FULL TIME: Arsenal 4-1 Everton
And that’s your lot! A brilliant match which rather ran away from Everton in the final quarter. Their wait for a trophy will now stretch to at least 20 years, but Arsenal are a step closer to ending their own long drought. They’re the first name into the FA’s velvet bag, thanks to the heroics efforts of Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, two-goal hero Giroud - and the supporters of Arsenal and Germany. “When fans get on a player’s back, and the player gets nullified, the media finger wags at the fans,” notes Steven Hughes. “When a manager gives an out of form player what for and gets a positive reaction from the player, the media gives the manager some credit for old school-style motivation. No doubt, then, that Arsenal and Germany fans will get some media love for putting a rocket up Mesut Özil’s rear end and getting a first goal of 2014 from him. Won’t they?”
90 min +2: Odd Eirik Ness, with regard to the entry on 88 minutes, wonders of Everton: “Professional cynics?”
90 min +1: There will be three added minutes, of which this is the first.
90 min: On the touchline, Roberto Martinez has the face on. And no wonder: his grip on the FA Cup, the trophy he won with Wigan Athletic last season, has been loosened in a rare old manner.
89 min: Lukaku tiptoes down the middle of the park in the irritated style. He lashes a low shot towards the bottom right, but Fabianski is all over it.
88 min: Everton win, and take, a corner, but the heart’s not in it.
87 min: Giroud nearly completes a quickfire hat-trick by spinning around a flat-footed Distin on the edge of the Everton D, but his shot is whipped wide left of the target. Jenkinson comes on for Gibbs, like that matters.
GOAL!!! Arsenal 4-1 Everton (Giroud 85)
What a goal this is! Cazorla, in the middle of the park, whips the ball out right for Rosicky, who romps into space. He reaches the area and guides the ball inside for Özil, who shuttles the ball on, first time, for Giroud. The striker slams a shot low and hard into the net, and the Arsenal fans are Que sera sera-ing with great feeling now!
84 min: “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be ...” You know the rest. The Arsenal fans are giving it loads. Deulofeu comes on for Barkley, but it’s surely far too late for Everton.
GOAL!!! Arsenal 3-1 Everton (Giroud 83)
Sagna is sent into space down the right. He trots to the byline, before flicking a low cross toward Giroud at the near post. Another flick, and the ball’s whistling into the bottom right past Robles. Arsenal have one foot in the semi!
81 min: Lukaku bombs down the right. Everton try to tiki-taka their way into the area, McCarthy and Barkley getting involved, but no dice. Eventually McGeady gets involved, and nearly shaves any stubble off Vermaelen’s chin with the studs of his boot. Careless, but not deliberate, and nothing more than a free kick.
79 min: Baines whips a free kick into the Arsenal box from the left. Mertesacker heads powerfully clear, which is just as well because Lukaku was right behind him, preparing to nut home in the powerful style.
78 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been excellent today, is replaced by Rosicky.
76 min: A double change by Everton: Pienaar and the strangely quiet Mirallas off, McGeady and Osman on.
74 min: Baines whips another cross in from the left. Lukaku looks to turn it in at the near post, but Vermaelen slides in to deflect away for a corner. That set piece comes to nothing, but Everton are pinning Arsenal a little, and Pienaar, down the right, cuts one back for Barkley, who tries to guide a powerful shot across Fabianski and into the bottom left from 20 yards. It only just flies wide of the left-hand post, a decent effort, and much better than the sitter he missed a while back.
72 min: Pienaar loops a ball down the left for Baines, who whips a high cross into the Arsenal six-yard box. Fabianski helps it on and away from danger. Everton are soon back at Arsenal, though, Mirallas romping down the right and hammering a rising shot towards the top corner from a tight angle. Fabianksi parries well, juggling the ball awhile before finally falling on it. A decent response from Everton.
70 min: Arteta then draws a foul from McCarthy in the centre circle, the frustrated Everton midfielder going in the book as a result.
GOAL!!! Arsenal 2-1 Everton (Arteta 69 pen)
... fires a stunning penalty into the top right! That’s as ice-cool as you’ll ever see. The home fans raise the roof.
67 min: Arteta puts the penalty away, confidently into the bottom left. But the goal won’t count, as Giroud had burst into the area before the kick was taken, and is booked for the infringement. Arteta steps up to retake, and ...
66 min: PENALTY TO ARSENAL! The excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain enters the area down the right. He teases Barry this way and that, before attempting to zip past him along the byline. Barry hangs a leg out, and the Ox goes over it. That’s a soft penalty to concede, but a penalty nevertheless.
65 min: Everton slip the ball around in a very pretty manner down the left, with Mirallas, Barry and Lukaku all involved. Mirallas is eventually released into acres of space down the wing, Arsenal having been mesmerised by the metronomic passing. But the winger runs the ball out of play.
