Arsenal 2-0 Everton
Going into a fixture you haven't lost at home since 1996 is a curious thing. Confidence should be high, belief strong, memories clear, a 7-0 here, an Adams title-clincher there..... however walking down Holloway Road yesterday you couldn't help feel the nervousness in the air. This wasn't Arsenal of old - this was the new Arsenal, new era, all Shakin' Stevens and vulnerable at the back, ponderous in midfield and unpredictable up front. Everton had Walcott pace and Richarlison beef; Arsenal had Mustafi clownery and sickly child Ozil. What an earth would happen?
The team news showed Unai Emery finally finding #timeforTorriera and persisting with Ramsey and Ozil in the same team with Cech between the sticks. Leno needing to do more than let in a couple against a team nobody has every heard of in the Europa League to get a start.
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette Subs: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Guendouzi, Elneny, Iwobi, Welbeck
If the slow starts of all Arsenal's previous matches were to be improved then Arsenal would need to be quick off the blocks. Sadly, like the sack race from school sports day Arsenal started the match in chaotic fashion and with little finesse. Finding it hard to keep any real possession in midfield, and allowing Everton chances aplenty in the first 10 minutes. Richarlison, Calvert Lewin and Theo Walcott all guilty of missing attempts to take the lead, a mixture of poor finishing and Cech heroics saving the day. Everton and their fans were growing in confidence, Xhaka was losing the ball again and Torreira took a booking for a 50/50 (bit harsh in my opinion) as Arsenal slowly creaked into some sort of gear. The first real chance for the homeside coming in the 12th minute, when a low cross from Bellerin found it's way to Monreal, shot blocked.
Jon Moss, the most portly of referees, was enjoying his day out in the North London sunshine, managing to stay in a small perimeter on the pitch and chucking out free-kicks to Everton like confetti, all the stops in play killing any Arsenal momentum. As Everton continued to threaten, and Mustafi continued to make rash decisions, Sokratis was forced to go all beasty on Walcott in the 30th minute. This beastliness is welcome but can lead to danger and injury; the danger being another free-kick just about kept out by Cech, the injury forcing the Greek International off ten minutes later (replaced by Holding).
At this point in proceedings it was time for 'Ozil watch'. Arsenal's 'sickly child' had spent most of the first half slouching around like Tiny Tim on Christmas Eve, looking forlorn and disinterested at the measly food on offer. He is such a peculiar footballer, being asked to defend, or cover on the right, doesn't take his fancy, playing over on the left seems to leave him crest fallen, play him down the middle; gulp chunder! But down the middle is where Mesut found himself in the 32nd minute with a chance to give Arsenal a surprise lead. Fed in by Lacazette and one on one with Pickford, Ozil was caught in two minds; chip the keeper or play in Ramsey. He tried and failed with the latter and with a wipe of the nose, a shrug of the shoulders and a flick of his hair, Mesut faded another 15%, leaving him resembling the ghost of Christmas past.
As the Arsenal fans prayed for half-time, Everton caused more problems with Richarlison and Walcott, whilst down the other end Lacazette was taking air shots and Aubameyang was attempting to make crosses and hitting the bar. It would appear Arsenal have a few square pegs in round holes; Cech doesn't like playing out from the back, Ozil doesn't like anything, Aubameyang hates playing on the left and Lacazette wants a partner up front. The only guy winning in this Emery formation is Aaron Ramsey, who in the first half didn't impress and last time I checked still hadn't signed that contract. #odd
At the break it was a struggle to find positives. Could Emery produce another half-time masterclass and hit the reset button?
No changes this time for Emery, the Spaniard choosing to send out the same 11 that had quite frankly struggled to contain a good Everton side in the first half. This wasn't the Everton that lost at home to West Ham. They looked hungrier, more up for it and continued to find space in and around the Arsenal box as the second half started to mirror the first, Walcott going close again. Thankfully Theo was playing 'out of love' rather than 'in love' with football.
On 55 minutes Jon Moss missed what looked like a blatant handball, choosing to focus on his third sandwich of the afternoon rather than give Arsenal a penalty. Thankfully this decision wasn't pivotal, as a few minutes later Arsenal took the lead against the run of play, Torriera finding Ramsey who fed Lacazette in the box; the finish was sumptuous, curled into the top corner going in off the post, all fillet steak, chips and mushrooms in one shot, yum..
1-0 to The Arsenal and an assist for the Welsh Messi. ( He loved that).
Before Arsenal fans had time to digest that effort it was 2-0, and if the first was steak, the second was a bit spag bol from Iceland. Ozil through on goal on the right hand side decided to try and play in Ramsey for the second time in the match, and for the second time he didn't quite manage it, Ramsey kind of falling over the ball with a slight touch which inadvertently rolled the ball into Aubameyang - who despite being way offside gleefully wrong-footed Pickford to make it 2-0. That's why mum goes there!
Game over? Well, not quite. There was still time to witness Everton miss more chances, Keane with a header well saved by Cech, Iwobi coming on with a good energetic cameo, Walcott receiving a standing ovation after getting hooked for being all Walcott and no trousers, and Mustafi getting one right in the gonads! (Shodran really in the wars yesterday!).
Lucky Arsenal? Yes, a team with a better strike force would have put Arsenal to the sword. The ease in which Everton found themselves in on goal was worrying; thankfully the Toffees left their shooting boots at home and the fact Cech was man of the match pretty much "sums it all up". Not much pressing on display today either, is that plan off the table now?
Conclusion: Still no improvement defensively, despite the clean sheet, and lacking offensively in wide areas. However, three points is not to be sniffed at.
Cech: Great saves kept Arsenal in the game, more decisive with footwork. MOM 8/10
Bellerin: More switched on defensively, needs to work on crossing accuracy. 7/10
Sokratis: Got injured and didn't like the pace of Lewin or Walcott. 6/10
Mustafi: Found Richarlison too hot to handle. Will be sore in places. 6/10
Monreal: Got caught up field a lot but his crossing was better than Bellerin's. 7/10
Xhaka: Caught in possession badly but recovered in the second half to finish ok. 7/10
Torreira: A steady performance, spots danger and plays good tempo passes. 8/10
Ramsey: Got two assists and ran around a lot, loving his freedom. At the moment. 7/10
Ozil: Ghost like: 5/10
Aubameyang: Nice finish but doesn't like the left much. 7/10
Lacazette: Great finish for the first goal and worked hard. 7/10
Walcott: Missed his chances well. Love this guy!. 9/10
Holding: Tried a bit of running out with the ball which didn't work but did ok. 7/10
Iwobi: Energetic, powerful and chased down a lost cause well which created a buzz. 7/10
Welbeck: Ran around for a bit. 6/10
Next up Brentford in the Cowabunga Cup and a chance to see Leno and hopefully Smith-Rowe get a run out.