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Venue: Emirates Stadium, London
Premier League
 Saturday 1 March 2015; 2:05pm
2 0
Giroud (39')
Rosicky (89')
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 59,925
Fixture 27
Referee: Andre Marriner

Match Report

If there was a salient feature of Roberto Martinez's first season in charge at Everton, as the Blues charged though 2013/14 under the banner of "Sin Miedo" to a record points haul in the Premier League, it was the brand of bold, attacking football that carried the team to handsome victories at home against the traditional "Sky Four" and overwhelmingly positive displays against those kinds of teams on the road.

Keen to throw off the inferiority complex that seemed pervasive under his predecessor, Martinez took his charges to Old Trafford and shattered a painful 21-year winless record on Manchester United's home ground, made Chelsea fight tooth and nail for a fortunate victory at Stamford Bridge and played Arsenal off their own patch before grabbing the point they richly deserved thanks to a piece of magic from Gerard Deulofeu.

Unfortunately, in this increasingly demoralising Premier League campaign, these meetings with the top flight's elite clubs have reverted largely to type for Everton since they threw away a comfortable 2-0 lead against Arsenal at Goodison Park in August. They've lost home and away to Chelsea, been beaten away at United, needed a moment of magic from Phil Jagielka to avoid another derby defeat at Anfield, succumbed meekly to Manchester City at the Etihad and now seen normal service resume at The Emirates.

If there is fear that is holding the Blues back against the top five this season, it appears to be more about taking chances and risking a mistake than any real awe of the opposition. Everton controlled long portions of this match against Arsene Wenger's wounded Gunners, often out-passing one of England's most renowned possession outfits. But with that swashbuckling mindset that was so successful last season largely gone replaced by a safe, torpid approach that yields few chances and, therefore, even fewer goals they barely looked like scoring let alone grabbing a first away win at Arsenal for 19 years.

More worrying is Martinez's apparent inabiilty or refusal to either respond to events on the field with positive changes or to make attack-minded adjustments aimed at rescuing losing situations. From the manager to the players, once Arsenal had taken the lead in the 39th minute with their first effort on target, this performance was dragged down by an apparently passive acceptance of Everton's fate. More than the predictable result, it was the lack of desperation and desire to claw back a single-goal deficit for most of the second half that was simultaneously galling and deeply worrying.

In response to his side's distressing form over Christmas and a run of 14 League games that had yielded just two wins, Martinez's tactics have become increasingly defensive of late and he has used the return to fitness of James McCarthy as an opportunity to deploy all three of his defensive midfielders to shore up the back line. The Irishman started again alongside Muhamed Besic and Gareth Barry in a formation that allowed for plenty of possession in the first half an hour but very little action at the other end.

It also meant that Romelu Lukaku was often isolated or double- or triplemarked when he got the ball mostly with his back to goal where he is at his least effective and neither Kevin Mirallas nor Ross Barkley were able to take advantage of the space afforded them in forward areas. Indeed, Mirallas was a peripheral figure for much of the first half and though he showed some flashes of brilliance, Barkley was unable to dictate things in the final third in the manner in which he did in this fixture last season.

With Everton seemingly unwilling to put the ball in the box from a succession of free kicks early in the game and little in way of the purposeful forward passing exhibited by Darron Gibson against Leicester and Young Boys, it wasn't surprising that the Blues' first real chance of the first half came as the result of opportunism by Lukaku. The Belgian robbed full debutant Gabriel Paulista and raced towards a one-on-one duel with David Ospina but the goalkeeper did brilliantly to bat the ball away as Lukaku tried to knock it past him and then slid in to put the ball out for a throw-in.

Seven minutes before the break, on a rare counter-attack, Lukaku collected Barry's pass out from defence and superbly out-foxed Laurent Koscielny on the half-way line but his surging run was ended by an excellent last-ditch tackle by Gabriel as he was bearing down on Ospina's goal.

In between, Arsenal had sounded a warning bell for Everton when Oliver Giroud took advantage of a rare lapse by Phil Jagielka, stealing in as the defender tried to step out to play the offside trap but headed Alexis Sanchez's cross inches wide.

The Frenchman got his now customary goal against the Blues in the 39th minute, though. Seamus Coleman's refusal to put the ball into Row Z on one side of the defence kept the pressure on from Arsenal that required Jagielka to cut out Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross from the other side for a corner. And, when John Stones failed to remain tight enough on Giroud from the resulting set-piece, the striker was able to sweep a side-footed shot into the far corner.

55% of the possession but just two shots and none on target told the story of Everton's dominance of the ball but general impotence, something that has become the overriding theme of the domestic campaign.

