Arsenal 1 Everton 1: Arsenal cornered by Everton

Last updated : 29 October 2006 By Brian Dawes

Rosicky is fouled by Carsley
Basically this was your standard home game at the new stadium. Everton came with ten men behind the ball and relied on a workaholic speed merchant up front. Not that they broke away too often, in fact I can only remember Johnson falling down in our area and looking for a penalty just the over once, which probably means he only got into our area once. Whereas we pummelled away at a ten and in the second half eleven-man defence but failed to hit that all-important perfect shot or killer ball. In short the wide open spaces at our new home are not that wide with ten men parked in front of goal. Everton defended well but then again they got plenty of practice and had to defend well because they did absolutely nothing else other than timewaste.

As is the norm we were playing pretty football and knocking it about well for the opening ten minutes or so but managed to give away a corner in what appeared to be Everton's only attack of the half. The ball in hit Cahill, bounced kindly and he toe poked it home for a 0-1 lead to the away team. Now if we only held on to opposition players Italian style at set plays like everyone hangs onto us it would never have happened. We always look vulnerable at defensive set plays and will remain so if we allow our opponents space. This is not rocket science it is simple effective defending. Please ask Stevie Bould to sort it out Mr. Wenger because it is a weakness that needs to be rectified.

The remainder of the game saw Arsenal win about 487 corners, every one of which was quite predictably an inswinger. There was no variation, no outswingers, no short corners, no near post corners, no low corners, no edge of the box corners just predictable corners, which were predictably headed clear or wide. Why? Our set play free kicks are just as predictable, either Henry has a pop when the balls on the left or Van Persie has a pop when the balls on the right. I know this, you know this, we all know this as does every keeper and every opposing team. We need some variation, something unpredictable every now and again.

Just as predictable was the timing of our substitutions. Apart from Hoyte going off injured, we waited until 20 minutes to go before slinging in the kitchen sink with Walcott coming on at full back to add to our overlaps. Actually Wenger was three minutes early with this substitution, which almost amounts to a panic measure in his book. Why can't we change it earlier? Poor Theo at right back was unsure whether to hold back or recklessly attack while Flamini looked lost at left back when he came on and failed to recapture his past form in that position.

Another run out for Theo
Despite all this and despite it being a grey miserable sort of day and despite the ongoing frustration of being massively superior team but a goal behind I was still loving our fine interplay and amazing passing game. I was bemused by our stunning one-touch moves. I relished the sweet passing of Alexandre, Cesc and Tomas. Our passing was crisp, our movement was poetic but we just couldn't break down the opposition in a match where Thierry looked out of sorts and remained uncomfortable whilst pinned down the middle of the pitch. There is somewhere just 1% of extra unpredictability, additional finesse, unorthodoxy, crude bluntness or some unfathomable dimension that we couldn't quite reach on the day.

When we scored it came from a Van Persie rocket of a free kick, this time Howard was beaten by the sheer pace despite getting a hand to it. We still had 19 minutes left of sink throwing but the eleven-man blue brick wall stood boringly firm. We penetrated their blue wall a good few times but the shots were going the wrong side of the post, or lacked the power, or didn't quite dip enough, or the final ball was inches out or the dummy didn't quite work. More usually it was Mike ‘I wouldn't recognise a professional foul if it bit me in the arse' Riley who was at a different game who screwing things up. For example: Arteta was allowed to grab Bill by the neck, sling him to the ground and stamp on him followed by Tim ‘why was it a free kick just because I kicked him ref' Cahill grabbing Bill by the neck to hold him away. Result yellow cards for Arteta and Gallas. Riley clearly has masterbatory tendencies.

We ended up with one keeper, two centre backs, four midfield players and four forwards on the pitch and still couldn't find the desired second goal. Credit to Everton for defending well, they were tedious but effective. It was crap defending that gave them a goal and our failure to net a second that cost us two points. That said our football was still beautiful to behold and its still great to see so many fans with that gobsmacked look as they take in our stunning stadium for the first time and we are after all is said and done still unbeaten there.

Wednesday evening our opposition will be just as difficult, just as defensive but with faster breaking forwards. The only difference will be that Ashburton Grove will have less concrete showing and the place will begin to empty ten minutes before time thanks to the continued ineptitude of London's transport system.