“I’ve seen this one before. Brilliant ending.” – Everton fans during the first half.
“I’ve seen this one before. Dire ending.” – Everton fans during the second half.
It was that kind of match.
In their home opener, Everton thoroughly dissected Arsenal throughout the first half in much the same manner they did last April. Roberto Martinez reverted back to the same 4-3-3 formation, with Steven Naismith leading the line, flanked by Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas. Arsenal again could not cope.
Seamus Coleman opened the scoring in the 19th minute after a Gareth Barry chip found him at the back post. Naismith doubled Everton’s lead in the 45th minute following a marauding run from Lukaku left both Arsenal center backs on the ground. It was beautiful football.
And then the second half happened.
Remember that thing Everton did against Leicester City last week, where they seemed content not to do much of anything except throw themselves in the way of a Leicester shot should they be in the vicinity?
Yeah, they did that again,
The introductions of Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla changed the complexion of the match, with the Gunners dominating the second half. After knocking on the door for nearly forty continuous minutes, a low cross from Cazorla found Ramsey inside the six-yard box to get Arsenal on the board.
Seven minutes later, in the 90th minute, Giroud nodded home another Cazorla cross to level the match at 2-2.
Much of the attention following last week’s collapse against Leicester focused on Martinez’s substitution strategy. Using one sub in the 10th minute to replace an injured Steven Pienaar with Leon Osman, Martinez made two positive substitutions late in the match, bringing on Aiden McGeady and Christian Atsu for Lukaku and Mirallas, respectively. Neither player made much of an impact, however, as the Blues could not maintain possession of the ball for more than a few moments at a time.
The inquest to be made this week will surely focus on Everton’s lack of fitness, as much of the side seemed completely out of gas by the 70 minute mark. Chasing after Arsenal for the entire second half did not help matters, but that still is no excuse for an Everton team that were more well-rested than the competition. Arsenal, as you’ll recall, played a Champions League match on Wednesday.
Two matches into the season and Everton have dropped four points in the most crushing of fashion: the late collapse. Add in the five preseason matches without a win, and it’s been a long time since the club have tasted victory.
Martinez will have to work very hard to right his ship, with Chelsea visiting Goodison next week.