A Cleansheet At Last

In my last post I said that I wasn’t sure when I’d be confident enough again to predict a clean sheet for the Arsenal. I most certainly didn’t predict one for this game against Everton, especially when the likes of a ‘hot-in-form’ Richarlison was returning from a 3 match ban. I thought: “This is just our luck! Why couldn’t we have faced Everton a game earlier when he was still suspended?”, because frankly any one in that kind of form scares me a bit, especially with a defence as dodge as ours.

It seemed inevitable that Everton were going to put at least one past us. However, I had a little bit more faith in our defense, and after the performances Papa Sokratis has been putting in recently, you wouldn’t fault me to assume that he was going to be a brick wall in our defense for the day. But to my surprise it wasn’t the Greek beast who kept us in it. In fact it was Cech, our last line of defense, who put in a solid performance and really came through for us and kept us in the game.

I caught wind of the news quite early that Torreira was going to start his first game in the Premier League, and I was absolutely buzzing! I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to win this game since I read that, and it’s wonderful that we finally have someone in our team that can give us that kind of reassurance. Social media was also buzzing, and the hashtag #TimeForTorreira was being thrown around everywhere. My snacks and beers were in place and I was ready for this one.

The first half of this match was, once again, not really one to remember for the Arsenal. The lack of fluidity and communication in the final third meant that we had very few shots and chances to take the lead early on. A lot of the times our passes went astray and gave the possession away, and that’s something that still needs working on. I have a feeling it’s got something to do with Özil playing on the wing, and I have no idea why Emery insists on him playing there when we as fans can see that he has more of an influence in that number 10 role. But anyways, our best chance of the half fell to Nacho Monreal after some hard work from Aubameyang to set him up, but the Spaniard shot it straight at the keeper. I wished it were the other way around though, as Aubameyang was high in confidence after his two goals in midweek, and probably would’ve finished the chance a bit better.

The majority of the first half was spent in our half, as Everton were piling on the pressure and constantly feeding balls in behind our defenders and giving themselves opportunities to shoot. It also didn’t help that our centre backs were making mistakes among themselves. I thought Sokratis did well for the time he was on, but it was Mustafi who found himself on the floor most of the time and it feels like Sokratis had to cover for Mustafi’s mistakes. In fact, it was one of those mistakes which forced Sokratis into a professional foul outside the box whereby he injured himself in the process and picked up a yellow card. Lucas Torreira also picked up a yellow card very early on in the half, so our two best defensive-minded players on the pitch had to walk on egg shells for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, that injury Sokratis picked up was bothering him and he had to come off for Rob Holding. Everton looked threatening for the rest of the half, forcing Cech into some more saves and Arsenal were forced to just absorb the pressure until half time came around, where we could catch a break and just recuperate. Finally the whistle blew on what was a horrible half to watch, and both sides went in without a goal to their name.

The second half didn’t start any better though. Both sides were struggling to keep possession and couldn’t find their natural flow. I was starting to worry that this might end up to be a goalless draw, but our main man up front put my doubts to bed. It seemed like it was going to be another broken down attack, but a brilliant interception from Torreira gave it right back to Ramsey. Ramsey, who spotted Lacazette in space, found the Frenchman, who took one touch before unleashing a powerful curler into the top right hand corner of the goal. Now that’s what we paid 52 million pounds to see! What a fantastic goal.

It’s amazing how much one goal can change a game. After Lacazette’s opener, Arsenal seemed to have shifted a gear up and went looking for a second goal, which they found not more than 4 minutes later. Kurt Zouma made a mistake by giving the ball back to Lacazette, who picked up Özils run and fed it quickly towards him. The break was on and it was 3 against 1. There was a stage where I thought we fucked this chance up because of the ball being played just behind Ramsey, but Ramsey’s flick found Aubameyang, who put the ball ever so smoothly past Jordan Pickford to make it 2 nil. It looked offside at first and the replay confirmed that it was, but somehow whenever Aubameyang plays against Everton the linesmen can’t seem to spot him offside, even if it’s clear as day light. That was Auba’s second offside goal against Everton, the first being his debut goal against the Toffees in February. I’ll take it, but the day VAR comes to town we won’t get so lucky next time. 

The game carried on with Arsenal high in spirit, but Everton were still showing potential signs of getting back into it. However, although they could bypass our defense, they just couldn’t find a way past Cech, who had one of his best games in an Arsenal jersey for a long time. I also thought Xhaka played pretty well to be honest. His passing was sloppy in the game at times, yes, but his intent was good and he never gave up. Lucas Torreira had a great match as well. For someone who was on a yellow card as early as the 15th minute, he picked his tackles very cleverly and stayed with us for the full 90 minutes. He also picks up the ball quite deep and then drives the team forward, trying to make things happen, a quality we’ve been missing in a player since Santi Cazorla got injured.

I thought for sure that we were going to concede at least one goal in the last few minutes of the game, but the lads held it together and picked up their first cleansheet of the season. That goes without saying, that Petr Cech was my man of the match on the day. Earlier, Chelsea dropped two points to West Ham, and Man United also dropped two points against Wolves, which meant that we could capitalize on that, which we did. After our win against Everton, Arsenal now see themselves placed 6th on the table, 1 point away from Watford who are in the top 4. We play them next weekend and, depending on the Spuds’ result, if we win that fixture, we could potentially see ourselves in the top 4 again.

Next up is Brentford in the Carabao Cup, so let’s keep this winning run going, shall we?

Come on you Gunners!