The line-up was generally as expected, with Denilson, Diaby and Ramsey in the middle trio, leaving Nasri, Eduardo and Arshavin the so-called strike force. I don't know if minds were elsewhere, and I was told after the game that Diaby and Sagna used to play in France with one of the Togolese players who was shot (get well soon), but Arsenal were in disarray for most of the first 45 minutes.
Everton, to their credit, also played very well. Fellaini was immense in midfield, Cahill equally impressive in a more forward role in attack and then neatly tucking back into midfield defensive duties when required. I was also impressed that more than half of the Everton team wore short sleeves in the freezing temperatures - Fellaini about their only player with a pair of gloves - these Scousers were up for it and Diaby, Denilson and Ramsey were simply eaten for breakfast.
Denilson, in particular, could scarcely have had a worse match, his deflected goal after 27 mins one of the few things he got away with. He was miles off the pace, constantly caught in possession, inaccurate with his passing, and useless defensively.
Nasri perhaps did slightly better than average first half out on the right week, but Eduardo cuts a forlorn figure out on the left. AW has a history of playing strikes on the left wing, particularly if they are left footed, and memories of RVP's miserable six months last year out on the wing came flooding back. Arshavin barely touched the ball, the tiny Russian is wasted up front on his own, and without someone like Cesc to link with, he was lost in the ice. Its obvious to everyone apart from AW that Eduardo has to play in the middle. It seems to be one of AW's tics to make players play where the don't want to.
Anyway, the second half showed glimmers of improvement. Arsenal seem to have a mentality of saving themselves for second half performances at the moment. AW brought Nasri's work rate back into the midfield trio, pushing Ramsey into the forward right slot. Diaby seemed to warm slightly to his task, Tommy V thumped one chance into Lucas Neil, and there were a couple of good crosses from Sagna and Traore that Eduardo (now more central) almost got on the end of.
But Arsenal were over-committing forwards all over the pitch, and without anyone in midfield with Song's nose for danger, or his ability to track runners, there were several awkward moments in the game when Everton had several players free and would be in on goal if the right ball was played. That chance fell easily for Pienaar after 81 mins, when with Denilson in the early death throws of an injury, Everton broke from a corner and put Pienaar through by himself from the half way line, with Nasri desperately closing down the 10 yard headstart, before the South African chipped a glorious finish over Almunia (who was generally at his flappy worst).
Frankly, Everton were good for their 2-1 lead, but as soon as we restarted, Denilson decided to continue his odd performance by collapsing to the ground, leaving the Evertonians to charge through on goal again, only for an excellent block by Senor Flappy to deny them.
Now, Denilson was clearly injured and it was unfortunate for him, but he really had it coming. He took a heavy blow from Neville (who else?) on about 75 mins and lay motionless in their box for a couple of minutes, before rising to his feat, trotting to the side lines with the physio, and then coming straight back on. However, with his back injury clearly still an issue, he was now the walking wounded.
It was Denilson who had patrol of the middle of the pitch from our corner on 80 mins, and when Pienaar brushed passed him, the young Brazilian looked a geriatric and didn't bother to even try and chase him. Denilson had not even made the half way line when Pienaar scored.
But still Denilson didn't say to the bench "I'm fucked. I need a hot bath and a massage". No way siree. He had other ideas. Like collapsing motionless again and seeing if Everton could score a third.
Now I am sorry if this all sounds a bit anti-Denilson, because I like the kid and there were a least three others out there who had stinkers (namely Arshavin, Diaby, Eduardo if you're still interested), but it was so damn frustrating. Everton, in truth, had not fashioned a great deal second half in terms of good chances, and to give Denilson his due, I think he was tried to shrug of the Neville challenge and play through the pain. But that was a bad error of judgment in hindsight.
But lets hope this was a Denilson blip, because we are going to chuffing well need him to turn up against Stoke, Bolton and Manure in the next few weeks.
Thankfully, however, this little horror story has a decent enough ending, as Rosicky's 20 minute cameo was probably enough to make him my man of the match, just ahead of Nasri. And Lucky Arsenal picked a few passes in the 92 second minute and Rosicky's deflected goal earned us a point we barely deserved. For all the wrong reasons for Arsenal, it was a great game of football.