08 March 2014

Arsenal 4-1 Everton: Player Ratings

After a bright early start, courtesy of a sublime pass to Cazorla to Özil just seven minutes in, it looked like we would look forward to a comfortable win. However, a Lukaku goal evened things up, and we went into halftime at 1-1. The second half, however, was all Arsenal: Ox got tripped in the box, and Arteta finished twice—after Giroud forced a retake by encroaching on the first attempt—but the former Evertonian simply stepped up and finished the second. Giroud made up for his gaffe by adding a brace. The scoreline flatters us a bit as Everton had its chances and could have even taken a lead but for some poor finishing. However, we've booked a trip to Wembley for the semifinal. We'll find out tomorrow who we'll face from the matches between Sheffield United-Charlton Athletic, Hull-Sunderland, and Man City-Wigan. For now, here's a quick rundown of our squad's performance today, with stats and ratings courtesy of whoscored.com.

Starters
  • Mesut Özil9.03 (✯): a goal and an assist should be enough to calm the critics, if only for a week. His movement off the ball was as superb as it ever is, and you really owe it to yourself to watch just him. Ignore the ball and see how he moves and sizes up openings. The lead-up to Giroud's goal, for example, shows Özil checking constantly on Giroud's whereabouts before receiving the ball so that he knows where Giroud will be. Five key passes led the team, and his 80 touches were second only to Arteta. Someone somewhere will still find a reason to call him overrated. 
  • Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—8.5: Another invigorating performance for him, playing down the right side. Despite my fears about him locking horns with Baines, Ox made him look like the second-best left-back on the pitch for long stretches. Unlucky not to score despite putting three shots on target, he did earn us the PK by outracing Barry to the ball at the edge of the box and turning past him only to get tripped. Ox has a knack for that, it seems. He also found time to make five tackles (1st) and four interceptions (1st) in a stellar all-around show.
  • Santi Cazorla—8.13: His link-up with Özil for the first goal was a thing of beauty and shows what could lie ahead for the two. He moved beautifully across the pitch to find the ball on the right, dribbled through the heart of Everton's defense, and put the ball through two defenders were only Özil could get it. His ambition further shows in his eight accurate long-balls (1st).
  • Bacary Sagna—7.82: I apologize for being critical, but I can't shake the nagging feeling that Sagna is responsible for Everton's goal. He didn't track back effectively, allowing Mirallas to beat him into the box, and this seems to be a growing dilemma for Bac. If he's not able to keep up with Mirallas, he will certainly struggle against swifter players, and this could become the kind of flaw that other clubs will look to exploit. On the other hand, he did splendidly to assist Giroud's second, dancing along the endline until Giroud found space, then putting the pass in for Giroud to finish. Even-Steven, I suppose.
  • Mikel Arteta—7.78: As with Sagna, I'm of two minds with Arteta. On one hand, he did well to send home to PK's in a row, making it six of his last six. He also led the team in passes (61) and accuracy (92%). On the other, he coughed it up a few times and looked slow, struggling to stay ahead of the action or track players effectively. To be honest, neither he nor Flamini looked all that sharp, although it's awfully gripey of me to say so in a 4-1 win.
  • Thomas Vermaelen—7.31: Poor Tom can't catch a break. When he did get one, he nearly botched it. Turning to make a clearance along the sideline, he whiffed horribly, allowing Lukaku to dribble into the box, and only a poor finish saved us from conceding a goal. That said, though, he did better than I expected given how little he's played, with 11 clearances (2nd), four aerial duels won (1st), and some ambitious passing without overcommitting to going forward on the attack.
  • Per Mertesacker—7.18: Like Sagna, he should have done better than to let Lukaku get in front of him to finish Mirallas's shot but he probably assumed that Mirallas had Szcz beaten. Ah, well, He did lead with 12 clearances and turned in a familiarly calm and comfortable performance, making a few key tackles along the way despite his lack of pace.
  • Kieran Gibbs—7.13: Arguably the better of the left-backs on the day, but this has as much to do with Baines's dealing with Ox as it does with Gibbs's performance. He had a quiet day without much to complain about (Mirallas, though playing on the right, assisted Lukaku through a run he made down Everton's left flank). He might have been more alert to defend the pass in from Barkley, as Flamini was noticeably wary of committing too hard after his yellow-card minutes before.
  • Mathieu Flamini—7.1: Once he picked up the yellow-card—in Flamini-esque fashion, foolishly and recklessly—he really should have been taken off. However, it wasn't quite the 70th minute, and so he stayed on. However, shorn of the freedom to tackle recklessly, his caution stripped him of the one skill he brings: tackling recklessly. He was therefore ineffective, or at least less-effective than he might be otherwise.
  • Lukasz Fabianski—6.81: Needing a chance to get some time on the pitch before facing Bayern, Fabianski did prety well for himself. He deserves no blame for Lukaku's goal; he did, after all, look like he did well to deny Mirallas in the first place. Beyond that, though, there wasn't much else for him to do.
  • Yaya Sanogo—6.52: As you might expect by now, Sanogo turned in a performance that was uneven. He showed that he has touch but also that it can be heavy. He moved around well and was ready on the first goal for a pass from Cazorla or a rebound from Özil's shot, but it's no accident that his replacement scored twice. More telling, though, is that Giroud managed 21 touches in 30 minutes to Sanogo's 30 in 60. That reflects involvement and intent. Sanogo's learning curve, that is, learning how to play at this level and learning the role in this squad, continues.
Substitutes:
  • Olivier Giroud (78' for Sanogo)—7.87: A brilliant return to form for Giroud as he bagged the brace and was unlucky to finish without a third as he had a few close ones, such as a near-post touch at a tight angle that was blocked. It was a bit silly of him to encroach on Arteta's PK, but no harm done in the end.
  • Tomáš Rosický (78' for Oxlade-Chamberlain)6.41: I wanted him in at DM, but his appearance on the right paid off in spades. One of his first touches was to send the ball down to the endline for Sagna, and it rolled slowly to where Sagna could collect it, look up, and find Giroud. Moments later, it was him receiving the ball on the flank and finding Özil in the box, how then one-timed it to Giroud. If they ever do start tallying second-assists, may I suggest that it be dubbed a "Rosický"?
  • Carl Jenkinson(88' for Gibbs): Led the squad with 100% accuracy. Oh. Just one pass attempted. Well done, Carl! Truth be told, not much for him to do with the little time that he had.
It was satisfying to see us do away with a tough, high-quality opponent, as this was the first time this season that we've scored more than two goals against a team with European aspirations since scoring three in the orgy at the Etihad in December. Whether it builds momentum ahead of the trip to face Bayern is another question for another day. For now, sit back and savor this one; it brings us to within two victories of the FA Cup!