Half-time would have been the ideal time to make a change and either withdraw one of the defensive midfielders or push one of them further forward but Martinez left things entirely unchanged at the restart. Once again, it was the Blues who started the stronger and Ospina made a meal of Garbutt's wicked in-swinger after Giroud had cynically tripped Coleman in full-flight, flapping the ball behind for a corner. Barry went close from the set-piece, scissor-kicking a yard or so over the bar on the half-volley and Mirallas lashed a loose ball well wide from another free-kick swung in by Garbutt.

Playing more like the away side, ceding possession to Everton in the knowledge that there was little danger in doing so, Arsenal's chances were few and far between, but Giroud had one goalbound effort blocked by Jagielka's arm as the Everton skipper scrambled to stop him from troubling Howard and both Cazorla and Mezut Ozil drove shots over from distance.

With an hour gone, Martinez again resisted the chance to break up the central defensive three when he withdrew Mirallas and introduced Aaron Lennon in a like-for-like swap, perpetuating a lack of width on both flanks and, inexplicably, leaving another creative influence in the form of Gibson on the bench until the 85th minute.

Nevertheless, in a rare piece of incisive play, Barkley picked out Lukaku with a cross from the left that the striker swept first-time towards the top corner but he was foiled by another great save by Ospina. And when Coleman's cut-back found Lennon in the middle in the 72nd minute, the goalkeeper was in the right place again to stop the winger's first-time shot.

That was, unfortunately, more or less it from Everton. Arsenal, with the cushion of their lead, routinely pulled all their men behind the ball and compressed the space available while they continued to grow in confidence after the midweek humbling by Monaco in the Champions League. McCarthy was caught in possession in his own half and had to be bailed out by Jagielka with a saving block before late substitute Tomas Rosicky killed the contest entirely with a shot that deflected off Jagielka's foot and over Howard to make it 2-0 in the 89th minute.

Giroud would plant a free header wide and Howard beat another Rosicky shot away in injury time as Arsenal threatened to rub salt into the wounds but the scoreline held through an extra seven minutes tacked on for stoppages and Everton trooped off to ponder another game without a win in the Premier League.

Martinez has made much in his post-match interviews of his team's character but the plain truth is that there wasn't enough of it on display today, at least not in a collective sense. Individually, the likes of Jagielka, Garbutt and, at times, Lukaku were positives on an otherwise forgettable afternoon but the drive and urgency to try and overturn Arsenal's slender lead just wasn't there. It certainly paled in comparison to that of Leicester at Goodison last weekend or at the Emirates the Saturday before that where they had Wenger's side worried until the last kick of the game. Everton seemed resigned to their fate this afternoon.

That continues to be one of the more worrying aspects of a team that seems oblivious to the danger of being sucked into a relegation battle, a prospect that seemed a distant one following the victory over Crystal Palace a little over a month ago. That 1-0 win stands as Everton's only win in the Premier League in 2015, part of a sequence of results going back to the end of November that unquestionably constitutes relegation form. It's still highly unlikely that we will go downbut that really is beside the point even given the early-season challenges, relegation shouldnt even be in the equation for a team boasting this much talent.

Given the sense of dj vu in the wake of another defeat at Arsenal, comparisons are again being made withthe Moyes era but they are largely spurious. Martinez is batting his own brief legacy at Everton his record last season and the alarming contrast it presents with this term's form. Nor is about our record at Arsenal because Martinez's whole ethos is supposed to render that psychological aspectirrelevant.

Unfortunately, it is more about the manager's failure to adapt in the right way. Martinez has shown signs of bending from his rigidity and resolute adherence to his principles at times over the past couple of months but his baffling substitutions and, most importantly, his refusal to deviate from a tried, tested and failed front-three system one that sacrifices much-needed balance are deeply concerning in the context of the season run-in and where we go from here should he remain in charge beyond the summer.

Martinez will continue to face challenges and situations that will demand a different approach between now and the end of the season, in both the Premier League and the Europa League. As supporters, he has to show us he has the imagination and the flexibility to make changes that will earn results because, sadly, his achievements last season now amount to nothing. Back at square one, he has to earn our trust and admiration all over again while battling to reverse the shocking run of form of the past three months.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Updates

Roberto Martinez named three defensive midfielders (McCarthy, Besic and Barry) with Barkley, Mirallas and Lukaku all starting ahead of them. Would this be a 4-3-3 formation or would we see three at the back, with Barry allowing the full-backs to get forward more?

Darron Gibson started on the bench, despite his excellent performance in the Europa League win over Young Boys; Baines, Oviedo, Pienaar, McGeady & Atsu were all out, as were Wilshere, Ramsey and Flamini for the home side.

Arsenal kicked off but most of the early stuff was played in their half, Everton looking to impose some control the game, winning a couple of early free-kicks, one sent in deep to the far post by Garbutt, Stones and Jagielka going down and needing treatment. Arsenal's only move in this dominant spell saw Ozil stray offside.

