Arsenal managed to make about two tentative passes before giving the ball away to Everton in a dangerous position and causing the nerves to surface in the crowd and remind the players just howm badly they played against Monaco on Wednesday. So right from the off we lost a bit of confidence and Everton felt comfortable.
And the fact that this was the same starting XI bar two that played in midweek ensured that those nerves would be right at the forefront of the players’ minds. This was highlighted when about 10 minutes in the visitors were allowed to have about two minutes popping the ball around with no real pressure. Everton had over 70 percent possession in the first quarter of an hour but at least they had not punished us with a goal.
They nearly got a gift though, when Gabriel made an error and allowed Lukaku a run at Ospina. At first I thought the keeper was rash but replays showed the Colombian did brilliantly to rescue the situation. With nearly half an hour gone, another Monaco memory was triggered as Giroud put a great headed chance wide but the striker had done brilliantly to fashion the chance in the first place. I just worried for his confidence.
That did seem to spark us into life though. Our attacks were still a bit slow and one of them broke down and nearly led to one of those horrible counter attack blows but for a fantastic redeeming tackle from Gabriel on Lukaku. Then it all got better for Arsenal just before half time when Giroud finally found his range and swept us into the lead with a right foot strike. Just what The Gunners and our French striker needed.
It was all Everton after the break and the Arsenal defence was under serious preesure from a string of corners, free kicks and crosses for the first five minutes. But I was impressed with how Arsenal defended and the way we played in general, with Coquelin doing great work to help and turn defence into attack. In the 65th minute we nearly saw one of those typical Arsenal tiki-taka goals and then a great save from Ospina from a Lukaku chance.
It stayed tense, nervous and tight though, with chances at both ends, Ozil being denied our best one with a great last ditch block by Jagielka. Rosicky came on for the Ox and then Welbeck for Alexis. Inevitably with just a goal difference, the Gunners dropped back as the final whistle approached.
Unlucky Coquelin got a second blow to his already badly damaged nose and had to go off with Chgambers coming on as our latest injury crisis hit home. But just as things were getting worrying, Rosicky got our second and killed the game thanks to a wicked deflection.
It was not the most scintillating performance but it was solid and professional and just what the doctor ordered.