1 - 0 Seamus Coleman 29'
2 - 0 Steven Naismith 45'
2 - 1 Aaron Ramsey 83'
2 - 2 Olivier Giroud 90'
Arsenal struggled to generate much today on the attack, but in the end, a bit of a reshuffle and some good work from Based God Aaron Ramsey and supersub Olivier Giroud saw Arsenal gain a valuable point--and nearly a win--away at Goodison Park today.
The Gunners began the match in the same formation they used at Besiktas: a 4-1-4-1 with Alexis Sanchez up front and Mesut Özil out wide on the left. That meant that Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey had to play in front of Mathieu Flamini, and with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out wide right, Alexis was very isolated throughout most of the first half, through no fault of his own. Arsenal's counterattacks saw him with little support, and their sustained attack was discombobulated for the most part. Steven Pienaar made way early on for Leon Osman after sustaining a knock.
Everton, for the first 25 minutes or so, were not offering much, either, however, but like against Crystal Palace last weekend, their opener came from some bad set-piece defending from Arsenal. Everton took it short from the left, the ball ended up with Gareth Barry in space in the middle--nobody near to closing him down--who lifted it gently over the Arsenal defensive line. Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman both were in the vicinity, and the latter was able to head home under no pressure at all from the trailing Özil. The German's defending is sub-optimal most of the time (especially on the left), and so this came as little surprise.
Arsenal needed to regroup, and for the most part, they were succcessful at doing so, but had little in attack. Passes were going astray, and when all seven non-defenders pushed up for an equalizer late in the half, it only took one mistake to set Everton on the counter. The ball came out to Lukaku on the right, and although Per Mertesacker was on the scene, Lukaku shrugged off his challenge--questionably--and advanced. Calum Chambers made an ill-advised slide which the Belgian hurdled easily, and Arsenal were exposed. When Lukaku slid the ball to Naismith, the Scotsman made no mistake slotting it home under Wojciech Szczesny, although replays showed he was well offside as Lukaku made the final pass. The linesman didn't think so, and Everton had a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Arsene Wenger removed Alexis for Giroud at halftime, to the puzzlement of most Gooners; Sanchez had not been bad, whereas the shape of the team left him with no help, and the like-for-like change did nothing to alleviate the same problems Arsenal were having with their midfield shape. Still, they came out looking more energetic, and Giroud should have scored early on, instead volleying over.
As the life was draining away in the match, Wenger made his move, bringing Santi Cazorla on for Jack Wilshere and Joel Campbell on for the Ox. This allowed Özil to move into his preferred no. 10 role, Cazorla out on the left. Arsenal started to assert some control again, and the change told when Cazorla fizzed a perfect low cross in between Tim Howard and the Everton center backs for--who else?--Ramsey to pop up and tap in from three yards.
Goodison quieted, Arsenal turned the screws, and as regular time was draining away, Nacho Monreal chased down an errant Ramsey cross and sent it back towards Giroud. The Frenchman basically beasted Sylvain Distin to head home the equalizer, and the away support exploded in relief. Arsenal pushed for a late winner, but the game fizzled out in injury time.
A point away against a top side? Refreshing. Not losing 3-0 in a laugher? Very nice. Could things be better? Yes, but as Steve Miller would say, take the money and run.
Wenger reassured everyone about his halftime sub, saying of Alexis on the official site "I wouldn't like to go into any individual assessment. At the moment he is not completely ready physically but I don't worry about him."
On to the second leg of Besiktas midweek.