Arsenal 2 - 1 Everton

A few of us congregated at the bus stop at a little after 7 am. We joined a few others on the bus as we headed towards Lime Street for the 8:10 am train to Euston Station.

It hadn't occurred to me that the train would be packed, but with Crewe Alexander playing in the League Two Play-Off at Wembley at 1 pm, and the train calling at Crewe, I should have known better. Nevertheless, John and I were lucky enough to have a seat already reserved.

To compound things, the train was a little delayed, to the point where it was overlapping with the next train, so people getting that train were unwittingly coming on to the train we were on. Couple that with some Manchester United and Aston Villa supporters also getting on board during the journey, and that was one busy train.

An angry fella tried to turf us out of our seats – he had those seats for the next train which took some explaining and he left us shaking his head, though in fairness did return to us later and apologised when he realised his error. The train was very stop-start, though we arrived perhaps about 25 minutes late which wasn't too bad.

We boarded the tube to Angel and grabbed a few jars and some lunch at The Duke, before moving on and basking in the sun-trapped beer garden at The Earl of Essex around the corner for a good hour or so. It was relaxing in there. More Evertonians joined us, and there was quite a party of us in the end. And after a quick pint elsewhere and with the match beginning in 45 minutes, we walked on from Angel to the Emirates Stadium.

Such is the quality of the Emirates Stadium, it is hard to believe that it is already almost 20 years old. I love visiting there, and it's been some time since my last visit. We were just behind the goal and not too far from the Arsenal supporters. Unsurprisingly, Everton were unchanged from last weekend's win against Sheffield United.

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With the title on the line for Arsenal, albeit unlikely, the atmosphere was buzzing. In truth, I was expecting quite the hiding in this game, so was thoroughly impressed with our team's efforts. It felt like they were given the instruction to try and keep the ball and play it out from the back even from tight spaces, and in the main, especially first half, did so very well.

Arsenal had chances of course, though it was Dominic who came closest to opening the scoring when his drive from inside the penalty area hit the post, and unfortunately he couldn't find the net with the rebound.

We weren't waiting long to get ahead though when the unlikely source of Idrissa Gueye tried his luck with a free kick from the left edge of the penalty area which took a big deflection off the wall and wrong-footed David Raya. It was one of them goals which took a few seconds to realise it had landed in the goal. Amazing!

Sadly the lead didn't last long and Arsenal were soon on parity when Takehiro Tomiyasu struck well to level. While a good finish, we were sliced open too easily and it was a shame we couldn't make it to the break a goal up having scored ourselves on 40 minutes.

In fairness to Everton, Arsenal are a very, very good team with significantly more resources, and had a heck of a lot to play for, and it really showed in the second half as they had a good go at us. The frame of the goal helped us a couple of times, but otherwise we defended magnificently in the second half I thought. The back four, and Jordan Pickford, were excellent to a man.

At the other end, Dominic came the closest to scoring when his drive after a good run was well saved, and held, by Raya, but it was more about our defensive resistance which really should have grabbed us a point.

Meanwhile quite a few Evertonians around us gleefully put three fingers up to the Arsenal fans nearby on one hand, and one on the other to inform of the Manchester City vs West Ham United score. Just banter I know but I thought we were better than that Toffees!

Ashley Young and Seamus Coleman both showed on an abundance of occassions quite how valuable experience is and both had remarkably good games up against pacey attackers. That makes Ashley's crazy pass inside towards James Tarkowski all the more bewildering. Suddenly, it was panic stations and it still seemed to take an age from when Gabriel Jesus got through, and the ball was finally poked home. You knew something was afoot though, the linesman wasn't impressed with something, and obviously as we know, Michael Oliver got sent to the screen. The text on the screen stated VAR Check. No. 9 Gabriel Jesus Potential Handball. 

We know the drill – the referee goes to the screen and the decision gets overturned, though not in this instance of course. I don't mean to get my tin hat on, though I am on board with Sean Dyche's assertion that it was given to benefit a team in the title race... or in code he basically meant "Oh look, a big team gets the call. Who'd have thought it?!"

When I finally got to see it later during the train home, I was surprised he didn't see that as handball. If Jesus doesn't use his arm there, it zips right past him and Ashley gets away with his suicide ball. Really poor that from Michael Oliver. At least it didn't cost us anything in terms of points or places I suppose, though it would have been an excellent, and well-earned point.

At full time, our lads came over and got a brilliant ovation from the travelling Toffees. It's sad a few of them will have to depart. We have a handy team there, many of which are at a good age. It should be a good opportunity for Everton to invest more in that team, kick on and really start looking up. But such is the uncertainty, we'll likely be watching Jarrad Branthwaite become a world beater elsewhere. 

