Comeback shows Gunners grit in share of spoils from Toffees test
Clinical finishing was the order of the day at Goodison Park as Arsenal, 13/2 chances for the Premier League title, came from two down to earn a draw with Everton. Between them, these two top five sides from last term converted four of the five shots on target, leaving talking points aplenty.
Seamus Coleman’s header and an offside effort from Steven Naismith (a fact the linesman failed to spot) put the Toffees in firm command at half-time. This strong position the hosts found themselves in prompted Arsene Wenger into decisive action.
Giving Gunners summer signing Alexis Sanchez the nod to be the focal point of his attack, the Arsenal manager subsequently replaced him with Olivier Giroud, who headed home late on to snatch a point. The visitors never showed signs of playing to the Chilean’s strengths during the first half.
World Cup viewers will recall how Sanchez offered his country a pacy threat in behind in Brazil, but the Gunners continued their rigid adherence to a patient, probing style despite an opportunity to explore another attacking dimension here.
There was departure from the Arsenal blueprint, however, as both their goals at Goodison came from crosses. First, sub Santi Cazorla delivered a low centre that Aaron Ramsey tapped in. Fellow Spain international Nacho Monreal then tossed one in to find Giroud between Everton’s centre halves.
Roberto Martinez claimed his side ran out of energy, a statement which in isolation is somewhat worrying as we’re only two games into the season. If legs were an issue here, then young John Stones being left out looked like a glaring omission.
Toffees skipper Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, who now have a combined age of 68, were both at fault for Giroud’s goal. The former was cheaply caught under Monreal’s cross and seemingly continued his poor form on England duty at the World Cup.
French veteran Distin, meanwhile, saw Giroud get in front of him to nod in a late leveller. Both he and Jagielka have served Everton well, but going forward Martinez must try to include Stones in big games as it will benefit both club and country.
Speaking of young defenders, Calum Chambers was finally found out at centre back for the Gunners here in the build-up to the second goal. Record Toffees signing Romelu Lukaku rolled Per Mertesacker (whether the big Belgian fouled the giant German is another debate entirely) and the former Southampton starlet then lunged in, attempting to make amends.
Lukaku hurdled Chambers’ challenge, however, and slipped in Naismith. The flag stayed down, but this early effort to stop an Everton break so high up the pitch showed this talented teenager’s naivety.
Wenger sees Chambers as a potential holding midfield player, as well as a central defender in the making. There is no getting away from the fact, however, what little first-team experience he accrued at St Mary’s was at right back. It’s too early to pigeon hole this precocious youngster as anything yet; although, he it looks like he will be learning on the job.
Extra cover for the heart of defence remains a priority for Arsenal in what is left of the transfer window. Chambers’ coupling with France international Laurent Koscielny looked more solid than this pairing with Mertesacker, but the caveat of previous games being against managerless Crystal Palace and a weakened Manchester City in the Community Shield needs to be remembered.
A few less square pegs in round holes in regard to the Gunners system and style is another important matter to address. Mesut Ozil started in a shunted-out, nominal left wing position here, but the German playmaker lacks the requisite tracking back. See his back post absence at Coleman’s header for compelling evidence of that.
Martinez’s men, meanwhile, look alluringly long at 6/1 with Coral to crash the top four, despite letting a lead slip again. Tightening things up without impacting on an expansive approach is the problem to solve in his second season at Everton.