London’s a very big place Mr Shadrach, a very big place.
A man could lose himself in London.
Lose himself in London.
Not Everton though.
The Mighty Blues – and we no longer say that with a nod or a wink – travelled to the nation’s capital with most people expecting something of a hangover from the midweek heroics against the Champions unelect, Manchester United. Arsenal, after all, are the table toppers with a fearsome home record, winning every league game at the Emirates since the opening day of the season.
Absolutely no one then expected what unfolded, especially during the first 40 minutes, as Everton completely and utterly played them off the park.
In terms of passing and movement when in possession, allied to a ferocious workrate whenever they needed to get the ball back, Robert Martinez’s team completely embarrassed their stunned hosts.
With Ross Barkley humming ‘Copacabana’ every time he glided past fat-tongued fucktard Jack Wilshere, Everton’s passing was completely bewitching. The only problem though was that for all the dominance of midfield and solidity at the back, there is still that persistent naivety in the final third that threatened to undo all the sterling approach play.
Indeed, when Arsenal finally mustered a couple of attacks, just before half time, Tim Howard ended up the busier of the two keepers as he smothered close-range efforts from Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey.
Despite crosses being flashed across the Arsenal box, Wojciech Szczeny wasn’t called into genuine action until after the break when he palmed away piledrivers from Barkley and Steven Pienaar.
The home side were better in the second period but their frustration was still evident when Wenger made a triple substitution, withdrawing Ramsey, Santi Carzola and Wilshere. Presumably the latter, who is only a bowler hat away from appearing on the side of a Home Pride jar, was shattered from his constant anguished pleading with the referee, his horrible little face contorted like a scene from Sophie’s Choice.
On 80 minutes two of the Arsenal subs combined when Tomas Rosicky chipped the ball to the far post and Theo Walcott headed back across goal. Initially it seemed as if the Blues would escape, as Giroud missed the ball completely, but the otherwise marginal Mezut Ozil slammed an awkward volley into the roof of the net.
With the Emirates suddenly transformed into a self-congratulating seething cauldron of glossy Moncler coats, elaborate knitwear and Michael Cashman-looking creatives in Buddy Holly glasses, the story being written from their point of view was all about showing title-winning grit by winning games in which they were, for the most part, made to look like a big bag of shite.
From Everton’s perspective we would be left to reflect on how great coaching and organisation can serve you well up to a point but what sets the very top sides apart is that extra 5% in the danger areas at the crucial moments – the extra 5% that costs over £40 million, for instance.
However, they say the past is another country, and that’s where the Everton with that particular mind-set now resides.
The present lot simply decided ‘fuck this’ and went up the other end and scored.
Barkley drove through the midfield again before picking out Bryan Oviedo on the left. His cross evaded Romelu Lukaku’s overhead kick but ended up at the far side of the box at the feet of chonged-looking substitute Gerard Deulofeu. Kieran Gibbs didn’t do a lot wrong, fronting the Spanish winger up, and the Gunners really didn’t appear to be in that much danger. Everton’s on-loan 5% had other ideas though, shifting the ball a matter of inches to create an almost imperceptible gap through which he smashed a shot so venomous that it’s getting its own documentary on Channel 5.
Szczeny’s evolutionary instincts told him to duck out of the way and allow the ball into the top corner of the net – a point’s a point at the end of the day, there’s no point in getting killed just to secure the win.
In the fourth minute of three minutes stoppage time Giroud struck a brilliant swerving shot from long range but an absolute travesty was avoided as it hit the outside of the post.
Wenger bleated about some bollocks or other about the refereeing afterwards, presumably to deflect from the absolute schooling his team got in the first half, but a number of their players were honest enough to admit that Everton are the best side they have faced this season.
They were simply incredible at times – in fact since the disappointment at Crystal Palace, when the negative passing had everyone tearing their hair out, the style seems to have evolved and adapted slightly, producing some of the most exhilarating football played by Everton in years and culminating in the highs of a week that will live long in the memory.
It’s beautiful, baby.