From My Seat: Arsenal (H)

By Ken Buckley   ::  29/11/2012 Wednesday night under the lights and a fine crowd turned out to witness an excellent game that could have gone either way and saw the return of two players from weeks of injury who showed us what we had been missing even though both were obviously a little rusty but I hope they remain fit as it is without doubt that we are better with them than without them. Arteta returned to Goodison and received a good reception prior to kick off. Mirallas was expected to make a return but didn’t, I just wish the club could be more honest with fans as the injury when it occurred and the manner of the players exit suggested to anyone who has suffered such a blow that 4-6 weeks is the norm. Why build our hopes of a speedy return? It only brings disappointment and frustration.

The game began in startling fashion as from Arsenals kick off we put them under pressure only for a clearance to find Ramsey motoring forward and just cutting through our defence and providing a pass to Walcott that left Hibbert badly exposed and although getting the slightest of deflections Walcott’s effort looped beyond Howard and into the far corner of the Gwladys street net. What a blow. A goal down in just 52 seconds! How many minds went to those 6 and 4 goals against results? I consoled myself by saying we had more than 90mins left to rectify it and we really did a good job of getting back into the game and providing excellent value for money in doing it.

We began the fight-back slowly but progressively as the half went on. Arsenal had their problems too and 5mins in Koscielny had to be replaced by Gibbs. A blow for the visitors but they continued to threaten as we also moved with menace toward their goal with Fellaini showing some fight and deft touches that were encouraging along with what looked like a partial return to form from Pienaar who not only showed his telepathic link play with Baines but made incisive forays into enemy territory Naismith who is still finding his feet at this level was pulled back by Gibbs to halt a goalbound move and was rightly booked. We forced a couple of corners that came to nought and the Arsenal attacked again and Sagna went to ground after contact of the minimal if any kind but won a free kick. The Arsenal man drilled it through the wall but straight to Howard.

End to end stuff that kept fans on the edge of the seat but as the half hour mark loomed the Blues seemed to have gained momentum and had the upper hand. I thought a goal would be handy whilst we held sway and lo and behold it came to pass. A foray forward broke down and Arsenal cleared but Pienaar latched onto the ball and found Fellaini rather luckily but the Belgian showed rare touch and class as he controlled and curled a pearler beyond both keeper and defender into the net. Pandemonium broke out—game on. Gibson got booked for a tackle on Walcott yet most observers were of the opinion he got the ball. . The game continued in end to end fashion as the half time whistle approached, Arsenal forced a couple of corners that we repelled then it was our turn to attack and Jelavic was almost through but Sagna got to him and conceded a corner which again came to nought. Then came our chance of the half to go ahead when Jelavic superbly chested down and flicked over his marker leaving him in on goal. He had done all the hard work but he let himself down with his shot on goal as he seemed to hurry his shot- leaned back and found row 20 of the Park End. Now that was a chance. The half ended with us comfortably resisting an Arsenal corner. The chat at H/T centred on both Hibbert and Gibson giving us a much more potent look. The manager’s contract statements were discussed and most thought his stance was one of a posturing nature with January window in mind. We will see.

Second half started and Arsenal looked the brighter as they pinned us back and some backs to the wall defending was necessary and our out balls were no more than punts that found only Red shirts. Strangely it took a break in play to halt the onslaught as from the restart we progressed and with Pienaar looking more his old self we forced a corner, Baines took and Distin headed goalwards but alas the keeper punched away with no-one to pick up the second ball.

The game whizzed by with scares at both ends as a most entertaining footy match took place. Naismith was wasteful on at least three occasions which saw the faithful have murmurings but I hoped they would not do anything to put him off as we have to take account of his injury circumstance and the fact he made his name at Rangers as a partner for Jelavic rather than a wide right mid-fielder. He continued to play his part and was in the move that saw Fellaini have the keeper beat him to a cross that maybe should have been attacked with a little more gusto. It was also becoming apparent that Fellaini was tiring which was hampering his usual all action style and causing his touch and timing to be dodgy. Arsenal were no pushovers as they attacked in turns with us and Giroud had a header just wide and many bemoaned the marking. This resulted in a spell of Arsenal pressure. The manager had replaced Naismith with Oviedo but he seemed to struggle on the right being so left footed that he was having more trouble than usual getting to the pace of the game. However his pace and endeavour helped us out on a few occasions and seemed to help Hibbert far more than Naismith had done. Just after the 70min mark the manager brought off Gibson to a fine ovation and sent on Hitzlsperger in the fresh legs category. Osman was most influential in our mid-field and was doing both the dirty work in breaking up attacks and the playmaker role which was the precursor to many a move forward. He had been all over the pitch and was no surprise when he started to tire a little.

