Arsenal (0) 0 Everton (0) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Friday, 23rd April 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Pablo Marí, Granit Xhaka; Thomas Partey, Dani Ceballos; Nicolas Pépé, Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka; Eddie Nketiah.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Magalhães, Martin Ødegaard, Willian Borges da Silva, Cédric Soares, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, Mat Ryan, Gabriel Martinelli.
Yellow Cards: Thomas Partey
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 59%
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistant Referees: Marc Perry, Dan Robathan
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR David Coote; AVAR Stuart Burt
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
For tonight’s St. George’s Day match here at the Emirates, we are without both of our first-choice forwards, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, due to injury and illness respectively; of course Kieran Tierney and David Luiz are also unavailable because of injury too, and Martin Ødegaard is in light training after an ankle problem and will be assessed by the coaching team just before kick-off. Let’s go!
We began the match quite energetically, applying pressure on the visitors’ goal, winning a corner within two minutes of the start, which although went nowhere, the intent was there. Everton’s best chance in the early part of the game came from a free-kick, which Gylfi Sigurdsson took, only for Rob Holding to easily neutralise the threat, by diverting the ball safely back to Bernd Leno. The two sides were looking fairly even, with their respective defenders skillfully cutting out any threat to score from either sets of strikers. Bukayo Saka was unlucky not to score when the ball flew into the Everton penalty area, but unfortunately Jordan Pickford made an easy save at close range from our young striker. At this moment in the game, the big players on both sides are lacklustre, it’s becoming fairly obvious that the match needs a goal to liven it up quickly, and Thomas Partey could just be the man to unlock the Toffees’ defence tonight. However, Bernd Leno made a fantatsic save from Richarlison at close range, and at the other end, a very quick smash’n’grab movement from us looked promising, but it petered out into nothing. Six minutes before the break, a twenty-yard Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick bounced off the bar with Bernd Leno beaten, and just before half-time, Emile Smith-Rowe was unlucky not to gain control of the ball in the Everton penalty area; if the ball had not run away for him, we may well have gone into half-time in the lead, but it was honours even at the break.
No changes for the team line-up for the second half, and it started in the same manner as the first ended, with plenty of pressure on both goals but to no avail. Everton had the better chances of the two teams out there, with one or two shots going close by Bernd Leno’s goal. We were granted a penalty six minutes into the second half, but sadly it was cancelled out by VAR because Nicolas Pépé was deemed to be offside in the build-up, and a couple of minutes’ later, Everton’s penalty appeal was cancelled out by VAR also. And so it goes. Just before the hour mark, we nearly had a classic own-goal situation when Calum Chambers put in a low cross from the right flank, Mason Holgate took a massive swing at it, but it flew off the outside of his boot and into the side-netting. Nearly. After a free-kick on the left, when Nicolas Pépé was chopped to the ground by Mason Holgate (who was booked for his trouble), Rob Holding’s subsequent shot fired over the bar from close range; Dani Ceballos took a quick, strong shot from outside the box which was parried by Jordan Pickford for an Arsenal corner, which was cleared by the Everton defence. With about a quarter of an hour of the match remaining, in an effort to liven up proceedings, Nicolas Pépé and Eddie Nketiah were replaced by Martin Ødegaard and Gabriel Martinelli. A minute or so later, the visitors took the lead when Richarlison cut in from the right flank, crossed the ball, and somehow the ball bounced off the inside of Bernd Leno’s leg and into the net. Now we were chasing the game, and with decent chances very few and far between, it became a big problem for our chaps. Calum Chambers was replaced by Willian with eight minutes of the game remaining, and despite having fresh legs out there, it did not appear to make a whole lot of difference at all. With the game running down, we made a last gasp attack on the Everton goal, but we were unable to breeak down their defence adequately.enough to score the equalising goal. Twice in less than a minute, Jordan Pickford kept his side in the game, but the harder we tried, the more we got nowhere, and when referee Jonathan Moss blew the final whistle, it was a massive sense of disappointment on our behalf.
The most exciting thing about tonight was the thousand or so Arsenal supporters outside the ground protesting over the Super League debacle earlier in the week. This match was turgid, boring and pointless, and how can it be? With fifty-nine per cent posession, fourteen shots on goal (three on target), how did we end up with this result this evening? With Villareal on the horizon next Thursday, we had truly better pull our collective socks up. Or else.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Villareal at Estadio de la Cerámica on Thursday, 29th April at 8.00pm(Europa League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.