Everton’s high energy tactic of closing Arsenal down quickly ensured they stopped the Gunners from playing to their usual fluency.
The big freeze may not have been able to stop Arsenal from playing but Everton were. The assumptions before the game saw Arsenal taking all three points and moving to within a point of Chelsea after playing their game in hand but that was to be severely underestimating an under-performing, but talented Everton side.
Indeed, David Moyes sensed an opportunity to get more than a draw in the game with the Gunners missing talisman Cesc Fabregas through injury. His tactic, therefore, was to pressure Arsenal high up the pitch, unlike in the 6-1 thrashing at Goodison Park where his side stood off Arsenal and conceded the space in front. Everton hassled and harried the Arsenal defence and midfield and in a productive first period, made 17 tackles in the opposition half. Without Fabregas to dictate play, there wasn’t the same expertise the captain brings in terms of finding a bit of time on the ball or indeed a man. The moments Arsenal did look better in possession were with the calmness of Denilson or when Nasri drifted infield and maybe it should have been a ploy Arsène Wenger made earlier, moving the Frenchman centrally and the ineffective Ramsey wide.
Maybe Arsenal’s philosophy of stretching play contrived to help Everton in their high intensity pressure strategy; with the Toffees tackling aggressively up the pitch, it meant the distances would have been greater between Arsenal’s central midfielders and their target – getting the ball to one of the three forwards. Certainly it made life easier for Everton in moments transitions as they were able to take advantage of larger gaps between the midfield and defence and stationed Cahill and Saha high up the pitch. Armand Traore had a particularly tough game and the lack of cover in front of him created indecision as it left him with many one-one-ones to deal with (an article on analysing Arsenal’s defensive this week will help explain this in further detail).
Arsène Wenger was refreshingly more praiseful of Everton’s strategy but also credited his side’s spirit to battle back: “We had some problems managing Everton, they played very well and all credit to them,” he said. “We could not get them out of position, they defended well and counter-attacked well. We started slowly and Everton closed us down us high up the pitch, we lost confidence after that and we did not have enough creative quality today. But we had a fighting attitude and the spirit to come back – my players have again showed outstanding attitude.”
Rosicky’s equaliser displayed that as Arsenal were undeterred from playing their natural game and the build-up before the goal was of the highest quality. Abou Diaby was at the heart, driving the team forward (although Everton made such occurrences few and far between) before teeing up Rosicky for the Gunner’s second deflected goal of the game.
Up front, Arshavin also found it tough to maneuverer and find his dynamic game. Ominously perhaps, Eduardo looks to have regained his confidence and his movement was fantastic but ultimately suffered as the spaces became limited. A direct outlet is still is required at different periods of the game to ease Arsenal out of trouble and like the game at West Ham, moving Eduardo to the middle may have been the best answer. It would have freed up Arshavin to play more dynamically on the left although it could be argued that Eduardo’s best moments are best created by playing close to someone. Two deflections created by Arsenal’s goalscoring midfielders helped the side to a point but it may be their reliance is becoming too much at this crucial period of the season.
Arsenal 2-2 Everton: Osman 12, Denilson 28, Pienaar 81, Rosicky 90+1.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia 6; Sagna 6, Gallas 7, Vermaelen 6, Traoré 6; Ramsey 4 (Rosicky 65 7), Denilson 7 (Merida 84), Diaby 6; Nasri 6, Eduardo 6 (Vela 74), Arshavin 5.
Subs not used: Fabianski, Silvestre, Eastmond, Emmanuel-Thomas.
Everton: Howard, Neville, Neill, Heitinga, Baines, Osman, Cahill, Fellaini, Pienaar, Donovan, Saha.
Subs: Nash, Bilyaletdinov, Vaughan, Coleman, Duffy, Baxter, Mustafi.
Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire)
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|2||Shots on Target||3|
|2||Shots off Target||3|