This pulsating match was now entering its last knockings, could we manage a last hurrah and seize the points? Well we had a chance when a free kick was given for an Arteta foul on Fellaini near the edge of the box. A committee meeting took place with Baines, Jelavic and Der Hammer in conflab. The upshot was Jelavic took but not very well and the keeper merely caught what was no more than a back pass. I wondered if Baines didn’t take it because of an injury as he had been holding the back of his thigh since he defended a cross and the ball hit him in that area. I hope that is nothing serious as he had another fine game. The game careered on and both sets of fans had those heart stopping moments as chances came – petered out – as the pendulum swung back and to. Oviedo was now getting to grips with things and showing good pace and a willingness to work for the cause yet I could not help but think he would be far more effective on the left. We may have to find out if I am anywhere near right about Baines and his hammy. Hibbert was getting forward more and more and put both good and poor crosses in which came to nothing.

Fellaini was sent through from the halfway line but seemed to run out of steam and his judgement was poor as he could have found the supporting Jelavic or indeed took it on a few more strides and had a shot himself but instead he did the tired mentally and physical thing and looped nowhere – such a shame as it was a chance. Jelavic then tried to feed Fellaini in but the pass was heavy and from the counter you could just hear the sharp intake of breath as Walcott set off on goal. He looked to be clear and then the wonderful site of Jags running faster than I have ever seen him catch up with Walcott in the box then produce a beaut of a sliding tackle that sent the ball for a corner. Great defending and brave as any mistiming would surely have given away a penalty. 3 mins of added time and time for both teams to have last attacks but neither could get that elusive winner so as the whistle went yet another draw was secured but most thought a fair result and a good cheer went up as the Tottenham score came through. MotM – Take your pick from Osman, Baines or Fellaini.

Overall a cracking game and a good night out. We witnessed a good end to end game between two evenly matched sides and the time just flew by. There was one disappointment though that is becoming all to prevalent in the EPL. Why don’t Refs give penalties for fouls in the box. Today Arteta clearly brought down Pienaar in the box and he had shown throughout the match he would blow for a foul for similar tackles anywhere on the pitch except the in the box. Its happening to all clubs not just us – WHY!

Today I thought we played well and it looked like both Pienaar and to a lesser degree Jelavic are finding a bit more form. I hope so as it will soon be Saturday and City away. – Cant wait. UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Ajay Gopal
881 Posted 29/11/2012 at 15:50:19
Thanks Ken Always a pleasure to read your reports. You were unfortunately correct about Baines' hamstring injury. Would also like to point out the great opportunity that Baines had in the 1st half. Instead of being selfish, he passed it to Jela who was in an offside position. Wrong option! Otherwise Bainesy would have been one on one with their keeper.

It was a tough physical encounter and I wonder if the players will have enough to make a game of it against City.

Derek Thomas
903 Posted 29/11/2012 at 18:00:15
Any one got a link for last night's half-time parade of former players?
Trevor Lynes
925 Posted 29/11/2012 at 20:16:01
Ajay...

Great article and I agree with your comments. I reckon the defence was top class and Distin is much safer defensively than Heitinga.

Baines did not pass to Jelly and showed his frustration by holding his head with his hands as he was onside and obviously did not want Jelly to touch the ball. I had Baines marginally MotM but the team played well and unfortunately so did Arsenal.

A really good game played in great spirit. The crowd were excellent and showed up all the other clubs fans in fairness and non-racist vocal support. I reckon the crowds should be a part of the fairness awards that clubs are striving for. Our crowd is great!!!
Ian Smitham
932 Posted 29/11/2012 at 18:53:13
Ken, your excitement is evident in your report which matches my view from where I sat. Went to the chippy in City Road last night, wow the curry sauce was hot. Not sure if it was that or the game, but I felt warm as I left for the drive home. Excellent game, two excellent teams, very fast attacking football by both. They will take a team apart soon, but I am not sure that we will.

I reckon that, KM aside, that was our best starting line-up: Gibson was soooooo calm and good, Tony may be limited, but so secure, Jags and Distin looked composed and the Goalie also was much more secure than the previous game. Jelly looked interested and I wonder whether that is on he back of Fella being back in the side. Pienaar is a hero, watch the goal carefully, it was down to his usual work rate, something I love; I really can not stand lazy players.

Enjoyed a great night at our old but glorious stadium: spicy curry, good football, pity we arrived so late we could not get a beer.

Ian Smitham
938 Posted 29/11/2012 at 20:53:17
Sorry, while the game was great, it was not that good,
Ian Smitham
954 Posted 29/11/2012 at 22:27:35
Sorry Dick, no mention of Osman either.
Peter Mills
960 Posted 29/11/2012 at 22:50:06
Ken, as usual you have reported a game as it happened, without hysteria. Also, you have expressed your thoughts, presumably as the game unfolded, and they reflect what many of us observed. I don't know whether you are in paid employment at present but, if so, would you be prepared to take a pay cut and take over the manager's job?

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