from here. But excellent finishes, nope. They were excellent goals due to the assists.”

    This is what I clearly don’t understand. Complain he doesn’t score and complain if he does. If he had missed he would be castigated, so what we are really saying is that it doesn’t matter what the lad actually does he needs to go, right? I’m curious whether you apply those same rules to his assists 9 assists in all competitions this season?

  29. MA

    I meant when the team is not playing well, when our passing has gone to hell and our overall play is just no good enough. Of course you need individualism, you have that with Ronaldo, Bale, Suarez, Balotelli, Robben, Ribery etc. Players who take the ball and either thump it, or dribble past some defenders and score.

    I personally believe we rely too much on our ability to open teams up, when that doesn’t happen, we need players who will do something different.

    We had Van Persie who used score some wonder goals, not on his own but he pulled of unlikely goals, Fabregas who could pull off a run like he did against Tottenham, Nasri against Porto, you know what i’m getting at.

    MA

    I agree on the counter,i love seeing us open a team up like that. I hate it when Arteta passes back when there was an obvious through ball on. He did it twice in this match with no pressure and plenty of space, he scored a great pen (or should that be two) but he frustrates me sometimes.

  30. I had hoped Daily Motion would have the first goal up by now but alas no. Seriously, watch the behind the goal view and you see Giroud side foot it in rather than banging it off the knee or shin as I first thought.

  31. No Miami I don’t think any one is complaining. Like i say I’m extremely happy he scored. For him and for the team.
    He did well to take his chances but they were put on a plate for him. He does that well, no one disputes that. But if they are not put on a plate for him then he does not score.
    I was simple pulling you up on the excellent statement. They were both excellent goals, but due to the assists not the finishes.
    Fucking hell I’m nitpicking after such a good win,, I’m think I better be off.
    Have fun all.

  32. Miami Arsenal says:
    March 8, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Definately, i thought it was because of Ox’s running first of all and the Rosicky came on, and what do ya know! We play much faster, better football.

    Rosicky for President!!

    For me it has to be Ox to start against Bayern and Rosicky for Arteta. That team i could see winning.

    And obviously Kos for Vermaelen.

  33. @Moe

    I get it. I understand exactly what you are saying and it can and does at times have an impact of that I have no doubt. But, the idea that we would hope or rely on that type of play to make the difference talks more about what isn’t working for the team. I think we have individuals with that type of skill set, but I also covert others in what they do because they don’t do it for Arsenal. I tend to think it is the grass is always greener thing for me when I think about it. Perhaps it is just because I’m a team guy first in football. Not saying you aren’t speaking with some validity.

  34. @PFish

    “He did well to take his chances but they were put on a plate for him.”

    fair enough mate. I imagine most strikers however score the majority of goal in this manner, which is actually how you want to score. The flashy one’s look great of course, but they net the same value whether on a plate or not 🙂

    Have a cracking day mate.

  35. What I loved about Giro today was that he got into position to score the goals.

    Goal scoring isn’t just the last contact with foot or head to ball, it is the intelligent anticipation of where to be in relation to the assister. It is, in effect, the whole package, and Giro was excellent today.

    P.S. he definitely kicked his first goal with his instep, and directed it skilfully in the split second after he received it.

    With his second goal, he allowed it to roll across from right to left and placed it unerringly into the net with his favoured left foot. Loved it! 🙂

  36. @HenryB

    “P.S. he definitely kicked his first goal with his instep, and directed it skilfully in the split second after he received it.”

    He did, though Sagna seemed to hit it so hard it looks like the pass knocked Giro from his feet whilst the ball went in. In any event, you are again talking complete sense today 🙂 Good job lad 🙂

  37. Miami Arsenal says:
    March 8, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Arsene’s got in your head mate! 😉 But i do understand where you’re coming from, and i love me a team goal as much as the next guy! 🙂

  38. @Moe

    I’m actually a fan of moving on from Arsene. I think he has been great for us but at some point it is time to move on and find something fresh. Who that may be? I have no idea 🙂

  39. @Lime

    Did you see the link, inside foot 🙂 have to assume he meant that and it was not just a deflection of the Sagna pass. Just saying 🙂

  40. Before any of the media start to disrespect our win or say we were lucky to beat an off form Everton 4:1, I think it needs to be said that was a good Everton performance and they would have beaten most teams, but we just had too much class for them when the chips were down.

