Arsenal 0-0 Everton
Everton were unable to get the win that would have brought three precious points, but they enhanced their reputation against one of England’s premier teams, going toe to toe for 90 minutes in an enthralling Premier League encounter.
Everton approached the fixture in a positive manner and this was echoed in David Moyes’ selection, deciding to play 19-year-old Ross Barkley in an attacking midfield role in place of the injured Leon Osman. The Everton manager had a number of more conservative options at his disposal, but put his faith in Barkley ahead of Heitinga and Neville. And Barkley didn’t let his manager down. After a number of strong tackles early in the game, the scouse midfield player grew into the game, stamping his influence on proceedings and for the opening 60 minutes, he looked like Everton’s most potent attacking source. He superbly created a chance for Victor Anichebe, leaving ex teammate Mikel Arteta watching, as he took the ball under control and turned in an instant before slipping the ball through for the Nigerian forward, who on this occasion was unable to get his shot away with any substance. In the second half, Barkley went close to opening the scoring, jinking and turning his way past two Arsenal defenders, before unleashing a powerful curling effort that left the Arsenal keeper stranded but thankful, as Barkley’s shot whistled millimetres past the post.
Although Everton had a number of other chances to take the lead, Pienaar guilty of missing the best opportunity in the opening 10 minutes, this point owed much to the new-found defensive resilience the Blues have discovered since the galling cup defeat to Wigan. Jagielka and Distin were superb in the centre of the Everton defence, and Seamus Coleman was on top form, albeit in a restrained manor, as he stopped the Arsenal threat from their attacking left-sided players. Coleman was also instrumental in preventing a certain goal, when an Arsenal counter attack looked destined to end in a goal, before the Irishman cleared off the line with Giroud ready to turn the ball into an empty net.
So where does this leave Everton and their Champions League aspirations? It is certainly going to be tough, with Tottenham and Chelsea 2 points above Everton with at least a game in hand and Arsenal a further 2 points ahead. At present it looks like the Blues will have to win all 5 of their remaining fixtures, and David Moyes said as much in his post match interview. But football can turn in an instant, and with the other challenges facing some difficult fixtures between now and the end of the season, it would be foolish to write off Everton at this moment in time.