The way I see it ? Arsenal v Everton

Last updated : 27 October 2006 By Jason Hogan
Come to think of it, although my birthday isn't actually until mid December, it was one of those days when it almost felt as though my birthday had come early such was the Arsenal's performance against the Premiership new boys.

It would be easy to say that Reading had been distracted by the fallout from their game against the PRF and we had got them at a time when they had supposedly been softened up in some way by their recent schedule of games in which they had to face off against ManUre as well as the PRF – sorry, but I'm having none of it.

Reading are one of those sides that never ever know when they are beaten. They proved that on the very opening day of the season when they came back from 2-0 down after just 25 minutes to beat Middlesbrough 3-2 at home. You cannot underestimate how much of a shock to the system a scenario like that would be to a newly promoted club and not many clubs would have recovered. But Reading did and from a distance, it told me a lot about the kind of side Reading were going to be this year.

It was no surprise to me that Reading gave both ManUre and the Phoney Russian Franchise more than a few things to think about in recent encounters and on the basis of that, I knew that we couldn't afford to even think about taking them lightly when it was our turn to visit them at the Madejski.

However, what I never bargained for was the way that the Arsenal came flying out of the traps on Sunday and the blistering display we put on for the opening 70 minutes or so. Contrary to the suggestions of some in the last week or so, Reading are not a dirty side by any stretch of the imagination but they are far from a bunch of shrinking violets who just roll over for anyone at the drop of a hat either.

The truth was that on the day, the Arsenal (much to my delight and to a degree surprise) were just too quick and far too slick for them. Even if I say so myself, you will have to go some to see a better performance away from home than that by any other team in the Premiership this season. I doubt it whether another team will go to Reading this year and put on a better display that's for sure.

One other thing that's for sure in my opinion is that in spite of what happened last Sunday, nothing has changed my view of Reading in that I can still see them finishing somewhere between 8th and 12th in the table when the season is over. They don't lack for character and they do have a fair bit of ability. It took well over a year for them to find out what defeat finally tasted like at the Madejski and, with the terrific backing they get from the crowd there, I don't see why their home cannot become a fortress for them once again in the Premiership.

From our point of view, the win at Reading represented our fifth straight win in the Premiership and slowly but surely we are building up some momentum. But, whilst I wouldn't put up an argument against the fact that Cesc was named man of the match after the game or the fact that Henry, in bagging a brace showed up prominently, I thought that Tomas Rosicky deserved a huge mention.

I thought the young Czech lad was absolutely outstanding. Talk about the Marathon Man, the boy never stops running, does he? I was so gutted for him on Sunday particularly when Hanneman made that one on one save from him late on because if anyone in an Arsenal shirt deserved to get his name on the scoresheet, it was him.

Most Arsenal fans, particularly those of a certain age, will not like it when I say this because of his past connections with Dirty Leeds and ManUre but I'll you who Tomas Rosicky reminds me of as a player - Gordon Strachan.

I particularly remember how instrumental Strachan was in his time at Leeds in the early nineties, particularly in their title winning year of 1992 and later on when he moved on to Coventry as a player before he moved into management.

Rosicky, like Strachan in his heyday as player, is almost perpetual motion personified in the way he scuttles around here, there and everywhere.

And, as Strachan did when he was a player, Tomas not only has a fantastic football brain but a drive and, dare I say it, a combative streak that you would think he has no right to have given his size.

The number 7 shirt at Arsenal has been worn by one or two decent players for Arsenal in the past. Robert Pires and the late Geordie Armstrong and David Rocastle were amongst them. All I can say is that from what I have seen, young Rosicky is shaping up to be someone that could potentially join that rather illustrious list.

On Tuesday night, the spotlight fell on some of the younger players in the Arsenal ranks as no less than NINE teenagers made up the squad that went to the Hawthorns to face West Brom in the Carling Cup.

It was billed as a tricky tie on paper and no wonder. The Baggies, under new management with the appointment of Tony Mowbray, went into the game bang in form having seen off arch rivals Wolves in the Black Country derby at the weekend and having thrashed Ipswich at Portman Road 5-1 the weekend before that.

It's safe to say that the kids took it all in their stride though as they beat a highly experienced Baggies side boasting the likes of Steve Watson, Jonathan Greening, Nigel Quashie, Zoltan Gera, Paul Robinson, Nathan Ellington and John Hartson fairly comfortably in the end.

It certainly proved to be a great night in particular for Jeremie Aliadiere. Constantly dogged by injury, the boy had become the forgotten man around Arsenal but he certainly loves the Carling Cup and his brace at the Hawthorns didn't represent the first time he has made his mark for us in this competition.