    It was actually a very good cup game and a pleasure to watch. Bollix to ‘Andy Spurs Townsend’ and ‘Clive What a Plonker Tyldsley’ and their stupidly biased commentary.

  41. what a difference a redt Ozil makes. I still feel we need a ST with clever movement and pace and we’ll see his assists double next season! As Miami mentioned, was times where he had nowhere to pass but backwards but overall, well played! Arsenal of old would have caved given the Stoke result and Everton levelling before half time

  42. @MLF

    The result today just demonstrates how frustrating that loss to Stoke was. Why on earth we could not create more or less anything against a team like Stoke just begged belief. This side is capable of beating anyone on their day, the sad part is that they are also capable of just not turning up as well. Jeckyll and Hyde.

  43. Miami,

    We were talking yesterday about the mystery of how a talented, creative midfield like Arsenal’s could play so abjectly and ineffectively against a crap team like Stoke.

    Today we played well within ourselves until the 3rd goal, but my goodness we played brilliantly after that with some dynamic cross field passes and superb back up support as defined by the 4th goal which was as good as you will see anywhere.

    I guess it is what AW would say is playing with the handbrake off. Superb.

    Our team can be frustrating at times — losing 3 points to bastard Stoke – is right up there in the frustration stakes. 🙁

  44. Arsene on being close to a trophy…
    “We are in the semi final, mathematically I cannot deny that what you say is true but practically it is a bit more difficult than that. let’s see who we have to play in the semi final and do it again.”

    Does Arsene encrypt his responses first and then says them? The guy is slippery as a eel.

  45. Miami Arsenal

    From what i saw against Stoke, i think a bit of arrogance set in! It seemed that we were expecting them to let us find the 1-2’s around the box and looked frustrated when they never came off. Stoke pressured us and stopped the posession game and Mikel wasn’t able to hold the ball up, they also went out to stop our wingers which worked! No way they were scoring until the pen though, was truely unlucky and was a bad result that could have possibly cost us the league….It’s games like that we’re missing a Suarez etc, someone to take control and make something from nothing!!

  46. I’m just home from the game. Ozil was so good today. Hope that has shut up the idiots.
    And Giroud may not be world class, but he is much much much much (etc) better than Sanogo, who looked like a kid who’d been drafted in from a pub team. Let’s hope no more Sanogo and Giroud stays fit.
    Gibbs is crocked again though. He was limping around about 10 mins before he was subbed.

    Such a pleasure to watch – 4 goals and a masterclass from Mesut Ozil.

  47. seriously if chesney did a taclke like that one Lloris just did he would be given a red card.

  48. I’m hoping that Tottenham’s rigidness contains Chelsea! Unless it’s through Hazard, they’re not very creative!

  49. the most fun thing is that I’m sure Giroud will score over 20 goals this year and everyone craves a 20+ goal scorer. Ours ofc score them all in the wrong way…

    So the conclusion must be that people dont really crave a 20+ goalscorer. they crave a 20+ goalscorer that scores the right way and in the right matches. Now that is understandable but then one has to stop yelling for a 20+ goalscorer but instead wish for a 20 + goalscorer that is different from Giroud.

    because comes may we will have a20+ goalscorer in our team.

  50. For the record Giroud has 18 goals in all competitions so far this year. two more and he will bee on 20.

  51. I know I am tempting fate watching Chelski v Spuds, but a dire nil-nil would be pretty good.

  52. Giroud was excellent today. Very good technical finishes. Back to his early season best.

    What more could he have done?

  53. And game over for the spuds. I did say before the game that Jose is ruthless.

    Well his team is anyway, he’s a twat in general.

  54. Mourinho does some silly things sometimes. I mean to have a go at your own players? Any other manager would be in trouble for that.

    But for him somehow it channels into desired the results. Inexplicable.