Everton continued to play like the home side, but it descended into too much passing across the back when a more direct approach was called for against a nervous Arsenal side. But Arsenal won the first corner on 10 mins and Cazorla put in a good ball that Sanchez could only scoop over.

Everton were trying to find Lukaku with forward balls but he'd been well marshalled and hardly had a kick, as possession play and protection of defensive shape were the clear priorities. Lukaku finally saw a bit of ball and his shot was blocked out to Besic who had all the time in the world to line up the most dreadful of distant shots, skied high, wide, and definitely not at all handsome.

Lukaku dispossessed Gabriel well but was not determined enough to beat Ospina, who came out with a great full-back tackle to steal the ball off the big man. Giroud dispossessed Barry a little too easily. With Arsenal forced to play very deep, the possession numbers in the first quarter of the game must have been so embarrassing for Arsenal, the media judiciously avoided any mention of them.

However, despite Everton's excellent possession play, Arsenal had hardly been put to the sword, and the danger of a rare but pacey attack by the home side was always a risk. Giroud came so very close with a diving header after he evaded Jagielka. Barkley was too easily dispossessed and Arsenal were able to come forward again.

Garbutt wasted a distant free-kick, straight into the arms of Ospina, and the Gunners attacked quickly but Giroud was flagged offside. Everton were not much better, delaying the early ball to their cost and failing to create anything meaningful as Arsenal started to get more involved, Bellerin teeing up a shot that Jagielka was quick to smother.

Lukaku finally got a good ball and ran in on the Arsenal goal for surely the first decent shot of the game but Gabriel was with him all the way and easily stole the ball before a shot was made. Another Arsenal corner and it was too easy for Giroud to slot home off a low ball in front of Stones.

More purposeless passing ensued before Arsenal were again on the attack, a Cazorla shot tipped over by Howard. Coleman was given acres of space to run into and his ball found Lukaku but nothing came of it at the end of a mssively frustrating half for Evertonians, watching possessive dominance in a creative vacuum that saw not one single goal attempt by the hapless Blues.

Giroud fouled Coleman for a yellow and Garbutt swung in a good ball that no-one could get to except Ospina, giving away Everton their first corner that Lukaku should have powered in but he was a vital foot behind the ball. Another set piece for Garbutt after a foul on Mirallas saw the ball curled in well again for the second Everton corner and once again Garbutt driving it in, this time too deep, but a third corner ensued, this time to the near post. Everton showed more intent in the first 5 mins of the second half... but with the same result as in the whole of the first half: nothing to show for it.

Giroud came close at the other end, Jagielka stopping the shot with his arm while on the ground and disguising it well. The game remained competitive without Everton really threatening and Martinez decided it was time for a change, bringing Lennon on for Mirallas, who had done nothing of note.

But if anything, the removal of a potential goal threat only inspired Arsenal, although Barkley finally put in a good ball for Lukaku to attack, Ospina getting a finger to send it fizzing over the bar. More Garbutt corners looked promising but failed to result in a further strike on goal. Coquelin needed a lot of treatment on a bloody nose after colliding with Giroud in the air.

Coleman did well to get to the byline and pull a great ball back for Lennon whose poke was too close to Ospina. Barkley and Coleman looked to combine but Gabriel read it well and was in far too quickly for Barkley who thought he had lots of time. Everton were not really getting any closer to scoring, while Arsenal threatened to increase their lead.

Besic was taken off, with Naismith on as the new saviour, Lennon was caught by Koscielny. Another good ball in from Garbutt was met with... nothing, while a bizarre mixup and a poor Stones backpass almost put Jagielka in trouble.

Gibson came on to replace Barry for the last 5 mins, and picked out Garbutt on the wing, his brilliant ball in perfect for Lukaku to attack but he was as ever a foot behind the ball.

Rosicky came on and it seemed all too easy for him to score off Jagielka to tie up a hugely disappointing game for Everton, that showed no intent of scoring despite masses of possession, Giroud almost made it three with a header just wide as the game drifted into 7 minutes of added time.

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

Everton make the trip to North London this Sunday for a second meeting with Arsenal that is pregnant with significance on a number of levels.

A year ago today, Romelu Lukaku returned from injury to score the only goal as the Blues beat West Ham United at Goodison Park, a result that marked the beginning of a seven-match unbeaten run that took them to the brink of Champions League qualification.

Buried in that remarkable sequence – Everton won more Premier League games between 1st March and 12th April last year than they have managed in the entire 2014-15 season so far – was a stunning 3-0 dismantling of the Gunners that briefly hinted at a possible usurping by Roberto Martinez's side of Arsenal's top-four status.

With 84 minutes on the clock and Everton 2-0 up and cruising when the two clubs last met last August, the notion that the Toffees were now legitimate peers of their old adversary from North London seemed all the more real. The late collapse that followed in that match however – the second in the space of seven days – would temper such premature thoughts and have grave consequences for Everton's season.