Ever since he joined the club back in 1999, I've always held Aliadiere in high esteem. There has always been something about him I've liked as a player. I just hope that the days of taking one step forward and two steps back due to injury are finally behind him because if he stays fit, the boy could still, after all this time, prove useful to us over the course of this season.

Though I never the pleasure of seeing any extended highlights of Tuesday night's game the word was that our new boy Denilson was particularly outstanding on the night as well and that relatively old stager, Theo Walcott had a decent night as well. The added bonus was that Senderos appeared to come out the game okay and some of our other young starlets like Matthew Connolly, Armand Traore and Alex Song also had sound nights though Manu Adebayor picked up a thigh strain and will be out for up to three weeks.

The future, on the face of things, seems pretty bright, doesn't it? Our reward for seeing off the Baggies is a visit to Goodison Park in the next round to face Everton who, funnily enough, also happen to be our opponents on Saturday in the Premiership. So, without further ado, let's have a quick look at Saturday's game, shall w

The only accurate word I can think of in assessing Everton over the last three years is erratic. With some teams you don't know what you're going to get from game to game but with the Toffees you really don't know what you're going to get from season to season as one minute they are openly flirting with relegation, the next they are actively vying for a place in Europe.

This season, the Toffees certainly seem to be moving in the right direction and the reason for that stems from the fact that Moyes, in my opinion, has made two of the shrewdest buys in the Premiership over the last three years.

The first of them was Tim Cahill. This lad was picked up from Millwall for £2.5 million. The boy has a Paul Scholes-like talent for popping up in the box and being in the right place at the right time and though he doesn't possess the height or build of Duncan Ferguson, he is as good in the air as he was, if not better. This guy will need to be seriously watched particularly at set pieces and if the ball is out wide in open play.

Yet, whilst Cahill's value to Everton has long since been established, one or two eyebrows were raised when Moyes took the plunge on a certain Andrew Johnson. A lot of people saw this lad as a one season wonder when he became the highest scoring Englishman in the Premiership when he was at Palace.

When he moved to Goodison in the summer, I have to admit that I had slight doubts as to whether he would quite fit in at Goodison purely because I wasn't sure whether he and James Beattie would quite work together as a combination.

As things transpired, Moyes has used him primarily as a lone striker and as a result, Johnson has effectively carried on from where he left off when he was last in the Premiership and he is joint top of the Premiership goalscoring charts. All in all, it's tough to argue that the £8.6 million Everton paid for him isn't looking like a cracking deal. Johnson gives them a dimension they have been lacking for quite some time and none of the Arsenal defenders will get a minutes peace when he's around.

There are other elements to the success the Toffees have had at the start of this season. Lee Carsley is one of those unsung pros. He's a no frills type of player who knows his limitations but at the same time Everton never look quite the same without him. I've got a lot of time for Leon Osman as well. He has come on a bundle in the last two years or so and he has similar qualities to Cahill.

Joleon Lescott was considered by many observers to be the best centre half outside of the Premiershp and he was linked strongly with us amongst other Premiership clubs up until about a year ago. However whilst others dithered over whether to take a punt on him, Moyes didn't and I understand the boy has certainly made a positive impression on everyone connected with Everton.

David Moyes has been making some fairly positive noises in the media ahead of the trip to The Grove. He is quoted as saying that Arsenal will face a better Everton side than the ones seen in recent years and to be fair, I can understand his optimism. For a start, Everton have only tasted defeat just once in all competitions this year and they have picked up some excellent wins, most notably against Liverpool and against the Spuds at Shite Hart Lane (boy did I enjoy saying that).

Having said that, the Toffees will go into the game with a few problems to solve at the back. Right back Tony Hibbert is sidelined with a groin injury and there are doubts over Phil Neville who has been covering for him in that position. Nuno Valente and Gary Naysmith, the left backs are also on the sidelines as is David Weir thanks to a nasty head injury gained in this week's Carling Cup game with Luton.

I think that this is a game where both the Arsenal players and the Arsenal faithful will need to show a bit of patience. Over recent years, Everton have shown that they are not the sort of side that concede an awful lot of goals as a rule and they will definitely come to The Grove looking to stifle us, play the percentages and look to the pace of Johnson to nick them a goal.

It would be good for us to round off what has been a fairly good week with another win. Keeping a sense of momentum going will be the key to whatever we hope to achieve this season. But, just because you may deserve something, it doesn't mean that the opposition are going to give it to you. Sometimes you have to go out and forcefully take what you consider to be yours. That's what the Arsenal will have to do against Everton on Saturday.