Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Arsenal And Everton Battle To A 0-0 Draw

Arsenal played at home to Everton in the Premier League last night. They had left it late to beat Norwich at home on Saturday and that win put them third in the table. With the season drawing to a close a win over Everton would have left Arsenal in a very strong position in their quest to finish in the top four.

Everton hadn't given up hope of a top four finish either and a win would have moved them to within a point of Arsenal. There was an awful lot at stake for both teams and it promised to be a very good and tense game.

Arsene Wenger made three changes from the team that beat Norwich and only one of them was due to injury. Wojciech Szczesny came in for Lukasz Fabianski in goal as Fabianski had picked up a rib injury on Saturday. Per Mertesacker and Theo Walcott came in for Thomas Vermaelen and Gervinho for the other two changes.

It meant Jack Wilshere kept his place in the starting 11 despite being far from his best when he played last Saturday. The boss admitted it was a risk to play Wilshere on Saturday, but he decided to take that risk again. It meant Santi Cazorla played on the left and Tomas Rosicky was left on the bench after missing Saturday's game through injury.

Everton were in Arsenal's faces from the very start and were determined to stop them from getting any space to play in. It was noticeable how much pressure they were putting on the Arsenal midfield in Arsenal's own half of the pitch. They were determined to stop Arsenal getting into any rhythm by foul means or fair.

The referee didn't help matters by allowing the constant fouling to go unpunished and he only produced the first yellow card when he had no other choice. Darren Gibson collected that yellow card for clattering into Walcott when the Arsenal player looked to be making some profess at last. Only a short while later the same player took Walcott out again but the referee bottled it when it came to issuing a second yellow and therefore a red card.

There were few chances in the first half but Arsenal missed the best of them. Aaron Ramsey played a great ball across the goal from the right to the on rushing Olivier Giroud, but his finish was too heavy after getting there before the keeper. If he had got less on the ball he would have put it into an empty net, but it wasn't to be.

As the players left the pitch at half time the Everton attitude was personified by Kevin Mirallas who sneakily squirted water at Wilshere from his drinks bottle. It may not have seemed like much but it was all part of the game plan to wind up the Arsenal players.

The second half was just as tense as the first and again there were very few real chances for either team. Barkley went close for Everton with a very good curling effort and Giroud was again the man who went closest for Everton. He had a couple of chances but failed to find the back of the net on either occasion.

The first one came following a very quick Arsenal break with Leighton Baines again caught out of position. As Giroud slid in to finish from a couple of yards out he was narrowly beaten to the ball by Seamus Coleman to deny what looked like a certain goal. A little later he made space for himself six yards out to the right of the goal but blazed over with his weaker right foot.

Arsenal piled on the pressure late on but they couldn't find the elusive goal that would have won them the game. Everton needed a win too but they made sure they didn't lose and put on a very good defensive display. The draw may have been disappointing but a point was better from nothing in a game that could have gone either way at times.

I felt it was a mistake to play Wilshere as it was on Saturday. He was off the pace and wanted too much time on the ball far too often. He's obviously not quite ready to come back into the team and I would be surprised to see him start at Fulham on Saturday.

The team looked much better with Lukas Podolski on the left and Santi Cazorla back in the creative role in midfield after Wilshere was subbed. I'm sure Wilshere is going to one of the stars of the future and a vital player for Arsenal, but he's not match fit or ready at the moment. Maybe a game or two for the under 21s would have done him some good before coming back into the first team.

Ramsey was very good again and the defensive work in midfield from him and Mikael Arteta was top class at times. Ramsey has made a place in the team for himself and on current form he had to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

The trip to Fulham on Saturday has now become a must win game for Arsenal considering they have the runaway league leaders coming to them a week later. Arsenal have found it tough going at Fulham quite often but they have to be at their best on Saturday. The lead over Spurs and Chelsea is only two points with Spurs having a game in hand and Chelsea two.

That lead has to be stretched to five points before those two teams face very tough games of their own on Sunday. A top four finish is still well within Arsenal's grasp but last night's draw made it just a little tougher.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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