Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture, our co-commentator and an Arsenal blogger will have their say on the game.
Arsenal take on Everton in the Premier League on Tuesday and our Talking Heads for this game are Arsenal Player commentator Dan Roebuck and Tim Clark of Arse2Mouse.
Dan Roebuck Arsenal Player commentatorDAN ROEBUCK, ARSENAL PLAYER COMMENTATOR
As expected this was a fiercely-contested battle and, in the end, Arsene Wenger's side will be disappointed they didn't win. Everton started better and could have taken the lead early on through Steven Pienaar. They were physical and strong but I thought Arsenal stood up to that relatively well. They didn't let themselves get bullied.
Darron Gibson was probably fortunate to stay on the pitch. He had already been booked for a foul on Theo Walcott and could have seen red when he cynically caught the same player shortly afterwards. In the second half, Arsenal stepped up the pressure and created some good chances. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain again looked lively from the bench and Olivier Giroud might have done better when he blazed over late on.
It's going to be touch and go for a Champions League place, but this result shouldn't blunt Arsenal's momentum too much. What's important now is that they rest up and get ready for another tough game away at Fulham on Saturday afternoon.
Arsenal go into this game full of confidence after Saturday's late show against Norwich City. Arsene Wenger will have been delighted by the character shown by his team at the weekend. They were a goal down with less than 10 minutes to go but kept probing and eventually got the win they deserved.
Everton have generally been consistent throughout the season and come into this fixture on a five-game unbeaten run in the league. A win tonight would see them move just one point behind Arsenal. They have gone under the radar somewhat this season but could still challenge for a top-four finish. You'd think they need to win tonight if they are to achieve that though.
In the reverse fixture at Goodison Park in November, they were strong, physical and earned a deserved point. Marouane Fellaini was impressive on that night and will have to be monitored closely tonight. Leighton Baines also had a good game and has been excellent all season. He has a top-quality delivery, illustrated by the fact that he has five assists and five goals to his name from left back.
I think it will be an evenly-matched encounter with one goal perhaps enough to win it for either side.
Tim Clark Arse2MouseTIM CLARK, ARSE2MOUSE
Not the result we needed, but not one we can complain much about either. Everton arrived with a gameplan to rattle Arsenal, and initially it worked as we struggled to match their intensity. There's certainly a case to be made that Gibson should have walked after making a cynical block on Walcott, but with the player already on a booking the ref opted for a teacherly talking-to instead. That's irritating. It panders to the ridiculous 'don't ruin the game' mentality that would have rules applied according to what suits the entertainment of the neutral fan best.
Gradually Arsenal grew into the game, coming to terms with its spicy flavour, and creating a couple of decent chances. In either half Giroud had a brilliant ball played into him from the right flank, but conspired to slice the first chance wide, while fine Everton defending took the second off his toes. With the game ending goalless there was a predictable debate afterwards as to whether our main (read: only) centre forward is good enough?
My view: he is, in the sense that he's good enough to net 17 times in his first season here. But the way he's struggled to score against quality opposition suggests he's not good enough to be the only real option through the middle of the front three at a club with the ambitions of Arsenal.
We'll only know the value of last night's point come the end of the season, but if we can get back to winning ways against Fulham, then seven points from this three-game spell will be a healthy return, and enough to keep our tilt for the Champions League places alive.
Tonight’s game is as pivotal as any we’ve played this season. Though our record against Everton is tremendous - unbeaten since 2007 - they’re very tough to beat right now. But beat them we must. With a squad that’s remarkably uninjured (crosses self, kisses lucky rabbit’s foot, sips well-aged scotch) the manager faces a number of selection headaches. The kind of decisions which are typically described as ‘welcome’, but are probably actually quite brain hurty.
The biggest of these will be whether to recall Mertesacker, as I suspect many fans would prefer, or stick with the Vermaelen/Koscielny combo. Given the maxim of not changing a winning team, plus the awkwardness of dropping the skipper again, I suspect the manager will leave the BFG on the bench. Elsewhere, Rosicky will presumably return to midfield, replacing the quite clearly not-quite-match-fit Jack Wilshere. The manager must also decide between Podolski and Gervinho on the left, and make a call between Gibbs or Monreal. My guess is the German and the Spaniard get the nod.
Interestingly, we’re told Fabianksi has acquired an injury so is unlikely to start, but I wonder if Wenger doesn’t just prefer the cross-snaffling capabilities of Szczesny. Particularly with the meaty threat of Anichebe and Fellaini to contend with. A win tonight and we’ll go into the almost equally tricky Fulham away fixture full of confidence and with substantial momentum. Anything less and my nerves will fray. In terms of our season, this is very much business time.
* The views expressed in Talking Heads do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband Ltd
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