Frustration builds for Toffees and Gunners
Everton manager David Moyes was asked this week if he felt this was a good time to judge Everton's progress. "No," he replied. "I think you measure Everton over a period of 10 years."
Like his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger, Moyes is a man who has been able to take a long-term outlook. The English professional game's second and third longest-serving managers have built their reputation at one club over years rather than months.
In an era of short-termism marked by Roman Abramovich's decision to dispense with Roberto Di Matteo on the basis of a handful of results, Moyes and Wenger stand out as anomalies. Both have built teams in their own vision. Neither are quite where they want to be at the moment, but both can feel reasonably secure that they will at least be given the chance to get there.
Both Everton and Arsenal are seeing Premier League progress stymied by too many draws at the moment, and a stalemate at Goodison Park was little use to either side. Moyes' dreams of Champions League football have been held up by six draws in eight matches; Wenger's by three in four.
But after Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini marked his return from a one-match suspension by cancelling out Theo Walcott's first-minute opener for Arsenal, it was Moyes who had reason to be happier.
"I thought we played really well," said the Everton manager. "Against a good Arsenal team, it's a great credit to the players that they showed such character to come back after going a goal down so early. And we deserved it because of the way we played after that."
Last Saturday's 1-1 draw at home to Norwich brought only frustration at Goodison. A similar scoreline against Arsenal brought cause for optimism. Everton should have won. Had Nikica Jelavic not blazed over a great chance, had Sylvain Distin's header not been pushed out by Wojciech Szczesny, had Steven Pienaar not been denied a clear penalty when former Evertonian Mikel Arteta felt his collar, they would have won.
"We should have had a penalty," Moyes said. "I thought we played a really good Arsenal team and a lot of games are won by decisions referees make or don't make. We got nothing tonight whatsoever. The players had to earn everything they were going to get, because we weren't going to get a jot."
Referee Michael Oliver's failure to spot Arteta's foul may have frustrated Moyes, but the manager could be proud of the way his side recovered after an awful start. His team conceded in the 90th minute against Norwich. They lost a goal after only 52 seconds here. It went to a player who many believe may have a long-term future on Merseyside.
Walcott's Arsenal contract is up at the end of the season, and he has been repeatedly linked with Liverpool. Wenger is keen for the winger to stay. It was not hard to see why when, with the first attack of the game, he stormed forward to break Phil Jagielka's challenge, then made an arcing run from right to left to collect Aaron Ramsey's return pass and steer a shot into the top corner via a deflection off Tony Hibbert. Walcott, who has only just recovered from a shoulder problem, was subsequently less effective after picking up an ankle knock, but he had made his point.
Arsenal lost centre-back Laurent Koscielny to a groin strain soon afterwards, but that did not explain why they subsequently lost their momentum. Wenger put it down to the strains of a third game in eight days.
"I'm pleased with the effort we put into the game," he said. "We played last Wednesday night in the Champions League, we played on Saturday at Aston Villa and we had to give a lot at Everton tonight. We had some players who played on the edge."
One player who seemed to be on the edge was right-back Bacary Sagna. He made one sloppy pass to give Pienaar the chance to build an Everton attack which ended with Fellaini being denied. When that broke down, the full-back then made a panicky clearance under pressure, and allowed Fellaini to curl in an equaliser from 20 yards.
"We have regrets on the goal we conceded, but overall, I believe that 1-1 is a fair result," Wenger said, betraying relief. "It's a good point here."
Jelavic might have given Everton the lead before half-time, firing over after creating a chance for himself by bamboozling Per Mertesacker, then getting in the excellent Leighton Baines' way by standing in an offside position when the full-back was about to charge through on goal.
The Croatian forward has been poor in recent games, but Moyes was keen to praise an improved performance from a player who had climbed from his sick bed to play following a dose of flu.
"Yesterday, I wasn't playing Jelavic and I only decided this morning," Moyes said. And I thought he did great."
A disappointment for Everton was a late hamstring injury to Baines, which may well keep him out of the weekend trip to Manchester City. It was the last thing Moyes needed after getting midfielder Darron Gibson and defender Hibbert back from long-term injuries. With such a thing squad, it is the kind of blow that may ultimate wreck Moyes' hopes of success. But then that has often been the way at Goodison Park in recent years. The manager has been around long enough to know that.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Leighton Baines. The left-back once again showed that he is as effective going forward as he is defending, linking well with Steven Pienaar on a number of occasions and giving everton plenty of attacking thrust. He will be missed if his hamstring injury is serious.
EVERTON VERDICT: Too many draws have slowed the progress of a side who have the first 11 to match any in the Premier League, but not the squad depth. They can be pleased with the way they responded to losing a goal so early. Just as against Norwich on Saturday, the chances were there to win the game. This point, though, will have brought a good deal more satisfaction.
ARSENAL VERDICT: Arsene Wenger's side have made a character trait of promising much and then fading away. What they tend to do over the course of a season, they managed here over the course of one match. Theo Walcott's early goal could have been the platform for so much more; instead they got slack and allowed their opponents back in.