Late goals form Aaron Ramsey and then Olivier Giroud salvaged a point for Arsenal, after having looked set to go down to back-to-back defeats to Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, 2-2.
Trailing 2-0 entering the final eight minutes, first Ramsey slid in to give Arsenal hope and, as Everton continued to show signs of mental and physical fatigue, the visitors made their late pressure count when Olivier Giroud headed home in the 90th minute. It was a result that was difficult to foresee for much of the encounter. Indeed, for the first-half in particular a repeat of the 3-0 beating Everton handed down at the same venue in April looked on the cards.
Seamus Coleman had given the hosts the lead in the 19th minute with a back-post header and, while Steven Naismith had been offside before slotting in right before halftime, there could be little complaint that a 2-0 lead was not thoroughly deserved heading into the interval. Arsenal had been insipid in the opening 45 minutes. That Alexis Sánchez, leading the line for the first time in an Arsenal shirt, looked on a different page to his teammates, was a major contributing factor. Giroud’s entrance for the Chilean at the break made all the difference. It was a second-half display that was still far from convincing, but Arsenal now had a focal point in attack. As Everton increasingly dropped back and relinquished the initiative, Arsenal took full advantage. For the second straight week Everton had looked set to claim victory but come away with only a 2-2 draw. Meanwhile, as in beating Crystal Palace, Arsenal had had been less than impressive, yet emerge with a positive result.
Wenger will surely attempt to take the positives from the resilience his side showed late on, however, it would be foolhardy to ignore the reappearance of the flaws that cost his side a real shot at the championship last season. Coleman had gifted an early chance to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but he was soon given the freedom of the penalty area to head home the opening goal. From a short free-kick, Everton were allowed to stroke the ball around without any pressure from Arsenal, before Gareth Barry took aim and picked out a cross to the back post. Mesut Özil, making his first appearance of the season, switched off and Coleman beat Wojciech Szczesny.
The best moments form Arsenal in that opening half came when Özil found space coming inside and could thread balls through to use the pace of Sánchez. Yet for most of the period, Özil was wasted on the left and Sanchez anonymous, with Arsenal unable to get the best out of a striker who thrives coming onto the ball rather than receiving it with his back to goal.
And before the interval Arsenal were two goals behind. It became a worrying trend for Arsenal last season that they would travel to the homes of the Premier League’s better teams and get ripped apart in transition. And that’s exactly what happened as Romelu Lukaku, again operating on the right against Arsenal, outmuscled Per Mertesakcer and then breezed past a rashly committed Calum Chambers on the halfway line. The Belgian’s pass and Naismith’s low finish were perfection, but the eyes of the referee’s assistant on that side were not, and missed Naismith being half a yard offside.
It appeared a decisive moment, but Giroud’s introduction changed the flow of the game. The striker’s finishing may not have been up to scratch when he volleyed over from six yards with his first touch and then had a shot blocked by Tim Howard, but Arsenal now had a focal point for their midfielders to play off. The introduction of Santi Cazorla with 16 minutes remaining arguably proved just as important. Everton sat off the Spaniard with seven minutes remaining to allow him to drill in a fine low ball across the face of goal and then further bad defending enabled Ramsey to sneak in and finish.
The momentum was now all with the visitors. And, again from the left, this time Nacho Monreal swung in a cross that caught out both Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin in the middle. Giroud made no mistake with an emphatic header into the corner of the net to the huge relief of Wenger on the sidelines.