LIVERPOOL — It will feel like a win. To come back from two goals down and draw away from home against Everton demonstrates both spirit and fitness so early in the season. Arsenal lost all four away matches to its top-five contenders last term, so to stop that particular streak will be satisfying. "It's great for our belief to know that away from home and 2-0 down that with players like that we can come back," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Aaron Ramsey's late goal seven minutes from time, which inspired this claw-back, had been coming. The hosts had retreated fatefully into their own area as the Gunners began to control proceedings despite the scoreline and clock being against them. For that certain defiance, at 2-0 down, they deserve credit.
In the end, Arsene Wenger's use of substitutes bore results for him at Goodison Park. That was simply because elements of his starting XI were far beneath the standard required for a title challenge.
Jack Wilshere continues to take giant backward strides towards mediocrity. He was outshone by the veteran Gareth Barry in blue; at the other end of the career spectrum and light years from Wilshere in his work ethic too. He is just the kind of player Arsenal needs.
Mesut Ozil will play only on his own terms. Sadly for him, Ramsey is a better player and a more diligent one in his preferred position. He was shoehorned awkwardly to the left for the evening and was predictably lax in his defending of the opening goal.
Seamus Coleman is not a new name around the Premier League and his effectiveness in attack would have been well known to Wenger. Why not take precautions to ensure that the right flank would not become his playground? He feasted on lame prey when leaving Ozil behind for the first.
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The World Cup winner stayed on until the end but Wenger would well have considered himself entitled to change any one of about five at halftime, the German included. It was Alexis Sanchez who suffered that indignity. He was named as center forward but was comfortably eased out of the game by Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, rugged competitors at this level.
By that stage they were two behind. A counterattack through the hulking Romelu Lukaku down the right-hand side, as it had been last season, was the catalyst and Steven Naismith, although offside, finished neatly.
The introductions of Giroud, Joel Campbell and Santi Cazorla went a long way towards turning the match in Arsenal's favor though. The French striker looked all at sea against Besiktas but grew into proceedings at Goodison Park. He missed one volley very soon after coming on but was undeterred.
"I thought we would dominate the game and that we needed some physical presence," said Wenger of his compatriot. "I think he had a very good second half." On Arsenal went. Cazorla gave the pass for that equalizer. Campbell busied himself between the retreating Everton lines.
There was a sense of inevitability, not only that Arsenal would score an equalize, but that Giroud be the man to do so. And so it proved but this won't mask the vulnerability in the Arsenal ranks.
Calum Chambers was taken to school by Kevin Mirallas, defensively. Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal were not much better.
This result then will stick in the craw of Roberto Martinez. For the second week running Everton drew 2-2 from winning positions. The frustration here, like last week, is that the Toffees did enough to win the game. "We had one or two situations where we could have scored the third goal," Martinez said. "If we scored the third goal, it would have been game over."
They tired, disastrously so, in the closing stages and played right into Arsenal's hands. This is another lesson for his team, so soon after Leicester City, that the hard work isn't over until the clock ticks down. "The dressing room is sharing a real sense of frustration because we should have six points in the table instead of two," said Martinez.
Wenger is right to point out a strong collective mentality required to share a point at Goodison. But, as Martinez admits, this is a side with vulnerabilities. If Arsenal plays like this against the title contenders, there there won't be the prize of a point at the end.