Everton 2 - 1 Arsenal
After 10 games with just one win, the team sliding into the bottom half of the Premier League and serious questions being asked by supporters of both manager and players, Goodison Park needed to witness a big performance and a result to match.
It took a little while to get going and it required the extra catalyst of conceding the first goal but by the end of 97 minutes’ play, the Grand Old Lady was reverberating with excitement as only she can after one of those famous nights under her lights.
If there was a sense that Evertonians were simply at the end of their tether and that the nonsense that has gone on for almost three months was going to end tonight, it was evident as the home faithful cajoled, roared and seemingly drove their side back from Alexis Sanchez’s 20th-minute strike with sheer will. As the players responded, the volume and fierceness of passion from the stands rose and everything came together in the 86th minute as Ashley Williams landed the decisive blow in a pulsating contest that almost had a vicious sting in the tale for Ronald Koeman’s men.
It was a turn of events that seemed a distant prospect on Saturday afternoon as the Blues slumped to a 3-2 defeat at Watford amid all the anger and recriminations that followed. Koeman appeared as lost at that point as his predecessor had at times on how to revitalise his team’s fortunes but a summit between players and manager, combined with a long-overdue tactical shift in attack had the desired effect in delivering a badly-needed victory.
Based on his declining fortunes at West Ham and his ineffective debut against Norwich in the League Cup, Enner Valencia had largely been written off as an ill-advised deadline-day panic signing. In his fleeting substitute appearances in recent weeks, however, he had shown flashes of the difference he could make if given half a chance. At the very least, he could provide a foil for Romelu Lukaku and create space in which the Belgian could operate.
The Ecuadorian wasn’t deployed as a second striker but in a wider role on the opposite flank to Aaron Lennon and he proceeded to run himself into the ground for the cause in a laudably committed 79-minute display. And his efforts were matched by James McCarthy, another player whose Goodison days appeared to be numbered, but who chased, harried, chopped and harassed Arsenal all evening long alongside the ever-imperious Idrissa Gueye.
Replacing the rested Gareth Barry, McCarthy provided the energy and legs that the veteran midfielder couldn’t have and he rewarded his manager’s faith in him.
So, too, did Ross Barkley who, despite making his 100th Premier League start, still occasionally looks raw and is prone to choosing the wrong option. But there was no question that he was gripped by the importance of the game, not only for Everton but for him personally after spending the previous two games on the bench.
Koeman was critical of his side’s efforts in the first 20 minutes but the first 15 minutes were, by the measure of recent games, encouraging, least after Barkley had invited needless danger in only the second minute with a sloppy pass that Sanchez couldn’t punish when he overhit a through-ball intended for Theo Walcott.
Everton had a couple of early moments where Lukaku got free on the right hand side of the box — the second time after excellent work by Valencia — but his attempts to cut the ball back into the centre were blocked behind. And when they didn’t have the ball, as they wouldn’t for a long spell from around the 10-minute mark, they remained compact and dared the Gunners to try and play their way through.
Unfortunately, the Blues got themselves into a mess of their own making when Valencia ran into trouble trying to dribble his way out from the back, Barkley was robbed off possession close to his own box, Williams missed Francis Coquelin with a wild lunge but connected with Gueye instead, and Jagielka upended the Arsenal midfielder right on the edge of the box.
Sanchez lined up a direct free kick which he fired low at Williams and the Welshman, unable to sort his feet out, could only put a big deflection on the shot that Maarten Stekelenburg, diving to his left, could only help into the net.
The remainder of the first half was characterised by Everton up building an increasing head of steam, first as a reaction to frustration from the stands to misplaced passes or unnecessarily backward movement and then as a response to passionate urgency from the fans every time they went forward.
Lennon, playing down the left in the position as his lively cameo at Vicarage Road on Saturday, had one determined and skilful run but was unfortunate to slice his effort into the Park End. The same player then stabbed a snapshot wide of the other side of goal after Barkley’s free kick had bobbled off Laurent Koscielny.
