A bright sunny day at Goodison saw our opening salvo of the new season and what an impressive start it was. Good early play from Dennis forced Stubbs to make a saving tackle, this resulted in the first of many corners for the Gunners. Not that Arsenal’s corners are ever much of a threat, but it does make you feel you’re on top when you win a load of them. Cesc was chasing shadows at the start and Gilberto probably had to do a lot of covering but as the nerves settled he played his part in a well oiled machined that cranked its way up through the gears. Cygan started well by seeing off Campbell and played in a confident and effective manner throughout. Reyes went down in their box fairly early but referee Mike Riley wasn’t impressed.
‘Stand up for the Champions’ was one of many variable renditions from the travelling Gooners who dominated off the pitch almost as much as Arsenal did on it. Dennis set Freddie away and Gilberto was far enough forward to win us another corner, which Stubbs headed clear. The corner that followed was hit deep to our Dutch captain. Lauren then put Freddie away but Nigel Martyn saved well at Freddie’s feet. Lauren was required to block at the other end but Everton attacks were sporadic going on non-existent. When they did get forward there was usually someone in blue looking to get caught offside. Cesc broke and a sweeping move ensued which involved Dennis, Jose and Thierry and ended in a blocked shot. ‘Shall we sing a song for you?’
Cole was getting forward, everyone broke in turn and at times it seemed we dismissed the notion of having any holding players in midfield. Pascal came close to scoring when Dennis took a free kick that had been won by Reyes on the left. Cygan’s header was cleared off the line. We continued to press as a series of Fabregas one-twos saw him work his way into their penalty area. ‘It’s like a morgue in here’ ‘You’re the Spurs of Mersey side’ Just how cruel was that chant? Cesc was starting to pull strings, often with the simple honest balls seen early and played early. Dennis powered one with the outside of his foot that was well saved for yet another corner. Kolo was just beaten by the keeper when the corner came over and at the other end McFadden ran into a very solid defender with a bald head, Cygan was looking good. ‘We won the League at White Hart Lane’ as Kolo blocked off a shot from McFadden who was the strike partner for Campbell.
Twenty-two minutes gone and we swept forward with a move that started at the back and involving Reyes, Henry who took out three with a pass back to Reyes. A half tackle on Jose saw Thierry pick up the pieces and find Dennis in space who drove the ball home low. 0-1 Arsenal ‘That’s why we’re the Champions’. A well-deserved lead and the only real question had been how long it would take. Campbell won a free kick against Pascal who was determined to let him know he was there. But it resulted in an easy save for Jens from the free kick. ‘Who the feck are Man United?’ Fabregas was now making his tackles, although still clearly not strong enough to go ten rounds with Graveson he is already ten times the footballer. There was a strong suspicion of handball in the area as Jose worked his way through. ‘Real Madrid you’re having a laugh’ as Lauren and Cygan stopped a rare Evertonian break in it’s tracks.
Lauren and McFadden both needed treatment after a clash and soon after Osman merited the card he was awarded for chopping down Reyes. Carsley then sent Fabregas spinning through the air. The half ended with a foul on Gilberto as he blocked a promising Everton raid. Half time and the good guys were winning 2-0, no change there then, you win some you draw some.
Hibbert replaced Stubbs at half time, Arsenal kicked off and Henry shot over from the half way line directly from the kick off. Dennis broke and Fabregas had a decent shot blocked following a cross in from our right. Reyes broke fast but Yobo made a fine tackle on Dennis. Henry broke and after seemingly delaying too long almost found Ljungberg. Cole was storming forward and was booked well inside their half for a silly foul on Yobo. Fabregas cut out a naff Yobo pass with a header and found Dennis who Henry away on our right. Thierry hit a perfect low cross for Freddie who steamed in from deep to score from close range. 0-3 Arsenal ‘You’re going down with the Tottenham’ Arsenal were gung-ho now and often left three players up front.
An Everton header on target was easily saved by Lehmann. Henry was dancing down the left, attempting to twist the kneecaps off defenders or leave them dizzy, he found Dennis on the right who blasted a screamer just over from a narrow angle. Our passing was top class and although not quite in piss take mode we were totally dominant. One twenty-plus passing move saw a final ball in from Henry for Reyes to win a corner from his header. Header certainly wasn’t an overworked word last season in the Arsenal context, so maybe we’ve been practising. Cesc won a ball off Gravesen and gave it to Henry who pissed about beating his man two dozen times while Dennis was standing in space with the goal gaping. A corner was won but it could well have been a goal. Still I forgave Henry because I suspect he’s not quite 100% match fit and needed the run out.
Reyes and Bergkamp solos next, and you have to say the old boy looks really sharp, Dennis is twice the age of Francsec but as Arsene says 17 or 35 its what you do not how old you are that counts. Not so sharp was our defending, as Carsley played a short ball continued his run and Arsenal stood and watched as the ball was lobbed up and over for Carsley to run on, collect and score. 1-3 but we were still cruising as Pennant and Pires replaced Freddie and Jose. Pires immediately won a corner following another fine ball from the Dutch master. Gilberto went down injured and was eventually replaced by Mathieu Flamini who also didn’t feature in Everton’s match day programme. Osman was replaced by the nasty beanpole they call Ferguson. So it was time for a few up and unders from Everton. Jens was required to claim a cross prior to a wild shot from Ferguson that followed a half clearance. Everton were back in it for a good two minutes before a speedy Pires solo ended with him shooting just wide.
Pennant broke with Rob and Thierry and it was Pires who had the shot. Ashley also had another go with a shot that was not too far away past the far post. Kolo out jumped the Ferguson lighthouse and Dennis still looked as sharp as he had at kick off time. In the one minute added Lehmann saved a header from Ferguson. Everton will be thankful that they only have to play us one more time this season, cup draws permitting, and on this form they may struggle. As for Arsenal it might be a tad early for the bookies to start paying out on bets but we really do look the part. The Champions crown suits us and we certainly acted like Champions today.