Saturday, the 24th of October, a week after their 3-0 away victory against Watford, followed by a stunning 2-0 demolition of German Giants Bayern Munich, Arsenal clinched a third big win against a determined Everton team at the Emirates. Olivier Giroud found himself on the score sheet 36 minutes into the first half, netting a gentle header from a magnificent assist by none other than Mesut Ozil. Laurent Koscielny doubled the lead for the Gunners by heading in the ball just 2 minutes after Giroud’s goal, converting a free kick in by Santi Cazorla on a set piece. Everton revamped themselves and immediately pulled one back when Ross Barkley made full use of a positional mishap by Arsenal’s midfielders, that saw Arsenal’s centre back Gabriel lose track of England’s no.10 for a few seconds.
Arsenal started the game at a good pace, beginning the game from the back line. The gunners created several chances throughout the game, penetrating Everton’s back line constantly. Everton were seldom given a chance to either create or dominate ball possession. Quick counters seemed like their their only option, given Arsenal’s gradual build and up in and around the final third. Olivier Giroud scored a fine header from a Mesut Ozil pass; an aerial ball which on a first glance looked like a result of constant movement in and around the 18 yard box. Ozil identified Giroud in front of goal at the right time, while his attacking counter parts pulled Everton’s players out of position. In spite of Everton marking their men, Ozil’s aerial ball was a a little too good to be dealt with.
Arsenal continued to attack with finesse, while managing not going overboard with their pace in the final third. One such attack won them a free kick and veteran centre back Laurent Koscielny capitalized on a beautifully drafted free kick on a set piece by Santi Cazorla. The first half saw 3 goals , one from Everton and 2 from Arsenal.
To instill a little more composure into their team play, Arsenal played a little bit on the defensive in the second half, allowing Everton to keep the ball and create something . Off the ball, Arsenal created very little space for Everton to infiltrate, especially in the final third. As the second half progressed, Everton found Arsenal off their guard on a few occasions, but the Arsenal’s defenders and keeper Cech dealt with every threat with utmost rigor and dedication.
Arsenal’s key strategy was clearly to play a game of 2 different halves; the first , at a high pace, possibly so that the team gets an early lead, and the second, with a little more composure and defensive reorganization , balanced with strategic runs into Everton’s half in search of a third goal . There were moments in the game where one felt that Arsenal were slowing down a little too much, almost allowing Everton to score, but the home team’s defense played discipline and a retreated back line.
Simultaneously however, the Gunners were also constantly in search of a third goal, and so, Arsenal tried to bag a thirds goal from their counters twenty minutes into the game .Santi Cazorla performed dutifully, playing an orthodox box to box game; running back to defend, winning the ball off his man, creating chances on the counter and in the final third, all of which are required of a midfield conductor. Clearly, it is his new role in the middle of the park that has now become crucial to Arsenal’s game. Francis Coquelin performed marvelously for his side once again, partnering the little Spaniard, with phenomenal off the ball movement and positional play. As Arsenal Legend Thierry Henry had pointed out last season, one of the most important contributions Coquelin makes to this Arsenal side, apart from winning the ball , is positioning himself intelligently; such that he is never too far ahead from his own half, at the same time, always available for receiving the ball from his partner in midfield. His performance against Everton, in this regard, was no exception to the rule.
Brazilian signing Gabriel found himself making a small mistake, when he was found himself clueless trying to stop the blistering pace and powerful shot of Ross Barkley in the first half. He however, reinvented himself in the second half and worked effectively with Koscielny in Per Mertesacker”s absence.
While there were moments that one thought that this could go either way, Arsenal more or less controlled the entire game. Romelu Lukaku came close to scoring an equalizer when he headed the ball towards goal. Fortunately for the Gunners, the shot hit the cross bar and went off the field. The Toffees enjoyed a couple of shots on target, though they could not do enough to trouble Petr Cech. The game also saw several key players being booked, though it was only Gareth Barry who was booked for a second yellow and was sent off towards the final whistle.
Arsenal’s only setback in this game was that they were not able to reassemble themselves off the ball, although that may have been down the Wenger’s tactics in the second half, and the fact that we saw the ball move swiftly and quickly from end to end, with both teams trying to do some damage on counters. Arsenal deservedly won the game, but Everton’s efforts at coming back into the game must be equally applauded.
Overall , Arsenal sealed yet another victory, winning all three of their ties this week. Whether the Gunners can carry forward this fine form, will arguably boil down to the number of injuries that the club is hit by. It is still another 2 months till Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky return, while Aaron Ramsey too is out for a month. Mikel Arteta hurt himself in Arsenal’s last training session. This leaves Arsenal a little short, both in attacking positions and in the middle of the park .Arsenal fans around the world must now pray that their team remains injury free, at least till the beginning of the new year. At this present moment, however, it is a good time to be a Gooner!