The reward for Everton’s greater commitment arrived a minute before the interval, however, when the two fullbacks combined to level the scores. Leighton Baines collected Gueye’s pass down the left, turned back and then swung a wicked cross to the six-yard box where Coleman arrived to guide the ball into the far corner with a neat glancing header.
Half-time provided an unwanted check to Everton’s momentum and the first 10 minutes of the second period were largely uneventful until Coquelin took advantage of a slip by Coleman and Sanchez cut the ball back from the byline but Mezut Özil, normally so deadly in such positions, cleared the bar with a sweeping left-foot shot.
Goodison’s fire was up a few minutes later, however, when Coquelin tripped Baines in full flight just outside the box and Mark Clattenburg bottled a decision to give a yellow card. Barkley hit the defensive wall with the resulting free kick but when he flashed a low shot past Petr Cech’s left-hand post on the hour mark, the belief started flooding back into Evertonian veins.
Lukaku, by turns effective in his hold-up play and pedestrian in his demeanour, sensed it and he turned on the afterburners in the 70th minute with a powerful surge past Gabriel Paulista down the left flank but the Brazilian made up the ground to deflect his attempted shot behind for a corner.
With Arsenal’s ever-present attacking danger — not to mention Everton nemesis Olivier Giroud who entered the fray in place of Theo Walcott with 20 minutes to go — and the Blues feeding off Goodison’s “12th man”, the game could have swung either way in the last quarter of hour as legs visibly tired.
A half-chance in the 72nd minute where Barkley’s hard, low cross spun off Koscielny’s legs but just wouldn’t fall for Lukaku in front goal and then another incident 13 minutes later where Cech pulled off a reflex save from Jagielka seemed to indicate that it wasn’t to be Everton’s day.
From the third corner in succession though Barkley finally found his range and Williams rose through a crowd of static yellow shirts to plant a downward header past the goalkeeper before wheeling away in manic celebration at what was a huge moment for player and team alike.
In keeping with what had been a frenetic match at times, stoppage time almost produced high drama at both ends. It saw Jagielka sent off for a second book able offence and Arsene Wenger might still be wondering how his side didn’t grab a point in the fourth minute of that added time against the Blues' 10 men.
Having accelerated past his man and into the Gunners’ area a couple of minutes prior, Barkley had had a great chance to drive a cross to two waiting Blue shirts who could have killed the game but he shot straight at Cech instead.
Then, with the big Arsenal ‘keeper joining his attack for a corner, his opposite number Stekelenburg pawed the ball off his head and away from immediate danger. The visitors kept the ball, however, after Everton substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin had mis-kicked his attempted clearance, Alex Iwobi fed Sanchez and his flighted ball to the back post was clawed away again by the Dutch ‘keeper.
Monreal’s volley was blocked superbly by Ramiro Funes Mori, himself a late sub for McCarthy, and Iwobi’s first-time drive was cleared off the goal line by Baines before Calvert-Lewin cleared his lines after Sanchez had gone down in the box appealing for a penalty after his challenge with Mirallas.
That sent Lukaku away in a foot-race with Hector Bellerin that the Spaniard initially won but then allowed himself to be dispossessed but while Barkley collected the striker’s pass as Cech was still scampering back to his line from the other end of the field, his pass to Mirallas was poor and Koscielny was able to slide it off his toe.
30 seconds later, however, it was all over. Arsenal, sitting strong in second place in the table, 14 games unbeaten in the Premier League, and with pundits proclaiming Arsene Wenger had finally achieved the balance and depth in his squad to land England’s biggest crown again, had been beaten in a match that so many Evertonians had written off beforehand.
Time will tell if this proves to be a turning point for Koeman and Everton. Certainly, the result and spirited display that achieved it, don’t immediately erase the issues underlying the awful run results that preceded it, dating all the way back to the EFL Cup defeat to Norwich in September. The play was still too direct at times, with movement in midfield and up front still lacking at times but what this win did do is prove that there is still fight and determination in this team when it is dragged out of them by their manager and supporters alike. It must surely have made more of an Evertonian of Koeman who won't have experienced anything like that since arriving at the club.
