Everton play with ambition, Arsenal are resilient, Ross Barkley is brilliant and more from FFT's Ben Welch at the Emirates Stadium...
Everton beat Arsenal at their game
While David Moyes struggles during a transitional period at Manchester United, his successor at Everton, Roberto Martinez, has wasted no time implementing his daring philosophy.
The Toffees played with such confidence and quality in the first half that they could have been mistaken for the home side on Sunday. Martinez’s men pressed with energy and intensity and kept the ball brilliantly. The visitors had 55% of the possession and completed 433 of their 515 attempted passes – a success rate of 84%. With the blue shirts hunting down the ball in packs they forced the Gunners into a lot of misplaced passes – their completion rate was just 79%, with 317 of 403 exchanges finding feet.
Uncharacteristically, Arsene Wenger's side were forced to lump it forward with little success – just 10 of 30 long balls found a red shirt. When sides come to the Emirates they usually do most of their defensive work in and around their penalty box, but Everton made tackles and interceptions all over the pitch.
Who needs Baines when you’ve got Oviedo?
Leighton Baines is a class act – arguably the best left-back in the country now Ashley Cole is warming the bench at Chelsea – but Everton have hardly felt his absence.
Since the England international was ruled out for six weeks after suffering a broken toe against Liverpool, Everton have beaten Stoke and Manchester United, and drawn against Arsenal. Why have they continued to march on? Bryan Oviedo. The Costa Rican has made a seamless transition into the team, providing an attacking threat down the left wing and linking up with Steven Pienaar with equal efficiency.
The duo combined more than any other pair on the pitch, exchanging 30 passes across the 90 minutes. Everton tried to isolate Arsenal right-back Carl Jenkinson by creating two vs one situations. Not only did this test Jenkinson, but it helped to nullify the attacking threat of Aaron Ramsey, who had to retreat in support of his team-mate.
While the visitors concentrated their attacks down the left, the work of Seamus Coleman down the right caused Arsenal just as many problems. He registered two successful dribbles from three attempts – the second best record on the night – while defensively he stood firm. The Irishman made four successful tackles and seven clearances – bettered only by Mikel Arteta and Laurent Koscienly respectively.
Remember the name… Ross Barkley
On Saturday, 19 October 2002, a 16-year-old Wayne Rooney showcased his talent to the world with a spectacular winning goal against Arsenal, prompting Clive Tyldesley’s famous words.
Barkley may not have struck a 25-yard winner, but his performance against the same opposition was just as eye-catching. The hosts couldn’t contain the bullish 20-year-old as he lurked menacingly in the advanced midfield role. He tore around the Emirates pitch with freedom and purpose.
Barkley is a player very much in the Rooney mould – technically gifted, strong and aggressive. He fuses together the perfect mix of physicality and footballing intelligence. The England international’s movement was clever enough to avoid detection between the Arsenal back four and holding midfielder Arteta. When he collected the ball in space he drove at the Gunners’ rearguard without fear, shrugging off would-be tacklers to keep possession until his team-mates caught up to provide support.
In a game littered with brilliant passers, Barkley showed he’s got what it takes to play in esteemed company. He was the fourth best passer in the game, completing 46 of 58 attempts. Most tellingly, 17 of these exchanges came in the attacking third – a record bettered only by Ozil. Barkley created three goalscoring chances – more than any other player – and carried the ball past lunging tackles on three occasions.
As he tired, Martinez introduced another bright young talent – Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu. He was only on the pitch for 11 minutes, but that was all he needed to make his impact. There was much to admire about his artistry, but his goal was the box office moment. He controlled a loose ball in the box, teased Kieran Gibbs and then, with little room to shoot, sent a missile past Wojciech Szczesny to earn Everton a deserved point.
Arsenal demonstrated a new resilience
Few people expected Everton to come to the Emirates and put Arsenal on the back foot – but fewer would have expected the Gunners to defend with such assurance under intense pressure.
Admittedly, Arsenal weren’t able to completely shut the door on Everton’s battering ram, but for 80 minutes they stood firm. Romelu Lukaku, who trampled all over Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford, was kept relatively quiet. When he did break through, Szczesny raced off his line to save at the feet of the Belgium striker.
Pienaar, Barkley and Kevin Mirallas all threatened, only to be halted at the gates. In the end it took a moment of magic to pierce the red-and-white wall. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscienly were imperious. The Frenchman topped the charts for interceptions (8) and clearances (9), also managing two blocks – one to crucially deflect a shot from Mirallas around the post – and 11 ball recoveries, a number only bettered by Arteta. Mertesacker contributed 3 interceptions and 6 clearances, putting him up there with the best defensive performers on the day.
Even when calamity threatened – Jenkinson dribbling the ball under pressure towards his own goal inside the 18-yard-box, for example – Arsenal didn’t panic and cleared their lines. In previous seasons the Gunners may have been the architects of their own demise.
... but they missed their French destroyer
Every team needs someone to do its dirty work, and Arsenal are no different. Wenger might have expected his team to dominate possession against Everton, so he left out the defensive-minded Mathieu Flamini and played Ramsey alongside Arteta. The latter put in a defensive shift, but with the visitors pressing the ball and teeming forward with menacing intent, he needed another sentry to help guard the back four.
Working on his own, he was the most successful tackler, dispossessing an opponent five times. No player was quicker to the loose ball, with Arteta seizing upon it in the open field 12 times. For all of Ramsey’s energy and running he is driven by an attacking nature, so often abandons his post.
Flamini replaced Wilshere in the 68th minute and set about disrupting Everton’s free-flowing football. In the 75th minute he closed down Gareth Barry and chased after the loose ball, imploring his team-mates to surge forward and pin the visitors back. On one occasion Sylvain Distin, with Flamini charging towards him, was forced to put the ball into the stands. This hunger and drive to win the ball out of possession was something Arsenal missed.