Date:Saturday March 8 2014
The sight of a clearly distressed and poorly looking young man lying on the ground in the middle of a long queue for Arsenal Tube, with a police officer kneeling down by him summoning an ambulance on his radio, was at odds with the sunny atmosphere around the stadium before and after the Cup game against Everton. The line was moving very slowly and it seemed to take an age for the paramedics to arrive but I hope things turned out as well for that man as it did for the team.
Further back in the line the guy canvassing for the food donation charity was working very hard for every contribution he could encourage with his usual repertoire of Spurs jokes which though more than a little familiar still entertained a crowd enjoying the spring sunshine and contented with a 4-1 win.
'We feed 1500 people a day' he announced 'We'll provide a hot meal for anyone who wants it - except Charlie Adams!' I felt he'd earned the handful of coins I had in my pocket.
Earlier the crowd were in good voice as the game kicked off and though Everton started brightly a quick counter with Chamberlain's lay-off finding Cazorla allowed him to adroitly round McCarthy to drive towards the box and find a perfect pass to the one player I reckon most of the crowd would have wanted to score. Ozil didn't disappoint and was warmly congratulated by team mates and crowd alike.
After that we seemed to boss the game and though Everton are a good enough team to counter effectively they didn't really create very much until the rebound from Arteta's blocked shot wrong footed an already booked Flamini and Barkley broke into the box with both Flamini and Arteta chasing him. Perhaps with his card in mind Flamini couldn't tackle but he stood too far off Barkley allowing his cross to the far post to find the net with a couple of bounces off Mirallas and Lukaku. It was a strange goal to concede and even the Everton fans couldn't quite believe it at first. I'm not sure they really felt it warranted the blue flares that were set off in the away section but like their team they took the chance they were presented with.
The equaliser put more of an edge to the game than the generally positive atmosphere, warm early spring sunshine and some confident if not inspired play justified. Watching Arsenal play I sometimes get the feeling that we play only in the defensive third and in the attacking third nowadays which gives the opposition far too much time and space in the middle third. We're either defending or attacking and I not really sure how we get from one to the other at times. Certainly our defending as a team is better than it has been with everyone pressing and closing down. Ozil was playing as the league's most expensive left back at one stage! When we're in the attacking third we can eventually get everyone swarming and buzzing around the opposition defence like flies around a cow's arse.......looking for a banjo with which to hit it! But at times there's something lacking in getting us from one to the other. Perhaps it's a consequence of two defensively aware midfielders who are good at positional play but sometimes I feel too static. That's not to say they don't both cover plenty of ground but they aren't players to carry the ball from one box to the other, preferring to back off and follow play forward only when it's safe to do so. Is that why more mobile players with the ball like Ramsey, Rosicky, Wilshere and Diaby are needed to make things happen? We certainly look pedestrian in the middle third without at least one of them at times.
Chamberlain seems to be able to make things happen and you can see in his play why Wenger might fancy him in just that sort of central midfield role. In this game he alternated between some positive direct running with the ball showing a willingness to shoot with either foot and some poor passing decisions which risked losing possession were he also not determined to go and get the ball back if he gave it away. He redeemed himself on a couple of such occasions in this game. It was a determined run and good control that earned the penalty that eventually restored our lead.
I'm sure that Clattenburg could have ordered at least 90% of the penalties he has awarded in his career to be retaken and booked any number of players for encroachment. Quite why he chose to do so in this game only he will know. Fortunately Arteta was cool enough to put it away again and forego the convention, if that's what it is now, of not celebrating goals against former teams.
Chamberlain may well have been nominated as man of the match which made it a bit of a surprise when he was taken off but it may also have proved a wiser decision than it looked at the time as Rosicky was very effective in exploiting the space left by Evertons full backs chasing the game. As a result an invigorated Giroud, on as a sub for the willing yet very raw Sanogo, helped himself to a couple of goals leaving him 2 short of the '20 goal a season man' some are insisting he isn't.
A good day out for gooners with a positive reward from a good competitive match. Hopefully it ended well for the guy in the queue too.
Date:Saturday March 8 2014
Audio - Wenger On Cech, Hazard & Transfer Kitty (Friday July 31 2015)
Rivals - Liverpool (Friday July 31 2015)
Arsenal Announce Two Most Important Signings (Friday July 31 2015)
Arsenal Adopt Barca's '6 Second Rule' (Friday July 31 2015)
More Changes At Arsenal (Friday July 31 2015)
BFG: We Can Deal With Pressures of Wembley (Friday July 31 2015)
Walcott Impressed With Reine-Adelaide (Thursday July 30 2015)
Cech Can Get Even Better With The Right Attitude (Thursday July 30 2015)
Jack Needs To Stay Fit To Show He's a Top Player (Thursday July 30 2015)
Gunners Confirm Szczesny Roma Loan (Wednesday July 29 2015)
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