It sets a benchmark of what's expected, however, and also sets Everton up perfectly for the Merseyside derby on Monday where another performance with the intensity and passion of this one will give Koeman and his men a great chance of putting one over the enemy from the across the Park. After that, they can worry about mustering the same spirit in less glamourous fixtures but one step at a time.
Reader Comments (36)
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1 Posted 14/12/2016 at 08:07:12
Thanks for the report, Lyndon, right on the ball. I was hoping Valencia would be given the chance. I think he has more to offer than many on this site are prepared to admit. Also, before the substitution was made, I was hoping Dom would be given a run. Neither of these guys let us down.
I've been a Blue since 1953 and a lot of the recent stuff has been the worst I can ever remember but, like others of the same veteran status on this site, I have lived in hope that we will pull it together. This win brings back some joy and so it's been a good day!
Nil Satis Nisi Optimum! COYB. Great if we beat RS next Monday and looking forward to the January window to see what we can do to strengthen the squad.
2 Posted 14/12/2016 at 08:54:31
3 Posted 14/12/2016 at 08:57:12
As I wrote yesterday, all we wanted was a 100% from everyone and get the crowd behind them. All teams are beatable, and so it turned out. Thanks to everyone for making it such a memorable night.
ps: How could we possibly replicate that atmosphere in soulless new stadium on a winters night? please renovate The Old Lady and why have they tried to cover St Luke's? It's part of our history. COYB.
4 Posted 14/12/2016 at 09:11:32
I wouldn't change the team either, if it worked against a better side like Arsenal then it can work against the Dark Side.
5 Posted 14/12/2016 at 09:31:33
6 Posted 14/12/2016 at 09:49:06
A huge pat on the back to us supporters who helped win that game through sheer passion and belief. It's nights like these that feed my drug and make me attend every match. Anyone visiting Goodison last night for the first time will be similarly addicted.
7 Posted 14/12/2016 at 10:22:12
But, slowly and surely, we became a team we can be proud of, and showing fight and bottle and aggression and bits of skill. It will take a while to forget the unbelievably poor recent performances but maybe just maybe we can trust the players and manager after all.
Definitely feels better to come to work today and have something to be proud of the performance, not just the result.
8 Posted 14/12/2016 at 10:28:42
I thought the match was on Sky, and didn't feel like making the 1.5-mile journey to Goodison, "Lucky Me!"
9 Posted 14/12/2016 at 10:37:30
We were direct and physical, which to my way of thinking is the best foil for Arsenal's tippy tappy style. In particular, I thought Rom was excellent with his back to goal, which is what is required to make this more direct approach bear fruit.
The team and manager deserve the plaudits for a performance which I find hard to see fault in. Let's enjoy that while it lasts!
10 Posted 14/12/2016 at 10:58:34
The irony of Williams scoring the winner considering how awful he was in the first half.
Delighted with the result and what appears to have been fight but I fear that we might need to win on Monday to get enough momentum going to get rid of, rather than paper over, many of our cracks.
11 Posted 14/12/2016 at 10:59:47
My last visit was vs Arsenal in March this year. I left absolutely deflated. N thousand km of flights to watch the worst ever performance I had seen from an Everton team.
What a delight it was to see this win even though it was on Optus here in Oz! Thanks to the supporters in the ground ++++!
12 Posted 14/12/2016 at 11:20:06
13 Posted 14/12/2016 at 11:38:48
14 Posted 14/12/2016 at 11:51:18
The Echo posing the question: Should we stick or twist. Stick. I don't think we would have won last night had Barry been playing. He'll get over-run against the RS. On a side note I actually thought Barkley was sensational at times last night. I liked how he was moving the ball quicker. It plays to his instincts. Barkley is at his best when he doesn't think.
Great piece, Lyndon.
15 Posted 14/12/2016 at 11:58:34
Our poor start to the game , and there was me cursing and saying , here we go again. Chasing another game.
