A beautiful and sunny day for us to make our way to face the gunners, now that always fills me with dread as we never seem to do any good against them especially away. I could hardly believe the last time we won on their soil was 1996 with Joe in charge at Highbury.
2:00pm was ushered in by all heads being bowed to open palms and digesting the starting line -up and subs bench. Not much was said as though we didn’t want to say it but we thought we may have a task too far for us. Somebody said Barkley was out for tactical reasons while others thought it was a direct message from big Ron. Whatever it was it didn’t seem to be too clever of a plan as from ref Oliver’s whistle we looked all at sea as Arsenal ripped into us and had their crowd baying for blood, there was no protest at the ground today as all wished for an Arsenal win and City and Liverpool to lose. They got one out of three which was no use to them but they sure as hell showed us where we are wanting.
For seven minutes it was all Arsenal as they tore our backline asunder with only a run and shot from Mirallas. Twice Davies lost the ball by not being as strong as the Arsenal lads he tangled with and then from another rush forward by us was again lost by Davies and Arsenal were quickly on the counter with a raid down our right and a cross that found Welbeck a yard out for a tap in, alas for him he completely missed his kick, we laughed but it stuck in our throat as Bellerin following up smashed home. Much muttering and shaking of heads from Blues assembled. That was the second open goal Welbeck had missed in the first seven minutes.
Our best reply was a run from Mirallas who hit one from distance but it lacked real pace and the keeper gathered. On 20mins Valencia had a speedy run into Arsenal territory when he was hit by a high late tackle from Koscielny and a red card was waved the ref was immediately surrounded but his decision stood. From my seat it looked like the Taylor tackle on Coleman but without the dreadful consequences, while Valencia was being treated Barkley, who I heard is signing a new contract, was warming up. Eleven v ten now and I said to my mate ‘If we can keep this score until halftime then we could take them second half as they tired’ in hindsight that did not really work out!
Lukaku had a run down the left and put in an inviting low cross and had Davies been in the wide awake club and made up just three more fast yards the tap in was his but he didn’t. Barkley still warming up. Even with ten men against us we still seemed stretched while looking to absorb pressure and counter, snag was we were not very good at it so after Mirallas had galloped down the left and crossed to no-one the manager swopped Davies for Barkley. Sad to report that Davies today looked out of his depth.
We continued to look jittery each time Arsenal had a foray forward and from one of these an Arsenal shot was charged down but the ball was re-cycled to Welbeck wide of goal on the by-line all alone and with our players seeming to stop he put across goal and Alexis hammered home. Defence all over the place – what a stupid goal to give away. Now I was hoping to keep it at 2-0 until big Ron can have a word.
However the last ten minutes plus two added of the half we had a purple patch but unfortunately we either over hit crosses or had no players showing fast movement in the box to unsettle the defenders or even not busting a gut to reach crosses hit hard and low across the box but we did gain our first corner which came to nought so half time at 2-0 down.
The half-time chat centred on how many new talented players we will need to even have a sniff of the top four. Also the news (if true) that Ross is signing. When I watch and it’s like it’s almost there but yet out of reach. I always think he desperately needs to come out of a shell and blossom and agonisingly it is not quite there. One of these days eh!
Second half and Barry is ready to come on but who for? Turned out to be Gana—injured or tactical? Tactical is my bet. He may be 36 but still our best playmaker –wow- take note Mr Moshiri it’s that bad. He made a good start by producing a great cross for Lukaku to get on target but in reality it was a back pass. Arsenal still breaking on us and causing panic among our rearguard forcing Joel to make three excellent block saves in quick succession.
We then had another wild tackle on Valencia leaving both he and his assailant writhing on the green sward. This time it was the perpetrator who came off worse and had to be stretchered off receiving a yellow card for the journey with Mertesaker replacing him. Next flashpoint was when Williams, who had been booked, tripped his man and the ref was surrounded by out of control Arsenal players demanding a second yellow an unsightly event that the ref handled well. Free kick to Arsenal and no further action. There was no need for the childish behaviour as City and Liverpool were winning with ease and everyone new as cheers and boos could be heard among those with an interest.
