Arsenal 4-1 Everton
For a team that prides itself for being able to look big teams in the eye without having to stand on its toes this was chastening.
Despite an early Özil goal, Everton fought back admirably. Ross Barkley, so often an ambidextrous tearaway on the break, crossed for Mirallas whose sliding shot landed at Lukaku’s feet with the goal mouth agape. 1-1.
It was the penalty,
or to be truly accurate, the penalties, that changed the course of this game. After Barry had tripped Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arteta dispatched the spot kick. He didn’t celebrate. The ref then called him back to retake the penalty after an infringement. The second spot kick was very different from the first, and scoring both comes with its own unique set of problems.
Do I go the same way as the first penalty, or do I switch it up?
What if Robles guesses right this time?
I just scored, and now I have to take it again, what if I miss?
How much of a boost will it be to Everton if I miss?
Ultimately, despite the added pressure, despite switching it up, and despite Robles guessing right, Arteta scored. 2-1 Arsenal. He was clearly relieved and so he celebrated. He grabbed the badge, he looked happy. His face launched a thousand tweets accusing him of betraying Everton. Clearly, he hadn’t planned to celebrate – his joy was because he scored a penalty twice with the pressure doubled. And what’s wrong with celebrating anyway? Arsenal *are* his team. We *were* his team.
Others said that Arteta was moaning all game, playing dead when we were attacking, making us kick the ball out, screaming at the linesman. People forget he picked up more free kicks than any other Everton player when he was playing for us. He could niggle referees, and he was clever. Complaining about Arteta yesterday is as idiotic as the chorus of “handball!” shouts from the Emirates faithful whenever a ball hit one of our players above the waist. Had they forgotten about the handball which annoyed so many of them at Stoke last week?
After that we were chasing the game. One of the men we hate to love, Leon Osman, came on as did Deulofeu and McGeady but two Giroud strikes ensured that score line didn’t reflect the game.
For the second successive season we’ve been knocked out at this stage, denied a trip to Wembley, and instead we’re left asking why we couldn’t make it that step further. It’s easy to blame the board, they are the voodoo doll that we continuously stab after defeats, hoping to hurt one of them with our sharp words. The reality was that we could have won this game. Barkley missed a great chance at 1-1. We didn’t need to give away the penalty. We could have picked Howard in goal instead of the catch-shy and punch happy Robles. We didn’t do any of these things, we were beaten by the better side in probably the most important game of our season. It hurts, and it will do for a while.