WTF happened after that?
Bottle that response. Bottle that next 70 minutes. And we have a team. We have a season.
Did Yuri Geller wave a magic wand. Did the ghosts of Labone and Dean rise and kick start our players up the backside... Was it the crowd? Or has something finally dropped into place with these players.
Arsenal were rattled .their manager was getting hells abuse on the radio last night. Its a fickle old game.
Hopefully that is our slump now over.
Hopefully we can now have a decent run over the Christmas fixtures .and also that upcoming cup fixture is now not looking so daunting... Its funny what one good win can do for everyone.
Interesting to read about supporters first games attended at Goodison. My first game was against Burnley. We drew 1-1. And I actually liked the way Burnley played. But it was always going to be Everton for me.
I was at Goodison for about ten derbies in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We got beat every time. I then missed one and we won 1-0.. I think in about 40 years. And about 20 to 30 derbies attended, I've only seen Everton beat the RS once. I've got the message. If it helps I'm staying away. COYBs
16 Posted 14/12/2016 at 12:21:48
I think Koeman knows this and I think that could explain why he made his comments regarding Lukaku not reaching his potential if he stays at Everton, I think he was 'hint hinting' at one of the rich teams to offer £70 million so he has 'no choice' but to sell him and get a player (or two) who will make the team work better.
At the moment Lukaku is undroppable, he's the only option we've really had upto now (although I'm hoping valencia/calvert-lewin are changing that perception) and he will score goals, but will we consistently win with him in the team?
A good example of this is:- Everton win the league 84-85, buy Lineker the next season, we finish second, win nothing but Lineker scores 40 goals despite this Howard Kendall didn't think the team was playing to its strengths with Lineker in the team and were relying too heavily on him so he balls'ily sells him to Barca and Everton win the league the next season. The same thing is happening across the park with the shite: Sturridge, for all the goals he's capable of doesn't fit into how Klippety Klopp wants his team to play, so he's being fazed out.
Unfortunately (until tonight) Koeman hasn't had the option to faze out the 'perceived' super star in the team, and I think if he can get a hard working CF in the transfer window he will, then faze out Lukaku (obviously he'd rather sell him for big bucks first, if he's out the team his price will go down) even if the replacement doesn't bag 20+ goals a season, I think we will see Everton win more games and goals shared out from elsewhere in the team.
I'm praying he goes with the same team at the weekend, now the lads know they can rely on some hard work from up front (it took the first 20 mins of last nights game for them to realise this and what Valencia brought to the performance) and that the ball wasn't going to come straight back when played forwards.
This is another massive weakness in Lukaku's game and it's reasonable to suspect this is why the players are reluctant to keep playing the ball forwards to our (usually) only forward just to see the ball come off his shin followed by the opposition breaking straight back at us with our players out of position. If that happens then I think we can go and put a shift in from the start against the shite and, win/lose/draw be proud of a performance.
17 Posted 14/12/2016 at 12:22:53
The Goodison roar that we haven't heard a lot of lately started to lift our players and seem to sap the energy of Arsenal's players, the crowd was truly the 12th man. Every player played their part, and I have to say I was amazed by McCarthy's performance he was outstanding I didn't think he still had that in him.
I only hope that his performance was to impress Koeman and not Ireland's assistant manager who was sitting in the stands. Mind, if it was to impress Roy Keane maybe we should ask him to attend all our games.
Barkley put in his best performance for a very long time, and nobody could fail to be impressed by Valencia's work rate, a high energy performance.
I did post yesterday and say that Arsenal don't like to be involved in physical games as they often lose these type of games. I hoped we would make it a physical game and after their goal that's exactly what we did. So now, guys, that's the benchmark I want to see every player walk off the pitch with nothing left to give as they did last night.
18 Posted 14/12/2016 at 13:01:59
Possibly a note to Southampton supporters who apparently couldn't understand why Koeman would desert them for Everton... THAT'S WHY!!!
