Arsenal didn’t learn their lessons from last year
When Roberto Martinez deployed Romelu Lukaku on the right hand side last term most were surprised by the tactical switch. Lukaku repaid his manager’s faith with a barnstorming performance and a wonderfully taken goal. Gunners left-back Nacho Monreal was tormented all afternoon by the big Belgian and the decision worked a treat.
Arsenal should have learned their lessons. They didn’t.
Once again pushed out to the right in this game, Lukaku was relatively quiet in the opening stages. That was until a Seamus Coleman square pass headed his way just minutes before half-time. Monreal’s decision to get tight to Everton’s £28m man was a bad one and Lukaku left the Spaniard for dead before bursting down the wing towards goal.
He slowed when he reached the edge of the box and, rather than go for goal with his left foot, Lukaku played an inch-perfect reverse pass for Steven Naismith, who had probably gone a fraction too early. It didn’t matter. The flag stayed down and the Blues were 2-0 to the good.
Lukaku tired in the second half and failed to make the same impact, he was subbed by Martinez late in the second half and left the pitch holding his boot in his hand, apparently nursing a toe injury.
It hurt and unfortunately the Blues couldn’t hold out in the second half and let the lead slip, but it looked for a time like it was going to be a repeat of last year’s performances with a Blue tide tearing the Arsenal back-line to shreds.
Everton need to tighten up in the second half
Everton FC v Arsenal FC Premier League match at Goodison Park Liverpool. Pienaar injured
Fitness? Form? Tactics? The impact of the World Cup? Or just a lack of quality?
Whatever it is, there’s something going wrong with Everton in the second half of games, and it was exposed here by Arsenal who were clinical after rarely threatening the Blues earlier in the game.
Perhaps Coleman, at right-back, just wasn’t prepared for the full game after recovering from injury to start. He scored in the first half, but he was nowhere to be found in the second as Santi Cazorla and then Nacho Monreal both found space down his flank to enable Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud to score.
Both Kevin Mirallas and Lukaku looked very tired in the second half. Both men are still clearly feeling the effects of the World Cup this summer, and aren’t quite up to the pace of a full Premier League game.
But you’d expect better from the other members of Everton’s team.
The withdrawal through injury of Steven Pienaar didn’t help, his industrious performance caught the eye against Leicester last weekend.
Coleman and Leighton Baines, so often excellent in the first period, tailed off in the second. Both men covered every blade of grass for most of the game so possibly it is natural for them to tire, but Martinez needs to do something about it because it hurt Everton today.
HEAT MAP: Who needs a ‘number 10′ when you’ve got Leighton Baines & Seamus Coleman… #EFC pic.twitter.com/PJKolCZpoh
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 23, 2014
The Blues were much the better side both here and in their first Premier League outing against Leicester, but if they want to replicate last season’s excellent form then they need to tighten up at the back.
Steven Naismith is one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League
“There’s only one Steven Naismith,” was belted out by the Gwladys Street in the second half after another excellent performance, and goal, from the Scot.
How Everton will wish they had a couple more.
Everton FC v Arsenal FC Premier League match at Goodison Park Liverpool. Naismith scores
Naismith may never attract the headlines, it’s just not his style, but the 27-year-old buzzed around the Goodison Pitch here, passing the ball well, holding it up even better and scoring a fine goal. Even if he was marginally offside.
Whisper it quietly, but Naismith could go on to get 15-20 Premier League goals. Imagine if somebody had said that two years ago? You would have laughed.
Nobody is laughing now. No, Evertonians are too busy cheering and singing the former Rangers man’s name.
The smart money is on those chants getting louder by the week.
You can’t afford to let Arsenal play
Arsenal look as though they have the same problem as last year. They are always great in home games against lower opponents but, put them up against someone who can go toe to toe, and the Gunners simply wilt.
They did exactly that in the first half as they were out-fought and out-thought by an excellent Everton performance.
Unfortunately those standards slipped in the second half and Arsenal the flat-track bullies showed up.
Everton simply allowed the visitors too much time and space in the second period as the Gunners applied the pressure, desperate to get something out of the game.
Gone was the hustle and bustle in Everton’s performance, gone was the pacey counter-attacks and gone were the full-blooded tackles.
Instead the Blues dropped deeper and deeper and, with a mere seven minutes remaining the Gunners fired their shots.
It was all too easy for Arsenal and Martinez won’t want his side to allow a good team to play like that again on their own turf.
Sanchez doesn’t fancy Merseyside
Alexis Sanchez famously turned down a move to Liverpool in the summer, saying he preferred the hustle and bustle on London life.
He didn’t bother to turn up here either.
Alexis Sanchez off at half time. Further proof he didn’t want to spend anytime on Merseyside
— keith costigan (@KeithCostigan) August 23, 2014
The Chilean may take a little time to adjust to life in the Premier League, and, asked to play up front in the place of Giroud in the first half, Everton’s defence marshaled him well here.
Frustrated with not being able to get into the game, the £35m man resorted to throwing his weight around, that didn’t work either.
One such challenge left James McCarthy in a heap midway through the first half. Sanchez clearly didn’t fancy going up for the header with the Everton man and barged him to the ground to give away a free kick. It summed up his half.
Unfortunately for the Blues, Arsenal’s substitute Giroud, who also picks his moments to play, was a lot better in the second half and eventually levelled the game after twice going close.
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