Martinez has credited those successive 2-2 draws and the 6-3 reverse at home to Chelsea as being the root of his team's problems this term – a crippling blow to morale from which they have struggled to fight back all season. Whether that is a legitimate argument or not, Everton come into this weekend's clash a staggering 20 points behind Arsenal and a mere four points above the bottom three, having slipped to 14th place after Saturday's results.

While Martinez has battled to piece together just four League wins since late September, Arsene Wenger has overseen four victories in his last five Premier League fixtures. And yet, he comes into this match under a dark cloud following Arsenal's 3-1 home defeat to Monaco in the Champions League on Wednesday that has put them on the verge of elimination from the tournament.

Everton, by contrast, have found life in Continential competition and followed up their 4-1 hammering of Young Boys in Bern with another comprehensive victory on home soil last Thursday. It was a result and performance that once more offers the potential of a springboard for the Blues' Premier League form but whether it's enough to inspire them to a first win on Arsenal's turf in 19 years remains to be seen.

As important as the result from Thursday was the news that Romelu Lukaku will be fit to play this weekend despite coming off against Young Boyes somewhat fatigued and feeling his hamstring just three minutes into the second half. The Belgian has scored five goals in his last three games and missed just as many gilt-edged chances to have doubled that tally and, as usual, will be the key to Everton's hopes at The Emirates.

His Belgian teammate, Kevin Mirallas, also found the net on Thursday, marking his first start since 7th February with a goal that capped a fine 3-1 win and the hope is that he will get the nod to start again given how well he has performed against Wenger's men in the last two games against them. Steven Naismith fits the same description and he will likely round out the forward three, with Aaron Lennon perhaps the man to make way given that Martinez will likely field James McCarthy, Gareth Barry and Darron Gibson as central midfielders and sacrifice width on one side of the pitch.

At the back, John Stones (eligible again following suspension in the Europea League) and Leighton Baines (rested against Young Boys) will almost certainly come back into the starting XI and Tim Howard should get the nod in goal.

Wenger, meanwhile, will be without some key figures in midfield with Jack Wilshere ruled out due to a minor ankle operation, both Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini doubtful with hamstring problems and ex-Blue Mikel Arteta out injured. In the likes of Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky, however, the Gunners have plenty of other options, of course, with pace and flair in abundance that will test Everton's defensive resolve to the fullest.

In contrast to the seeming futility of this seasons visit to Stamford Bridge and the Etihad or the psychological minefields that Anfield and Old Trafford have tended to be for Everton, games against Arsenal always seem to offer a bit of hope despite our atrocious record on their home soil.

Maybe it's because we have fared better since they moved to the Emirates and came so close to beating them with Steven Pienaar's wondergoal a few years ago. Or maybe it's because of how well we have performed against the Gunners in recent meetings, even if we haven't always got the results we deserved.

In Lukaku and Mirallas, we have the weapons to do damage against a side that lacks pace at the back and should be a lot more open in defence than many of our other opponents this season. Certainly, Monaco were able to ruthlessly exploit their defensive deficiences in midweek and an early counter-attack goal for Everton like that scored by Dimitar Berbatov would certainly set on edge the Arsenal fans looking for a big redemptive reaction from their team and provide the conditions for the Blues to sow more fear and uncertainty into an otherwise dangerous opponent.

Lyndon Lloyd

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Match Preview
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ARSENAL (4-4-2)
  Koscielny booked
  Coquelin (Chambers 89')
  Oxlade-Chamberlain (Rosicky 82')
  Sanchez (Welbeck 87')
  Giroud booked
  Subs not used

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Barry (Gibson 84')
  Besic (Naismith 77')
  Mirallas (Lennon 62')
  Subs not used
  Atsu (ill)
  Baines (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  McGeady (injured)
  Oviedo (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Long (loan)
  McAleny (loan)
  Pennington (loan)

  • Possession
  • Shots on target
  • Shots off target
  • Corners

Premier League Scores
Burnley 0-1 Swansea
Man United 2-0 Sunderland
Newcastle 1-0 Aston Villa
Stoke City 1-0 Hull City
West Brom 1-0 So'hampton
West Ham 1-3 C Palace
Arsenal 2-0 Everton
Liverpool 2-1 Man City

Team Pts
1 Chelsea 60
2 Manchester City 55
3 Arsenal 51
4 Manchester United 50
5 Liverpool 48
6 Southampton 46
7 Tottenham Hotspur 44
8 Swansea City 40
9 West Ham United 39
10 Stoke City 39
11 Newcastle United 35
12 Crystal Palace 30
13 West Bromwich Albion 30
14 Everton 28
15 Hull City 26
16 Sunderland 25
17 Queens Park Rangers 22
18 Burnley 22
19 Aston Villa 22
20 Leicester City 18


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