Another draw but Everton show signs of improvement

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Marouane Fellaini fires Everton back on level terms against ArsenalGettyImagesMarouane Fellaini fires Everton back on level terms against Arsenal

For 92 minutes, it was hard to find any glaring issues with the Everton performance. Unfortunately, for the home side, this match ran for 93 minutes and Arsenal struck in the first. Once again, a moment of indecision or an individual error proved costly. After a few powder-puff tackles and a fortuitous deflection, Theo Walcott put Arsenal ahead with just 52 seconds on the clock.

- Fellaini cancels out Walcott opener

The spirited home response will have warmed the freezing supporters in the stands. In truth, Everton should have arrived at the interval with the lead. Scoring or assisting for the eighth time in eight matches, midfield powerhouse Marouane Fellaini drew Everton level with a precise finish around the half-hour mark. Shortly afterwards, Nikica Jelavic spurned a great chance and Arsenal survived until the break.

Following a frustratingly long injury absence, Darron Gibson fitted back in with consummate ease. Constantly showing for possession, the midfielder used the ball well and provided much-needed protection for the back four. The other returnee came at right-back and the timely return of Tony Hibbert coincides with injuries to Phil Neville and Seamus Coleman. The defence was better for the presence of Hibbert and both he and it grew stronger as the match wore on.

The three changes from Norwich - Fellaini, Gibson and Hibbert in; Oviedo, Hitzlsperger, Heitinga out -all had a positive impact and were part of a much improved team performance. Everton tend to raise their game against the league’s more established sides and this match was no different.

Established with renewed gusto, the Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar pairing troubled the overworked Bacary Sagna throughout and Leon Osman showed just why he earned his England call-up. The goal aside, the home defence looked its strongest in months and Tim Howard produced a far more commanding performance.

In a match brimming with positives, the only significant blot on the home copybook was the failure to take three points. Given Arsenal’s eight wins in the last ten meetings between the two, a draw is not an overriding disappointment by any means. However, after the poor showings against Reading and Norwich, Everton needed to win this one and it lands in the two points dropped category. Ultimately, after the early concession, the win proved a step too far but the signs of improvement bode well for the games ahead.

Aside from the draw, there were a couple of other worries for David Moyes. Seemingly limping after a tackle, Darron Gibson looked to have picked up a knock. He highlighted his worth to the team in this game and Everton will hope it is nothing serious. The other concern is over Everton’s answer to the Duracell bunny with Leighton Baines picking up a hamstring injury. The left back is doubtful for Saturday but the injury does not appear too serious. His potential absence would most likely provide an opportunity for John Heitinga or Bryan Oviedo to regain a first team place.

Showing improvements in all areas, this was a massive advance on the dismal encounters against Reading and Norwich. Aside from the injured Kevin Mirallas, the starting eleven was Everton's strongest in weeks and the returning players provided fresh impetus. A tough trip to Manchester City is next but Everton should approach that without fear after a strong display here.

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