Two Improving Sides Point To Thrilling Season

Quite a game, no? Nick Miller watched Arsenal's thrilling 1-1 draw with Everton and saw two teams who have improved, leaving certain others trailing...

Last Updated: 09/12/13 at 09:07 Post Comment

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It's awfully crass and unedifying to say I told you so, but...I did say, in Big Weekend, that this was going to be one of the better games you'll see this season.

It obviously wasn't as showy as some of those other big games with their terribly obvious 'goals' and 'fights' and all those other things we find ever so entertaining, but it was a thriller nonetheless.

Everton started the game at a furious pace, attacking with an ambition rarely seen by them before - indeed, with a pace that few visiting sides to the Emirates or any big club's ground display. It didn't look like they would keep it up - it didn't look like they could keep it up - but both teams attacked like that until the very end, when Olivier Giroud's 25-yard thriker arced through the air and spanked the post.

The defensive records of both teams might have suggested that this would be a cagey affair, but while both have excellent defenders, the primary reason for the small numbers in their 'goals against' columns is they both retain possession so well. So therefore in this game, neither dominated the ball in the way that they might against other teams, allowing the more open, attacking affair we saw.

What was striking is that these were two teams who have noticeably improved since last season. Arsenal's improvement is obvious, with Mesut Ozil, Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey: Version 2013 dominating games and dragging them from the uncertainty and infuriating inconsistency that has scuppered previous campaigns.

Equally, Everton are a much quicker, more exciting side, partly thanks to their brilliant youngsters Romelu Lukaku (who was actually pretty quiet against Arsenal), Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley, about whom Roberto Martinez said he'd "never seen an English player with that mentality". They're currently a point outside the Champions League spots, and while there is perhaps not enough depth in their squad to actually finish the season in the top four, especially given the strength of some of the other contenders, this is nothing to be ashamed of.

It's therefore hardly a surprise that Arsenal and Everton, having moved on since last term, are sitting relatively pretty, while Manchester United have regressed and are where they are.

Even the managers can be praised for their in-game performance, with substitutions bringing about both goals. It was a Tomas Rosicky pass knocked down by Theo Walcott that brought Arsenal's opener, and Deulofeu's superb strike equalising for Everton. It is perhaps a sign of Arsenal's increased confidence that Arsene Wenger even made a triple change - he's rarely so gung-ho about his substitutions.

Martinez spoke after the game of "the arrogance of our talent", as he did after their win over United on Wednesday. What Martinez seems to have been very successful in doing is harnessing this "arrogance", or self-belief, whatever you would prefer to call it, into a side that are more adventurous and attacking. They're much less cautious than they were before, something that might explain the seven points they have taken from last season's top four so far this season. It has perhaps gone under-reported that no team has lost fewer games than Everton this season - they have only been beaten by Manchester City. Pretty impressive.

This season is shaping up to be a hugely entertaining and unpredictable one, which was always going to happen after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson levelled the playing ground somewhat. However, the improvement of teams like Arsenal and Everton is making it all the more exciting.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

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ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

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