If you ever get that level of passion from the terraces you may in a hundred years time be at our level as a Club
19 Posted 14/12/2016 at 13:05:57
More of the same please. Valencia must start against Liverpool simple as that.
20 Posted 14/12/2016 at 13:27:21
I agree there were flaws evident again most notably in defence with Valencia and Williams culpable for the first goal and at times we lacked poise and craft in midfield. But, once we pushed up and started moving the ball forward quickly, we created opportunities with Lennon and Valencia both making runs off Lukaku who competed well in the middle with Koscielny and Gabriel.
The last minute escape with shots blocked on the line was fully deserved and just reward for 100% effort from the whole team. That level of effort will do for now; the skill and craft can come later.
As Brian Clough used to say about his own teams, they will be okay providing they don't start thinking they are a good team.
21 Posted 14/12/2016 at 15:46:00
I have opined often that this team frequently plays better without him, but on this day Ross was closing down hard on the ball and sprinting back to help cover Baines when he went up.
He still had some blunders... no idea what he was thinking on that final rush to the empty goal... but his cross-field passing was generally excellent and, for the first time in months, he truly earned his place.
22 Posted 14/12/2016 at 16:08:57
It's pointing out where, in my view, the team can clearly improve as Koeman continues to build and mould it. That shouldn't detract from what was a long-overdue show of passion and fight or the fact that the game was won in the air with accurate deliveries.
23 Posted 14/12/2016 at 16:49:52
This can make a huge difference when the chips are down. If we manage to retain Seamus beyond this season, then he should be made full time captain as the others enter the winters of their careers.
24 Posted 14/12/2016 at 16:53:22
Not perfect, of course, and he has to maintain this form, but I am genuinely surprised by comments which say his performance still showed him to be a disappointment or problem.
Rumours that Spurs are after him. Bollocks, I trust, but there will be no shortage of clubs who know his talent and who will have been taking careful note last night.
25 Posted 14/12/2016 at 18:35:37
26 Posted 14/12/2016 at 18:46:19
27 Posted 14/12/2016 at 21:09:02
28 Posted 14/12/2016 at 21:11:06
29 Posted 15/12/2016 at 07:26:54
Great to see the passion return.
And Gana was immense.
30 Posted 15/12/2016 at 09:25:56
Good job you've already had your birthday money and
Christmas box, what have I reared !!!! It will take me a long time to get over that, 'I didn't feel like going to the match'. Don't fuckin' believe it!!!
31 Posted 15/12/2016 at 14:36:01
32 Posted 15/12/2016 at 14:42:37
33 Posted 15/12/2016 at 16:37:54
Our manager and new players may have been wondering what was so special about playing for the Moonlight Dribblers... Now they know. It was a proper Everton night. Big thumbs up to all concerned. Now keep it going.
34 Posted 16/12/2016 at 21:47:54
Off the pitch, perhaps they think they just have to turn up. I sense they think they have to turn up, but Rom is loaded to make an impression on this game.
Klopp is no mug, but we must fight every inch from 0 - 97(?) minutes as I reckon the referee will be an interesting adage to this game. "What's Our Name?"
35 Posted 18/12/2016 at 02:26:52
McCarthy buzzing around in front of the defense which seemed to gain the confidence to play higher and Valencia grafting up front were both huge. More options in midfield because we shortened the field.
I have never seen Barkley more aggressive; he was battling out there. He was sublime at times. This to me looked like a Koeman team I really don't know if we have the players to maintain the level of passion and performance that we saw against Arsenal but maybe the ironic fact that it is easier to work hard for the team and win than to work for yourself and lose .
We have an excellent coach; we have in Coleman, Baines, Barkley, Gana, Holgate, maybe Davis a few players to build around. (I would love to add Duelofeu to that list because if he ever committed himself he would be a world beater.)
Keep the faith, Blues. We are heading in the right direction but it's going to take time.
36 Posted 20/12/2016 at 00:30:00
To go 45 mins with not even a pot shot in a derby is the pits! Rant over and hopefully this squad will wake up and stop feeling sorry for themselves. It's Walt Smith time again?
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