FA Premiership (1); Highbury, London; Saturday 16 August 2003; 3:00pm
  Henry (pen:34')
Pires (70')
Campbell (Sent off: 24')

Attendance: 38,014
Halftime: 1-0

Radzinski (84')
Li Tie (Sent off: 87')

Referee: Mark Halsey

ToffeeWeb Match Report

No, we never really expected we could win at Highbury — although we hoped to catch Arsenal unaware and spring an opening day surprise.  We haven't won there since 1996 but they've won every league game there against us since.  For a few minutes in the first half it looked like we could win and after Sol Campbell was sent off after 25 minutes, we probably should have.

But the Everton of old, the one we've been living with for years now, the one whose agonising dearth of midfield creativity is borne of having precious little money to spend in the transfer market, reared it's head once again.  The Gunners, despite playing almost all of those 75 minutes a man down, brushed David Moyes's team aside with relative ease.  The enormous gulf of class and financial muscle between these two clubs, one that was masked during that game last October and by Everton's flirtation with the top four last season, was laid bare and it made desperately uncomfortable viewing for the Blues' faithful.

Shorn of Kevin Campbell's services up front and three of his less exciting midfielders through injury, and relieved of the necessity to include Duncan Ferguson in the squad through the Scottish wastrel's three-match ban, David Moyes didn't have a big pool of players from which to choose, but the team he did field at kick off raised a few eyebrows nonetheless. Alessandro Pistone was preferred to Tony Hibbert on the right, which deserved criticism only because it meant David Unsworth started at left back, and Mark Pembridge was selected ahead of Gary Naysmith in left midfield.  Leon Osman wasn't even on a substitute's bench that did feature Wayne Rooney, despite The Boy not being fully match fit.

The opening exchanges of the game once it kicked off had all the hallmarks of two teams playing their first meaningful football for three months, but it has to be said that Everton looked the more hungry of the two sides.  Indeed, they could have been ahead as early as the 6th minute when Thomas Gravesen fed Tomasz Radzinski out on the right and he cut inside before squaring an inviting ball into Nick Chadwick's path, but the 20 year-old striker could only effect a tame toe poke that Jens Lehman in the Arsenal goal did well to block with his legs.  It was likely an unfortunate combination of surprise and inexperience for Chadwick but it was Everton's best chance of the half.

Gravesen may well have been presented the best chance of the half, and more than likely the first goal, had Sol Campbell not brought a sudden end to his jinking run on the edge of the area and earned a straight red card for his trouble.  It was a rare and sublime piece of skill by Gravesen and he had clearly beaten the defender with a deft shimmy, leaving referee Halsey with little alternative but to adjudge it as illegally preventing a goalscoring opportunity.

So, there it was; as a big a gift as a team as inadequately equipped as Everton often are could wish for at a place like Highbury.  The challenge was to continue to probe the Arsenal defence as they had been up until that point, exploit their numerical advantage and really go for the jugular.

Instead, it was typical Everton from that point until Radzinski pulled a goal back late on to give his side some hope.  We had the oh-so familiar lack of attacking ideas in midfield, the complete dearth of width, and possibly the single-most frustrating sight in football: the aimless cross-field punt from Unsworth that invariably finds an opposition player or the far touchline. The man has being playing the game at the highest level for a decade — and we have appreciated him for his guts, determination and spirit — and yet he still can't find a Blue shirt on a consistent basis.

The red card was a catalyst, but it ignited a spark in Arsenal and not Everton. All slick passing, intelligent running and pin-point throughballs, Arséne Wenger's team were a threat every time they came forward. And they were in front less than ten minutes after Campbell's premature departure.  Thierry Henry tried to beat Alan Stubbs just inside the area by flicking the ball past him but an instinctive move of the elbow towards the ball was spotted by the referee and Arsenal were rightly awarded a penalty which Henry dispatched down the center and past Richard Wright who had dived to his left.

After Radzinski had had a fierce drive unwittingly deflected over the bar by Chadwick, Henry's perfectly-weighted through-ball found Gilberto in the clear down the right channel but he stumbled over the ball and it went for a goal kick, wasting a gilt-edged opportunity to extend the home side's lead right on half time.

It was 2-0, however, 12 minutes after the restart. After Patrick Vieira had missed with an unchallenged header from a corner and Radzinski had blazed the ball across the goal and well wide, Arsenal attacked down the left with typical incision and although Wright pulled off a brilliant double-save, the ball fell straight into the path of Robert Pires who couldn't miss the empty net. Three Arsenal attackers were in attendance when the ball crossed the line with no Blue shirt within five yards, incredible for a team with one more man on the field.

It was nearly 3-0 eight minutes later, but again Wright was on hand to palm the ball acrobatically over the bar from point-blank range.  At the other, despite the introduction of first Rooney for Linderoth and then Naysmith and Li Tie for Unsworth and Pembridge, the Blues were offering nothing in attack.  Instead, Freddie Ljungberg rattled the Everton bar with a curling free kick that, crucially, picked up a deflection on the way.