Barry was in his creative role as he started the move that saw the ref spot a handball by an Arsenal player from a Baines cross and pointed to the spot. Lukaku grabbed the ball and hit a beaut of a pen into the inside side netting that even a keeper of cech’s ability and size could get near.
Half-an-hour left and the game had deteriorated which seemed to favour Everton but although we got forward and sometimes into their box we had no idea of end product which for a fan is disappointing. The game was messy and Schneiderlin got booked for a rash tackle and Arsenals Holding got a yellow for unceremoniously dropping Valencia (they really didn’t seem to like that lad!) They attacked we attacked but somehow they always seemed to cause more danger and panic than we did but in one of our attacks a good cross from Holgate was converted by Valencia but the ref ruled he had fouled so free kick to Arsenal. You could say the next goal would be vital for either side but as the game was at best a scrappy stop start debacle.
We are now having the lion’s share of the game but we really need to convert chances made for example Baines got down the left well and put a good cross in to Lukaku with just the keeper between him and the net but he somehow contrived to get the ball caught between his legs then feet and that chance was gone and allowed Arsenal to break and Baines decided tripping his man was the best defensive job he could do to stop the break and was yellow carded I lost count at the number of cards shown but this game had produced more yellow than a field of daffodils.
We had our chances and Arsenal got a second wind and it was there turn to have the lion’s share of the attacking which in turn brought Joel back into the game as he made a good block at the feet of Ozil and another smart block soon after. Then Lukaku came alive and fed in Valencia in the box he took the ball in his stride but then lost his head and instead of playing back to the unmarked Lukaku he tried a shot that is still travelling somewhere in the universe another waste of a great chance through lack of composure. Barry who was the calmest man in our team fed a wonderful weighted angled cross right on to the head of Lukaku but I don’t know why but he headed it tamely wide, hell we should be converting these I said to anyone who could hear me.
Eighty mins gone and Kone replaces Valencia as Arsenal attack and Bellerin put Iwobi in on goal but the sprawling Joel thwarts him then Holgate gets a good block in, we are on the brink I thought as Joel again did a block and gather to thwart Iwobi yet again.
We are into five minutes of added time and the knockout blow was delivered. Ramsey was played in from the left he cut passed two defenders to create a gap and then sent a laser guided arcing shot over the giant Joel and into the top corner. A jewel in a sea of mediocrity. The travelling hoards no more than shook heads and shrugged shoulders --- Everton that! Joel made one more block to thwart Iwobi yet again before the whistle went which left both sets of fans with nothing to celebrate and both wondering what the summer may bring for the respective clubs.
In summary, the best I can say is it was an end of season game that initially had something on it for Arsenal but other scores scotched that and those of a Blue persuasion were far more interested in our future than the past and games as frustrating as this one. All in all I thought that Everton are a good general premier league team but money needs to be spent very wisely on the right players if we want to reach top four in fact I would say we need to try to crack the top six first because there is a gulf between the top six and us.
I say this based on the evidence of my own eyes when playing the top six teams home and away that gulf can be seen even when we beat a couple of them you get the sense it all came together on the day for us but the others have a consistency that keeps them up there and leaves a team like Everton to bemoan dropped points against the lesser lights in the league. So I hope we can get to the point where we are not bemoaning dropped points and have ‘if only’ stamped on our foreheads and are indeed genuinely running as an equal and being seen as one of the big 7.
I wish the very best of luck to those who will be doing our transfer dealings to get over the line the ones nominated by our manager and the director of football.
I wish you all well for the summer ignore all rumours and keep your eyes peeled for top notch players waving the scarf and wearing the shirt.
UP THE BLUES
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