John, a good friend who joined us for the game, is an Arsenal fan and so wanted to stick around to send off the Arsenal players on their lap of honour. As they went around the pitch, I got a little bit philosophical. There I stood in a world class modern stadium watching a team be fiercely applauded by their proud supporters. We'll be in our amazing modern stadium ourselves soon enough, and we'll be there to applaud our team when they parade a trophy around Bramley-Moore Dock someday.

As the away end had all but emptied out by now, we made our way towards Euston Station via tube. With time to kill until the train, we grabbed a quick pint in the Royal George (there were a lot of very drunk Aston Villa fans in there!) before getting the train back. Most Evertonians will have got the 18:42 back, so the 19:42 was pretty quiet which made for a fairly relaxing journey home.

A really fun day out. I'm proud of that team, though gutted we won't be able to build from it. But stick with Sean. He'll navigate us through the season, and on to Bramley-Moore Dock, when we really will begin to dream.

'Til next season, folks.

Player ratings:

Jordan Pickford:  Made some excellent saves. 8

Ashley Young:  Ashley had a very good game, but then did that crazy pass, though he should have got away with it really as it was a definite handball. Personally I'm glad he's been offered a new deal and I hope he signs it. To have played 31 games for us this season is excellent, and I feel he shows really good experience and knowhow. 7

Jarrad Branthwaite:  He had an excellent game again. I doubt we'll see him again in an Everton shirt, which is a real shame as he's some talent. My Man of the Match. 8

James Tarkowski:  Also excellent throughout. What a couple of seasons he's had for us. A great signing really. 8

Seamus Coleman: A bit like Ashley, showed really good knowhow. Let's hope he sticks around for another year. 7

Idrissa Gueye:  Continued his late-season form both with his goal and productive display in the middle. Great news that he's staying on, we certainly need him. 8

Amadou Onana:  Another one that is likely to move on. He has great ability. Perhaps not a great fit for Sean Dyche's Everton, but is always a presence who looks after the ball and can tackle. I'm interested to see his next move. 7

Dwight McNeil:  Made some good surging runs in the first half, and worked hard in the second, albeit more defensively than offensively. 7

James Garner:  I find James tends to grow into games and improves as they go on as he becomes more impactful. Though I guess he's a bit wasted out wide in that regard as he can't impact the game quite as much. Still, a good season and a good player. 6

Abdoulaye Doucoure:  Did pretty well. 7

Dominic Calvert-Lewin:  Well I really hope we don't lose him this Summer, as he's really shown in these last 8 games or so how important he can be for us. A great effort in this one and very unlucky not to score in the first half. 8


Youssef Chermiti (for Dominic Calvert-Lewin):  Nice to see him get an opportunity, though did show how he's still pretty raw. That can only really change with opportunities. 5

Beto (for Abdoulaye Doucoure):  Thrown on desperately late to no avail. Can't judge.

Reader Comments (7)

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Danny O’Neill
1 Posted 21/05/2024 at 06:39:55
Good assessment and how I saw it, Paul.

I agree with your player assessments. Pickford, Gueye, Tarkowski and Branthwaite the standouts. Calvert-Lewin put in a shift and was unlucky not to score.

The Emirates is an amazing spectacle.

Derek Thomas
2 Posted 21/05/2024 at 07:50:51
I've read your reports all through the season - good stuff, thanks for taking the trouble... and you too Danny.
Andy Crooks
3 Posted 21/05/2024 at 12:53:35
Thanks, Paul and to Danny as well. For someone who doesn't get to many games I find your description of your day out top stuff and a great addition to the excellent reports from Lyndon and Michael.

To Lyndon and Michael, take a bow, another brilliant season's work on a site that is a Godsend to many of us.

Andy McNabb
4 Posted 22/05/2024 at 00:15:29
Thanks so much for your time and diligence, Paul.

I enjoy the background info as much as the match commentary, as it's been some time since I made the matchday journey.

James Flynn
5 Posted 21/05/2024 at 00:29:59
Another season of great reports into the books, Paul.

Thank you.

Looking forward to more of the same next season.

Gerry Quinn
6 Posted 23/05/2024 at 10:37:46
Another excellent report from you, Paul – and Danny.

It's a bit of a shame that these don't come with photos or videos to give us a greater view of things you are describing, along with those hilarious situations.

Andrew Ellams
7 Posted 23/05/2024 at 12:41:45
Slightly off thread but I see the football governance bill has been ditched (at least for now) due to the General Election being called.

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