However, with the minutes ebbing away, Everton found a way back into the game. After the Arsenal defence failed to capitalise on a moment of indecision between two blue-shirted players on the edge of the area, Gary Naysmith knocked the loose ball to Radzinski to his left and the Canadian international smashed it past Lehmann to make it 2-1.

Cue the grandstand finish and a final opportunity to make the extra man tell. Instead, Li Tie was sent off for two quick yellow cards for over-exuberant tackles, and although Joseph Yobo sent a towering header over the bar with a couple of minutes to go, Moyes's side never looked capable of grabbing the all-important equaliser.

As much as the result was expected it was nevertheless disappointing because it further illustrated Everton's persisting inability to break down teams with ten men and it pressed home the depressing financial realities under which the manager must operate. Moyes needs the addition of Sean Davis so badly it probably hurts. Gravesen was so laid back at times it was disturbing, but it was still probably his best performance in a long while (not to say he was brilliant because it was his dreadful pass that almost gifted Gilberto the second goal) and he was unlucky not to be rewarded with the potential goal Campbell's body check took away from him.

Moyes could do a few more striking options as well, for while Chadwick tried to put himself about alongside Radzinski, he failed to really offer anything in terms of an attacking outlet. Radzinski was his usual pacey and dangerous self, but he often ploughed a lonely furrow up front without sufficient support from midfield.  In defence, Unsworth was, well, Unsworth (appalling distribution and little else) and Stubbs will hopefully be kicking himself for the handball but Yobo was majestic alongside him and Pistone made an accomplished performance at right back.

So, roll on Fulham and an opportunity to get some points on the board before the confidence drains away.  If it were up to me, Hibbert would play right back, Pistone left back and Osman would get at least a decent run out as substitute to see if he can't solve some of the midfield woes.

Tomasz Radzinski: 83rd-minute strike not enough to spare Everton's blushes

Arsenal v Everton:
Prior League Games
 Arsenal 54
 Everton 16
 Draws 12
 Arsenal 9
 Everton 1
 Draws 1
 Last Season:

Arsenal 2-1 Everton 

Premiership Scores
Arsenal 2-1 Everton
Birmingham 1-0 Tottenham
Blackburn 5-1 Wolves
Fulham 3-2 Middlesbro
Leicester 2-2 So'hampton
Man United 4-0 Bolton
Portsmouth 2-1 Aston Villa
Charlton 0-3 Man City
Leeds Utd 2-2 Newcastle
Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea

BBC Sport Match Preview

What the Gunners say:
Arsenal @ FootyMad
Match Facts
 Arsenal  (4-4-2)
 Red shirts, white shorts, white socks
Everton  (4-4-2; 57' 4-3-3)
 Blue shirts, blue shorts, blue socks
Campbell [Sent Off: 24']
Pires (70' Parlour)
Wiltord (30' Keown)

Subs not used:  Jeffers,
Bergkamp, Taylor

Yellow Cards: Vieira (41')

Red Cards: Campbell (24')
Unsworth (67' Li Tie [Sent Off: 87'])
Pembridge (67' Naysmith)
Linderoth (57' Rooney)

Subs not used:
Simonsen, Weir 

Yellow Cards: Gravesen (73'),
 Rooney (78'), [Li Tie (80, 87')]

Red Cards:
Li Tie (87')


(Injured:) Alexandersson, Gemmill, Carsley, Campbell
(Suspended:) Ferguson

Match Reports
  Bologna (H)
2003-04 Match Reports Index
Fulham (H)

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Premiership Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Blackburn 3
2 Man Utd 3
3 Man City 3
4 Fulham 3
5 Arsenal 3
5 Portsmouth 3
5 Chelsea 3
8 Birmingham 3
9 Leeds 1
9 Southampton 1
9 Newcastle 1
9 Leicester 1
13 Middlesbrough 0
14 Everton 0
14 Aston Villa 0
14 Liverpool 0
17 Tottenham 0
18 Charlton 0
19 Wolves 0
20 Bolton 0
After 17 Aug 2003

Match Preview

And so the purgatory of pre-season is over and the Premiership finally begins...

After 2 months of idle transfer gossip with little if any substance; 2 months of threats concerning the arrival of Robbie Savage; 2 months of wondering when on earth the Board were going to back Moyes in improving his squad even one iota, we at last know where we stand: right were we did last year — well, for the journey to Highbury anyway.

Barring a last minute striker gamble, Everton's squad will be identical to that which ended such a great season so disappointingly last May.

After all the squad's exceptional efforts last year and Moyes's and Irvine's brilliance, the Board once again failed to deliver.  I guess that is a touch harsh.  Around £5M will have been spent on Yobo and Li Tie but there must be the feeling that the momentum has been halted, the squad has failed to refresh and the failings that were so evident last year and which began to be exploited are still there to be exposed.

We must hope that, before the end of August, Davis will be on board and perhaps at least one other - McManaman anyone?  Even then, I have to say that the delays we have seen will still have damaged moral.

Anyway!  The season begins a fresh and its time for optimism and blind faith!  We travel to the home of one of the best sides in Europe shorn of three centre-forwards — Campbell is definitely out; Ferguson suspended; and Rooney unlikely to be risked.  Radzinski will return to the fold after missing the run-in (and how we missed him) and Chadwick gets another chance after a season gone that he must be delighted to leave behind.