  55. I feel a bit sorry for Sanogo, I thought he started the game really well and had a couple of pot shots which their keeper had to deal with, but after that he was working at holding up the whole time. If we want to play that way we should have Giroud on the pitch. It was great to see us get back to playing with some pace and width for the third and fourth goals because it allowed us to play with Giroud facing goal. Any striker must prefer to be facing the goal and he did what a good striker does in that situation, he got into the positions and stuck the ball away. A great job and I felt that Giroud and Rosicky gave us that extra threat, Ozil and Ox got us going and the two subs finished it off.

    The Chelsea win told us nothing about Chelsea and a lot about the Spuds. Spurs will capitulate on the pitch and their heads drop if it starts to go wrong, to make that many mistakes in a game is hilarious. They may have been hard done by on the penalty, but the rest of it was just poor. The Spurs defence is a joke and I hope Kaboul has his red card rescinded, I’d love our lads to be up against him.
    Chelsea struggled until the slip for the first goal and I could see us getting something out of the games at Stamford Bridge and at White Hart Lane. Chelsea will just look to press and contain then catch us on the break, if we don’t get sucked into those tactic (as we did against Man City) we can definitely get something out of the game. The key will again be pace and movement, if the team that turned up at Stoke run out on to the pitch we will have lost before we even start. I’m hoping a mix of the first and second half teams from today”s game turn up.

  56. We need a win from each of those games or there is no chance for the title at all.

  57. a goal and an asisst
    5 chances created
    a week or so ago a few of us predicted that ozil was going to have a massive game sooner or later and make everyone shut the fuck up..

  58. the only real negatve spin i can make on this win and to be honest its something thats bothered me a while is our total lack of killer instict from corners..

    lets face it, in some games we can be dominent for spells and all we get out of it is a handful of corners..sometimes two handfuls..

    and we do fuck all with them…id like to think we take them more serious in training given the amount we get in some games, after all, it is a good opportunity to score..not as good as a pen or a free kick 25 yards out but it is a free opportunity to cross a ball in unchallenged to find a teammates oncoming bonce..for 100k a week you’d have thought some players were able to have this facet of the game perfected but it doesnt appear to be the case looking from the outside in, in which case they need extra hours on the training field if they cant fit them in with wengers hours of pass and move drills and bouldies hours of defensive drills.

    other than that, confidence restored, momentum rebuilt, all down to a shitty pointless crap cup tie…bring on spurs..

  59. What is this whole the scoreline flattered the other team.

    The team scored, they let the goals in, nothing flattering about that.

  60. Agree JJ, so often when we get a corner, and we get a lot of them, usually, we float it in, it gets whacked out and the other team counters. and we have Ozil and Santi to take them.
    It’s not a day for griping, but am with you on that one. also, TV5 and Mert both great headers; must do better.

    Good to see Mesut get MOTM; I think his first one?

  61. I think it comes from the sense that Everton played well and had some chances to keep it close until fairly late when we scored two in quick succession late on. But, like you Moe, I don’t get it. We had more shots and possession and were not threatened much after converting the penalty. At 1-1 Barkley had a great chance but that was very early in the second half. Quality told in the end and we were clearly the better team. It was our best performance overall in a game in quite some time. Sunderland hardly counts–this wax a real and motivated opponent. Good win going into Bayern–maybe we can give them a bit of a scare for further confidence and morale.

  62. We Whine and we Moan…………But sometimes a goal like the 4th makes me very happy.

    We scored some great goals this season.

  63. JJ/Moe

    One thing I did note about the corners yesterday, the 11 we put out appear to have had no training together on corners. There were a lot of times that players got in each others way (TV5 on Per, Sanogo on everyone) and two players ended up going for the same ball. But that is a minor point to be resolved in training if those players are going to get more a of run out together. Overall the performance was impressive against a team revitalised under a new manager, the first half was disciplined (perhaps apart from some sloppy passing again) and the second was decisive. Hopefully the confidence the team will have after that game will give us something extra on Tuesday night. Unfortunately Bayern are breaking records this season and destroyed Wolfsburg 6-1 away from home yesterday.

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