Everton 2 – 5 Arsenal
That was as welcome as it was unexpected. Away form rediscovered in the Premier League and but for two goals sloppily conceded, a top four place to boot. Level with Chelsea will suffice; there’s no trophy for fourth at the end of the season nor one in October.
In an attacking sense, there were few issues with the performance. In fact, I can’t think of any; the passing was crisp and quick, occasionally too firm and fast but accuracy of 83% at the final whistle underlines how quickly it clicked into gear. Everton’s lead was a rude awakening and undeserved. We rocked and reeled a for ten minutes or so; Nacho Monreal’s equaliser cleared the cobwebs.
Pick of the bunch – and rightly Man of the Match – was Mesut Özil. The German was excellent, the kind of performance a £42.5m player turns in. Arsène said afterwards, “When you see Mesut on the football pitch like he is today, enjoying his game like he is today, it’s difficult to believe these kind of things.”
Mostly, the comment is that we wish we saw it more often so we would remember Özil in the same breath as Bergkamp and Brady rather than Marinello or Nicholas. Not that the latter is bad company to keep, just a notch below where he should be.
His was the first pass of the afternoon which signalled the outcome, Ramsey’s shot the first of many saved by Pickford. But for the goalkeeper, this could well have been the club’s biggest win in the Premier League. Not of Loughborough scale but close to double figures. Was it a £30m goalkeeping performance? Behind this Everton defence, keeping any score below ten seems worthy of that claim.
Barefoot and on the Run
Alexis – “on fire” and “worked very hard” – was another who the manager praised; no argument from me on that one either. His chip into Özil’s path was matched only by the exquisite headed finish from the German. Sanchez got his deserved goal as time added-on drew to a close. With five beleaguered Everton defenders left too scared to tackle, he led them a merry dance before firing home.
In between times, we did things the hard way. Rooney gave commentators the chance to reminisce about football in the ‘good old days’ with a well-taken strike. If Özil enjoyed the afternoon, Granit Xhaka endured the moment. Robbed in possession by Gueye whose pass fed Rooney. There was no foul as he and others claimed, with even the partisan club website putting it down to a “defensive error”.
Redemption came in the form of Nacho Monreal, seizing on Pickford’s parry, to level the scores. It was no less than we deserved and a cue for the afternoon’s normal service to resume. That included Monreal and Cech’s comedy defending which let Niasse grab Everton’s second of the afternoon. Pontification about the damage that could do in another match seems pointless. It wasn’t another match, it was Everton.
Post-match, Arsène enthused about the performance and you can’t blame him. For the first time, he selected Lacazette, Özil and Sanchez, a front three which fired on all cylinders but so did the rest of the team. Xhaka recovered from his faux pas while Ramsey gamboled into attack at every opportunity, providing purposeful support to the front three. A well-deserved goal at the death brought the Welshman due reward for his afternoon’s efforts.
Last Seen Having Lots of Fun
We created a staggering number of chances for an away game, emphasized by the shots on target. Converting five is a rarity, even in home matches and brought a smile to Arsène’s face. Even the football gods decided not to ruin his birthday.
It’s a natural part of being a supporter that we get carried away in the euphoria of victory but it will take more than one good performance to change perceptions of where we are this season. This is the same squad which lost at Watford and not much different to the one which was so lifeless at Stoke.
The same issues exist but the world seems a much brighter place this morning despite the gloomy weather.
Therein is the issue. We saw a glimpse of how the future could be but most likely won’t. A front three which will most likely be broken up over the next six months, maybe sooner. If this is their performance level, the departures of Sanchez and Özil will be a criminal moment in the club’s modern history.
The test of that is in a fortnight’s time at the Etihad. Producing the goods against woeful opposition is one thing; against the team at the top of the Premier League? Quite another.
That’s a thought for another day.