Everton Focus – Battling Toffees take a point from Arsenal and raise Gunners’ ire

Everton produced a battling display to earn a point against Arsenal in a result that offers up a contradiction. Taken as a standalone match, drawing at the Emirates Stadium is impressive. In the longer-term of the Toffees’ hopes of qualifying for Europe – perhaps the Champions League, but the Europa League would be welcome too – it was two points the Toffees couldn’t afford to drop.

The aftermath of the game was largely dominated by the Gunners’ protestations that Everton had the temerity to tackle them, rather than stand aside and wave the likes of Jack Wilshere through to a comfortable victory, and then thank them for the privilege. It’s almost as if the days of Arsenal being the bad boys of the league, with Patrick Vieira the chief offender, never happened.

When Vieira was in his pomp he was a fearsome opponent to face, as Everton found out to their cost – most notably when he lolloped through a bedraggled Everton team to score the third goal of the 7-0 thrashing at Highbury days after Everton confirmed Champions League qualification in 2005.

But this is the same Vieira who was sent off twice in 72 hours in the 2000/01 season, received a five-game ban, and rivals Duncan Ferguson and Richard Dunne as the player most times dismissed. But the Arsenal that Vieira was a part of is long gone, and perhaps tellingly his final action as an Arsenal player was to convert the FA Cup-winning penalty in 2005, Arsenal’s last trophy.

But the present day Arsenal were caterwauling almost from kick-off. Three incidents seemed to raise their ire the most. First, Ross Barkley challenged Wilshere with a tackle the BBC describes as “fair”. The lack of a second yellow card shown to Darron Gibson got Arsene Wenger’s goat and later, when Kevin Mirallas squirted a water bottle over his shoulder and on to Wilshere, an unseemly skirmish threatened to break out.

Perhaps if Wilshere had shown that kind of fire on the pitch more often against Everton, rather than in the tunnel, Arsenal would have been able to break down their hard-working opposition. And that is how Everton made up the gap between themselves and their hosts – they worked at it.

They forced Arsenal to earn every inch of space and every second of time. And then they had the nous to use the ball well after turning it over. Arsenal used to do something similar. They also used to win trophies.

A study by the Guardian revealed that Arsenal have the third highest turnover in the league and the fourth largest wage bill, compared to Everton’s ranking of eighth and 10th, respectively, for the year ending May 2012. That is the kind of ground Everton made up at the Emirates, the kind of underachievement it is for Arsenal to have failed to beat Everton in two attempts this season, and the kind of overachievement it is for Everton to even be legitimate Champions League contenders.

Similar resolve against Sunderland, rejuvenated by beating Newcastle and the presence of Paolo Di Canio, will be needed. The Black Cats are also better payers than Everton, according to the Guardian, but while they’re trying to avoid the Championship, Everton are trying to make the Champions League.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Sunderland v Everton

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