Arsenal vs Everton match report: Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky get Arsenal back to winning ways at the Emirates Stadium

Arsenal 2 Everton 0

Click to follow
The Independent Football

For two clubs whose seasons are amounting to little more than a weary shrug of the shoulders, this was an instantly forgettable match, played out on an afternoon when everything to get excited about was happening elsewhere - be it up the road at Wembley or over the Irish Sea.

After their respective midweek adventures – Everton’s 3-1 win over Young Boys of Bern and Arsenal’s crushing defeat by the same score at home to Monaco – you might have expected Everton to have the wearier limbs but the brighter spirit. Arsenal had had an extra day’s rest, but they played like a team still feeling the effects of Wednesday’s trauma. A sluggish performance was enough, nevertheless, to achieve a victory  that lifted them to third place in the Premier League.

On an afternoon when everything to get excited about was happening up the road at Wembley or over the Irish Sea, it was fitting that a contest low on pace and even lower on invention should be settled by a set piece and a lucky deflection.

Thirty-nine uneventful minutes had passed when Olivier Giroud drifted away from goal to meet a low corner from Mesut Özil and glance a volley into the bottom corner of the net at the far post.

Everton never asserted themselves on their hosts and the result was confirmed in the 90th minute when a tame shot from substitute Tomas Rosicky took a deflection to bobble over goalkeeper Tim Howard and into the net.

 

“Our defensive concentration was much higher than on Wednesday night,” Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said afterwards. “With the ball we can do better. But it was important to respond to Wednesday with a win. Not everyone can do that. And the win is important to us for the rest of our season.

“We have three more points than last week, and if you look at our Premier League run since November we are in a good position. On the fluency front we can do better, but today our first worry was to win the game.”

Wenger also confirmed that Francis Coquelin, who in the second half of the season has become a crucial player for Arsenal, had broken his nose in a clash of heads with his team-mate Giroud. He said he did not know whether Coquelin, who played on with his bloody nose plugged with bandages, would need surgery, and how long he might be absent for.

Arsenal were far from their best, and their victory was cheaply won, but the scale of Everton’s near-total capitulation this season remains staggering. Romelu Lukaku lumbered around in front of the home defence to almost no effect. Ross Barkley was prone to occasional flashes of electricity but the pasture all around was truly barren. Kevin Mirallas went off 15 minutes into the second half, his forlorn jog towards the dugout his only noticeable expenditure of energy all afternoon.

Rarely can a team have come to the Emirates and found an Arsenal team so clearly there for the taking, and taken nothing at all. Yet Roberto Martinez, the Everton manager, claimed his team played well and might even have won.

giroud.jpg
Olivier Giroud's goal was his ninth in his last 13 games for Arsenal

“I was frustrated. I thought we did things pretty well in the first half but we didn’t carry enough intent in attack,” he said. “If we had scored you could have sensed that the momentum would have been in our favour.

“I think we played really well in the second half. Arsenal have fantastic experience in knowing how to manage this sort of game. When you create chances you have to take them.

“We played well throughout the game, we had every chance of getting a positive result until right at the end, and that’s a reflection of our season. The second goal, they get the ball on the edge of the box, we have six players in good positions, but it takes a deflection and it’s in the back of the net.

“It’s the story of our season. We’ve never ever had the momentum you need that allows you to win games just by doing enough. At the moment we only win games by being perfect, and that’s something that needs to change.”

Arsenal played with a little more exuberance as the match wore on, but Everton countered by moving numbers behind the ball. Muhamed Besic and Gareth Barry joined the defence to form what looked like a flat back six at times. From open play, Özil, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and the rest never really looked like they had within them that moment of invention to put the match beyond doubt. In the end, they had to rely on luck.

This is the springtime of the year, that time when the fans have finally put the thermals away until November and when every match, every point won and lost in the unfamiliar bright sunshine, starts making a tangible impact on what you might achieve come May.

For Arsenal, a season that was once full of such promise is rapidly shaping into familiar form: just off the pace in the league and no serious challenge in Europe.

These three valuable points lifted them a point ahead of Manchester United and three above resurgent Liverpool. But they are suddenly a team conspiring to underwhelm, and unless some urgency of application can be found, even the déjà vu of fourth place might very well elude Wenger and his men.

Comments