64 min: A lull in play. And there goes that atmosphere! All very quiet at the moment.
62 min: Giroud comes on for Sanogo. He so nearly makes an impact on the scoreline within a minute of coming on, Özil crossing low from the left, Distin sliding in to make sure the striker can’t poke home at the near post. The corner is floated towards Giroud at the right-hand post, but easily dealt with by Everton’s solid back line.
60 min: Coleman plants his studs on Arteta’s ankle. It doesn’t look deliberate, but it is slightly clumsy. Arteta is incensed, waving his hands in the air while pointing at his outstretched leg and distressed sock. Not even a free kick, which seems rather harsh.
59 min: It’s all nearly happening at Ashburton Grove. First Mirallas and Baines nearly triangulate their way into the Arsenal box down the left. Then Oxlade-Chamberlain nearly bursts into the Everton area down the inside-left channel. Not quite.
57 min: Cazorla dances in from the left and curls a gorgeous shot towards the bottom right. It’s in all the way, but Robles stretches out to tip round for a corner. Magnificent save. The corner? Not so magnificent.
54 min: Everton should be leading. Vermaelen, wearing bars of soap on his feet instead of boots, stands on the ball down the Everton right in the silent-movie style. Lukaku races off with it, making it as far as the area before sliding a pass inside for Barkley, on the penalty spot. He’s looking straight at Fabianski - and wangs a wild effort over the bar while presumably looking to send a riser into the top left. What a chance spurned! Vermaelen of the Keystone Kops breathes a sigh of relief.
53 min: The free kick’s not much better, to be honest. It’s easily headed clear, though not particularly well. Cazorla skies a volley, and wouldn’t even have got three rugby points for that, for it was well left of the posts.
52 min: A dreadful free kick floated into the Everton area from a dangerous position down the left by Arteta. It’s easily cleared, but Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been very busy today, comes back at Everton down the right. Corner. Nothing from that set piece either, but then Arteta pings a ball down the inside right which is handled by Mirallas. Another free kick, and a chance to send a better set piece into the area.
50 min: Gibbs makes good down the left but his low cross is a tad behind Sanogo. The young striker does his level best to bring the ball under control by extending a leg behind him, but he can’t control and Everton hack clear. A better centre would have seen the away side in all sorts of bother there.
49 min: A half-arsed hack goalwards from Oxlade-Chamberlain down the inside right. Robles is behind it all the way. This half hasn’t quite started yet, both teams probing gingerly rather than going for it as they did during the first half.
47 min: All Everton at the moment, to no effect. Barkley is standing in the centre circle, playing quarterback, sending speculators this way and that. No wonder Steven Gerrard is such a big fan. Ah look, he’s sprayed one out of play on the right.
And we’re off again! Arsenal get the ball rolling, kicking towards the Waitrose on Holloway Road. Sort of. Or are they facing the other way? My sense of direction isn’t that great, tell the truth. Anyway, the ball’s soon lost, and Everton ping it around awhile without going anywhere in particular. Expect another 45 minutes of pretty football from both sides. They know no other way.
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HALF TIME: Arsenal 1-1 Everton
Coleman dances into the Arsenal area down the right, but just as it looks as though he’s going to whip a dangerous low ball into the middle, where Lukaku loiters, the young man trips over his own feet. And that’s that, the end of a wonderful 45 minutes of cup football. More, please, folks!
45 min +1: No. Though Robles does his best to set up Arsenal, flapping at the corner. Özil releases the pressure with a needless shove on Baines.
45 min: Arteta caresses a ball out wide left to Gibbs, who battles with Coleman and wins a corner. There will be two minutes tacked to the end of a superlative first half. Will the first of them see the home side regain the lead?
43 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain zips down the left. He’s blocked out by Coleman, and doubles back. Then switches direction again, winning a corner by the byline. Great play by the winger. Then, after the corner’s wasted, he blots his copybook by giving the ball away in the centre circle. Everton are four on two! Lukaku slaloms towards the box, but with players either side of him, hesitates, and allows Oxlade-Chamberlain to execute a Tipp-Ex of a tackle. Erases the blot on his copybook, you see. Hm, that didn’t really work, did it.
41 min: Özil, on the left, finds Cazorla on the penalty spot with a pinpoint cross. Cazorla sweeps a volley towards the bottom-right corner, but Distin sticks a boot in the way. Corner, though the ball only just flew wide of the right-hand post. Nothing comes of the set piece, no matter how hard Arsenal try.
40 min: The first lull in this game so far. Given what’s gone before, we can’t complain too much. “That goal is why it’s worth putting up with Ross Barkley giving the ball away on the halfway line,” writes Gary Naylor, his glass always half full. “The unexpected is under-rated in football and he provides it - good and bad.”
