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Everton 1-1 Arsenal: match report

Arsenal and Everton were evenly matched at Goodison Park, as an early Arsenal goal was cancelled out by a Fellaini equalizer and a disjointed second half.

this about sums it up
this about sums it up
Laurence Griffiths

0-1 Theo Walcott 1'
1-1 Marouane Fellaini 27'

Arsenal scored less than a minute into play, but Everton was able to come back into the game, nick an equalizer, and play the Gunners to a standstill for its remainder. Neither side was at their best, with disjointed performances from both, but poor midfield play from Arsenal and poor finishing from Everton were mostly caused by the opposition, rather than being primarily unforced errors (though there were a fair few of those as well).

The match opened basically perfectly - Theo Walcott brought the ball down the left flank and gave to Aaron Ramsey, who took a couple of dribbles before returning a pass to Walcott. Theo's shot was deflected slightly by Tony Hibbert, and it looped into the Everton net for a flying start for Arsenal.

Soon after fortunes changed drastically. Laurent Koscielny stretched for a ball in the box and came up lame, and had to leave the game with a groin strain. The word right now is that he will miss three weeks, and that's not great news for Arsenal. Likely it will bring Johan Djourou to the bench, and Kieran Gibbs will need to stay healthy (yeah, I know) to keep Arsenal's better centerbacks playing in the middle.

For much of the next twenty minutes, though, Arsenal played well. It was a back-and-forth game, resembling basketball more than soccer, but for several minutes Arsenal held the ball and looked assured in possession. Then in the 27th minute, Everton got the ball back and attacked.

The initial move was thwarted, but as Bacary Sagna tried to clear the ball he hit it across the pitch rather than down it, and it fell directly to Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian stepped forward and, using Thomas Vermaelen as a screen, curled the ball around him toward the bottom corner of the goal. Wojciech Szczesny dove, but dove late (possibly because of Fellaini's skillful use of the terrain prevented him from seeing the shot well) and was unable to get to the ball. Tie game.

From that point the game was essentially the same for an hour. Both teams attacked. Both defenses found ways to blunt the attacks before they came to full fruition. Arsenal were lucky twice not to concede: once, when Mikel Arteta committed what could very well have been a penalty by pulling Steven Pienaar down in the box, but no call was made; later, when Szczesny made a brilliant reflex save on a ball placed just under the bar. Everton had some similar luck, as a header by Olivier Giroud went just wide, and a later cross by Giroud was too high for Gervinho to reach.

But honestly the game would have been winnable for Arsenal if not for their own mistakes. Among others, Arteta and Santi Cazorla looked tired and were far from their usual quality, and several good opportunities died at the hands of uncharacteristically sloppy passes from the Spanish tandem. Hopefully this is a blip for both, rather than a sign of things to come for any period of time beyond "today." Others contributed to the lack of further scoring - Gervinho's cameo wasn't spectacular, and Sagna was mediocre - but the failings of the midfield were the source of many of the failings of Arsenal's offense.

A draw against a team like Everton at their park would usually be a relief, but coupling this result with the soaking draw at Aston Villa on the weekend is a bit annoying. Still, though, getting a point at Goodison is a better result than not doing that.