Arsenal 3-1 Everton
At the dullest point of yesterday’s first half, when Arsenal were huffing and puffing to no great effect and the crowd was beginning to bubble with frustration, Brother H pointed out to me that 4 Arsenal players made the Team of the Season last year, and wondered how many representatives we might have when all is said and done this time round.
The mighty G. Clichy, on yesterday’s display, could and should retain his place – but what price Walcott to break into it?
Theo Walcott has absolutely come on in leaps and bounds. From being a player who was an impact sub at the start of last season, Walcott is now absolutely integral to Arsenal 2008-9, a wonderful attacking outlet.
Yesterday, he came on and changed the game. Not single-handedly – the change in formation had an awful lot to do with it too – but with him on the right wing we looked immeasurably more dangerous and in the end, three goals were scored and we romped the second half. Nasri perked up, Silvestre looked solid, Song looked less like he was drowning and there was a tasty substitute appearance from the rangy Abou Diaby (he’s always called ‘The rangy Abou Diaby’ – it’s the law apparently).
It was all so different in the first half. Alex Song – a sometime centre-half and more recently centre-midfielder, mysteriously found himself at right-back, and within about a minute it was clear this was a Wenger boob. I know Song is one of his favourite protégés but asking him to play in a position he is not familiar with seemed more than a little odd, especially when Eboue could have done the job.
Sure enough, the defence was undone. Silvestre didn’t clear the ball, it broke to the left where Song was MIA, the ball was slipped across the goal and Donnymarie Osman scored. All rather simple.
Arsenal had a few half chances thereafter, but the shape wasn’t there and the best opportunity came again to Everton right at the end of the half, Clichy coming to the rescue with a goal-line clearance.
So it wasn’t until Walcott came on, and Toure went off with a damaged shoulder, that Arsenal came together. Song reverted to centre-half, Eboue to right-back, and Walcott at right-wing meant we had the shape so patently lacking in the first half. We began to click straight away.
It was the classic game of two halves in that respect.
Overall, it was a good three points, a very decent second half, a promising league debut for Silvestre and a welcome return for Diaby.
But looking at the bigger picture, it seems to me that we’re clinging onto the coat-tails of the leaders without ever looking like breaking into the kind of form needed to overtake them.