Everton 2 – 2 Arsenal
On the 85th minutes at Goodison Park yesterday, the lad next to me turned and said “I hate football” and as the confidence of leading 2-0 at home with 7 minutes to was fading into oblivion, I couldn’t help but agree.
Everton had looked certain to cruise to another home win against one of the traditional “Sky Four” after goals from Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith put the Blues in control but for the second week in a row, a lead was cheaply given away and two points were dropped.
In the first half Everton looked in total control, limiting the visitors to a few shots from outside the box and capitalising on unforced errors not usually associated with the Gunners. In the second half, the sides not only swapped ends, but swapped roles.
A wonderful first half header from Seamus Coleman sent Goodison into raptures and briefly silenced the visiting supporters and their celebrations of the 49 games their side went unbeaten over a decade ago, and to the same tune the Irishman got to hear the chant he loves. £28m man Romelu Lukaku had heard Coleman’s shout and ducked his head out of the way of a header that was just out of his reach and last year’s player of the year tucked home with ease.
Lukaku was involved in the second goal too, as another Arsenal bout of ponderous passing around the edge of the box broke down and the Belgian latched onto a clearance and stormed towards goal. Naismith, who is turning everyone who doubted him into a fan, made a clever run and – although replays showed he was offside – tucked Lukaku’s pass under the Arsenal keeper and gave us all hope that we would repeat the 3-0 thumping of last year.
The signs had been there that it might not be our day right from the start though.
Steven Pienaar was deep in conversation with Roberto Martinez seconds before kick off, and after his first burst of speed pulled up clutching his groin. He played on, but after being clattered in the back by Callum Chambers it was obvious he couldn’t continue. But he did. He lasted eight minutes into the game when we can only assume he had told his manager he wasn’t quite match fit seconds before kick off.
Goalscorer Coleman had played a sloppy pass in defence in the first half but got away with it. But in the last 20 minutes there were sloppy passes, half-baked clearances, and tired balls all across the back four.
Coleman and McCarthy couldn’t get close enough to Santi Cazorla for Arsenal’s second, and Sylvain Distin couldn’t muster the energy to jump to block Guroud’s leap for the equaliser.
Lukaku looked like he’d run two marathons when he was substituted and the overwhelming feeling is that pre-season simply wasn’t a good enough build up to the real thing.
Roberto Martinez is an experienced fitness coach as well as a fantastic motivator, which begs the question as to why most of the team look dead on their feet after 70 minutes against a side that was barely testing us up until that point.
Fitness will improve as long as injuries aren’t picked up while trying to get up to full match fitness while playing at Premier League pace, and Everton are at the same stage as we were this time last year with two points on the board feeling that we should have had six.
Lukaku looks like he will continue to be the threat that made us pay £28m for him, but defensive errors need to be eradicated from our back four if we are going to improve on last year’s fifth place finish.
It was hard to argue with the Arsenal fans taunts at the end of the game, though. Two nil, and we….well, you know the rest.