The way I see it - Everton v Arsenal

Last updated : 28 January 2009 By Jason Hogan
The win over ManUre back in November was sweeter than I could ever express but then that has always been the case for me as an Arsenal fan whenever we have got a result against those bar stewards pretty much since the year dot. Beating the Phoney Russian Franchise earlier in the season was also sweet but, in many ways, the result was more memorable in the circumstances than the actual performance.

It's been a while since I have seen us get a result AND put in an all round quality team performance. We have got some spectacular results like the 5-2 win over Fenerbahce in Istanbul and the 4-0 win over Porto. But, to be fair, the game in Istanbul could have finished 7-all and things could have turned out different against Porto if they had taken the chances they had early on the Champions League game at The Grove.

I thought we had turned a corner up at the KC Stadium last weekend. As I said my preview to the game, the Arsenal lads couldn't afford to look at Hull's recent league form and go into the game with any preconceived ideas or assumptions because, if anything, I felt that we were the team who had something to prove on the night.

So, it was highly pleasing to see us go up north on a cold wet and windy night, show some kind of resolve and win the game in the end. Even Bendtner came to the party in a big way on the night. I am not by any means his greatest fan but in light of the fact that I have said some admittedly harsh things about him (which I do not regret one bit by the way), I'm big enough nonetheless to give him some credit for giving us some much needed impetus on the night.

But, to coin the old cliché, a week is a very long time in football and it certainly seems that way for the Arsenal these days. Because we went to Ninian Park on Sunday and put on a show which was, in the main, not becoming of a side that have "ambitions" to finish at least in the top four this season.

We may have gone into the game unbeaten in our last nine games in all competitions but for me, the opening 20 minutes was a throwback to the start of the season when we played FC Twente in the last qualifying round of the Champions League last August.

As was the case against Twente back then, we didn't have our strongest side out in Cardiff, though Wenger did in fact made five changes to the team that lined against Hull nonetheless. But even if you take into account that it was a cup game and that Cardiff were being roared on by their fans right from the off, the opening exchanges were almost a carbon copy of that dreadful night on Arnhem back in August (even though we actually won that game in the end of course). We were all over the place in the first half at Ninian Park and at times we looked like a Sunday League pub team that had been out on a stag night the evening before.

Aaron Ramsey was drafted in to play alongside Song in midfield and the hype in the build up to the game clearly got to the lad. He was hauled off around the hour mark but he shouldn't be too rueful over how things went. He didn't have the best game of his life but I have no doubt that his best days as an Arsenal player are very much ahead of him.

I wish I could be as bullish about Eboue, Diaby and Song though. Ramsey may have failed to cover himself in glory but I have got to the stage where I don't know where to begin with these three. I spent an awful lot of time shaking my head whilst watching and these three in particular got me at it so much, it's a miracle my head didn't fall off of its shoulders.

Just what it is going to take for Wenger to see that Eboue is a stone cold liability I really don't know. For me, this lad epitomises how far our beloved ArsenaI have fallen and might continue to fall when we do not have ANYONE, in the humble opinion of the boss at least, who is a better alternative to him as a right-sided midfield player.

The only thing I can say in defence of Eboue is that he was not alone in art of being hapless if not hopeless. Song and Diaby would struggle to open up a tin of beans between them let alone remotely organised opposing defences. Song was as slow as ever in reacting to danger, particularly early on and his inept ability to pass the ball was only surpassed by Eboue. And Diaby? Well, I'm sorry, but he flatters to deceive all too often. For example, there were times when he would make a promising surging run towards Cardiff's goal only to get to the edge of the box, get a sudden nose bleed and lose possession altogether.

There are times when you have to give credit to the opposition though and I thought Cardiff performed admirably. They have some genuinely good players down there and I can see the likes of Ledley, centre back Johnson and new boy Chris Burke, who I remember well from his time at Rangers, doing a job for some of the lesser lights in the Premier League one day.

But from our point of view, this game once again highlighted the fact that we are lacking in real quality particular in midfield. Can any Arsenal fan put their hands on their hearts and tell me that (in the absence of Fabregas, Walcott and Rosicky) the likes of Diaby, Denilson, Eboue and Song are really good enough to keep Arsenal moving in the right direction? I can't.

Wenger may not be a fan of the January transfer window but the truth is I would rather he talked less and engaged in a little more action. We are crying out for at least one, maybe two central midfielders that can come into the team right now and influence football matches both from a defensive and offensive point of view.

My view on Arshavin and the ongoing saga has been chronicled but I would gladly see us missing out on him in order to get what we really need. The sad thing is that like most Gooners I am resigned to the fact that will not happen.

Which leads me to echo the sentiments of my last piece when I said that if we fail to bring in one or two proper players into our midfield area at least, we can kiss a place in the top four goodbye. I hope I'm wrong in saying that for all our sakes, fellow Gooners, I really do. But as things stand right now, I doubt it.

Now, it's time to look forward to our league game at Goodison Park where we will face Everton.

There are a lot of fans, Gooners included, that decry Everton as a team but I'm not one of them. In fact, I actually enjoy watching them largely because they are, in many respects, everything that we are not.

They may not quite have a raft of technical players that Arsenal have but, unlike us, they play as a team, they play with spirit, they know their limitations and have the kind of all for one, one for all attitude that is almost conspicuous by its absence most of the time at Arsenal these days.

The Toffees come into this game on the back of eight-match unbeaten run which has coincided with fact that they have certainly tightened up a great deal at the back of late. The two goals they conceded over the two games with Liverpool in the last week were the only goals they have let in over the last eight matches. And when you consider that they haven't even had one recognised striker available in all of that time, it makes the run they are on all the more impressive.

I couldn't help but roar with laughter when Rafa Benitez had a go at Everton for being negative in their approach to Sunday's cup tie. The Everton fans taunted him with cries of "Rafa's cracking up" throughout the cup tie and I have to say they were right. Let's put it this way; if I was Benitez I would stay away from mirrors because he will not like what he sees staring back at him. Either that or he should reinforce his own glass house before throwing stones at others.

When you look at where the threat is going to come from where Everton are concerned you have got to talk about Tim Cahill. This bloke maybe Australian and not averse to rubbing people up the wrong way but he is, beyond any doubt, one of the shrewdest buys that has been made in the Premier League era.

Whilst he isn't the most technically gifted player ever to pull on a football shirt, Cahill not only has the uncanny knack of being often in the right place at the right time and the goals he scores tend to be telling ones which turn one point into three or defeats into draws.

Marouane Fellaini should also come back into the side tonight after a two-match ban and this boy has definitely made an impression on me. Everton may have had to shell out £15 million in order to prise the boy away from Standard Liege but despite being only 21 or 22 the boy is already shaping up to be value for money.

He's got a good engine on him, is not afraid to put himself about and at around six foot four, he uses his physical presence to great effect both on the ground and particularly in the air.

I like the boy Pienaar on the left. He's another one with a big engine on him and a penchant for hard graft down the left hand side. And there is a chance that Arteta will also be back tonight as well - and I have made my thoughts on him pretty clear lately.

So, in spite of the fact they do not have any recognised strikers available, Everton certainly do have few players who will give the Arsenal some food for thought. I can see Everton really going for it with Fellaini partnering Cahill up front and whilst they may not necessarily represent a genuine threat in open play, they certainly will from set pieces.

The Arsenal have got it all on tonight that's for sure and whether your glass is half empty or half full as an Arsenal fan, there is no doubt that we will find out what the lads are really made of before tonight is over.

How do I think things will go for us tonight? Well, looking at the Arsenal right now, I'm glad I'm not much of a betting man to be honest.