Personally, I am delighted to see Chadwick starting ahead of Campbell.  Chadwick has always scored goals (apart from at Derby) and deserves his chance.  If we are still relying on Campbell and Ferguson at the end of this year, then we will not be challenging for Europe!

I guess the rest of the team will be as per last year and as per the team that battered a tired and jaded Bologna side last Sunday.  Pembridge, Gravesen, Li Tie and Watson will run the middle and Stubbs and Yobo will take centre stage at the back.  Unsworth looks to have kept the left-back berth, and the perennially classy but perennially injured Pistone has managed to get a full pre-season under his belt and looks to have displaced Hibbert at right-back.  I still consider Pistone as our best player and a full season from him and Yobo would give us an exceptional base.

It looks like Wright is just about fit enough to hold off the weak claims of Gerrard and Simonsen; given their performances in pre-season, I think if he was still unable to dive he would still have got the nod!

Arsenal?  Well they have been boosted by the news that Pires and Viera have signed new contracts this week.  Viera looked fit enough for me on Sunday against Man Utd whilst still obviously not being at his best — even so, he is a number of leagues ahead of anyone in our midfield.

Their weak points that Moyes will be hoping to exploit?  Alongside Campbell will either be Toure or Cygan — either of those are apparent chinks in the armour — if Rooney was fit anyway!  Elsewhere?  Let's be honest ,they don't have any!  If they have a failing, it's that they try to score the "perfect" goal.  Also, if you can keep them out in the 1st half, the Arsenal hordes are not the most patient.

It will be Back to the Walls.  Midfield working as hard as they can and Chadwick and Radz living on scraps.  Arsenal may not be as sharp as they will be later in the season so it may not be a bad time to play them. With Pires and Henry on the pitch you know that we are going to have to score to get anything out of this game but I have blind faith in Moyes and fancy Chadwick to nick one.

Don't concede too early; work your socks off; be in it with 30 minutes to go... 1-1 to get the season moving in the right direction — Now come on Board give us a chance?

Welcome back Premiership


Lee Doyle


Lacking Self-Belief

First day of the new campaign; although the result doesn’t sound too bad, I’m still disappointed that we were unable to make a really firm claim for at least a draw.

Wayne Rooney was included amongst the subs and Tobias Linderoth partnered Steve Watson, Thomas Gravesen and Mark Pembridge in midfield.  The big surprise was at the back though as Tony Hibbert was left out altogether as Alessandro Pistone played at right-back with David Unsworth on the left.  Unless Hibbert picked up a last minute injury, what’s going on?  With both Pistone and Hibbert we should really have seen the end of Unsworth at the back.  Joseph Yobo was partnered was Alan Stubbs.

Only 6 minutes gone and we could’ve gone 1-0 up, Thomasz Radzinski crossed for Nick Chadwick who was only able to toe-poke his effort straight at goalkeeper Jurgen Lehmann from just a few yards out.  Would have been some start for the young striker, who really should have done better. 

Apart from one or two Thiery Henry free-kicks that never troubled Richard Wright, we kept Arsenal at bay and looked to get the upper hand on 24 minutes.  Thomas Gravesen picked up the ball in midfield, evaded a couple challenges and skimmed past Sol Campbell for a clean run on goal before the Arsenal full-back fouled him.  Referee Mark Halsey had no option but to send Campbell off and with them a man down and us having a free-kick in a great position, things looked good.

As expected though, Stubbsy blasted his free kick straight into the wall and we still fell behind some 10 minutes later.  THIERY HENRY knocked the ball past Alan Stubbs only for the central defender to instinctively stick out an elbow and catch the ball; Henry scored from the resulting penalty.  Amazingly, this French prick then decided he should take off his shirt in front of the travelling Evertonians and blow them a few hand-kisses!  What the fuck was that all about you stupid arrogant twat?  Also, what happened to referees booking players for taking their shirt off and/or provoking the fans?

Wayne Rooney replaced Tobias Linderoth on 57 minutes as we were unable to make our numerical advantage tell and were never able to threaten Lehman on an increasingly frustrating afternoon.  Which was to get worse: just a minute after the substitution the game seemed all over.  Richard Wright made a brilliant double save from Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vierra only for ROBERT PIRES to stick the rebound in the net — much like last season’s when Vieira scored Arsenal’s winner, where was our defence!?  Richard Wright then had to make made another great save from Freddie Ljungberg, who later also hit the bar with a free kick.

Li Tie and Gary Naysmith came on for Mark Pembridge and David Unsworth and on 84 minutes we were given a lifeline when TOMASZ RADZINSKI opened his account of the season and with 6 minutes plus injury time left we finally started to exercise some pressure.  Apart from a Joseph Yobo header, though, it was all too little, too late.  Li Tie was sent off for a second bookable offence in injury time to cap off a rather frustrating result.

With them down to 10-men for so long, we perhaps should have done better.  Arsenal are a great side but in that second-half they still managed to look like having an extra man on the pitch — somehow we never seemed to believe we could get a result today.  Pity.

Ron van Dijk

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