37 min: Distin is penalised for not much in a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge with Sagna down the right. This is effectively a corner for Arsenal. Cazorla’s curling set piece only just evades the head of Mertesacker, and doesn’t quite drop to Sanogo at the far post. Everton mop up. Anyway, here’s Rob Jenkins sticking up for the occasionally shaky Robles: “The reason why Howard is playing well this season is due in no small part to Robles. Robles looked outstanding in pre-season and Howard has responded well after a couple of mediocre seasons where no-mark, second-string keepers (Jan Mucha and Carlo Nash to name but a few) failed to challenge him.”
35 min: This is top-notch entertainment. Both sides are giving it plenty. Now it’s Everton again. McCarthy rolls a ball down the inside left to release Mirallas into the area, but the low shot he sends goalwards upon cutting inside is weak and straight at Fabianski. The crowd are responding to all this by making a hell of a racket. This is a proper cup tie, in the grand old tradition. It’s enough to make your heart go oh-oh-oh-oh.
34 min: Arsenal attempt to respond immediately through Oxlade-Chamberlain, taking a whack from 20 yards. The effort’s whistling towards the top left, but Robles is behind it all the way. A fine tip round the post, and nothing comes from the corner.
GOAL!!! Arsenal 1-1 Everton (Lukaku 32)
“Everton aren’t doing very much in attack right now.” So here goes Ross Barkley, picking up the ball down the inside-right channel in his own half, then running down the wing. And running. And running. He burns off Flamini, then floats a goal-on-a-plate cross into the centre for Mirallas. The winger looks to poke into the bottom right, but only succeeds in playing it a yard to his right. No matter, for Lukaku is there to trap the ball with his thigh and poke into the net. What a stunning run by Barkley!
30 min: Lukaku nearly gets on the end of a long lump down the middle, but he’s offside. Everton aren’t doing much in attack right now, but at least they’re mixing it up.
26 min: The crowd have cottoned on to Robles’ current lack of confidence, and make pantomime noises as Baines gives him a backpass to deal with. Robles hacks it clear, to the strains of additional audience participation.
24 min: EVERTON HIT THE POST! Unfortunately, or I suppose fortunately as well, it’s their own post. Sagna loops in a cross from the right, and the increasingly unsteady Robles - who has been punching everything when catching seems to be the safer option - spins around like a teenager full of Special Brew and flaps the ball onto the junction of crossbar and left-hand post! What rank ineptitude! The ball clanks out for a corner, from which nothing comes. Robles has the decency to look very embarrassed.
22 min: Sanogo has a chance to convert from six yards, latching onto a Sagna cross from the right, but elects to lay off for Cazorla instead. It’s a poor touch, and Everton close down Cazorla before clearing. They tear upfield, McCarthy instigating a dangerous romp up the middle, but the pass out right to Mirallas doesn’t quite come off. Flamini slides in on Stones at the start of the Everton move, and he’s booked. He can have no complaints whatsoever.
20 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain is released down the left by a gorgeous crossfield rake from Cazorla. He wins a corner by cutting inside and battering a shot goalwards, Distin deflecting it out. Nothing from the set piece, but Arsenal will be pleased with the way they’re knocking it about right now.
17 min: And all of a sudden, Arsenal are pinning Everton back again. Özil bombs down the left and cuts a ball back for Gibbs, whose first-time blooter is toe-ended away from danger by Stones. Everton nearly escape upfield on the break after a loose Oxlade-Chamberlain pass, but the Arsenal man gets back to rectify his mistake. This game is lovely and open.
15 min: Everton look to have ridden that brief post-goal storm, and are knocking it around in the Martinezesque manner again. Arsenal look equally confident and comfortable in defence, mind, to the extent that Özil has just managed to harry an opponent off the ball. I know!
13 min: This is a fantastic match so far, both teams looking very much like they’ve got scoring on their minds. Arsenal win a couple of corners. Nothing doing. A couple of you emailing in to ask why Tim Howard isn’t in Everton’s starting XI. “An early surrender by Martinez so we can get back to the push to be sixth?” wonders Brad Wilson. A simple explanation: Joel Robles has been their man for the FA Cup this season, playing the matches against QPR, Stevenage and Swansea.
10 min: Everton clear their heads! And nearly equalise. Barry flicks a clever ball down the inside right to release the brilliant Mirallas into the Arsenal area. He reaches the byline and flicks a ball back into the centre for Pienaar, who can’t convert from six yards, under pressure from Sagna.
9 min: Arsenal had started the slower, but now they’ve got their tails up. Sanogo nearly makes it two by hammering a rising shot towards the top-right corner from a tight angle. Robles sticks out a strong arm to turn the ball round for a corner. From which the ball’s worked to Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20 yards out. He sends a rising heatseeker towards the top right; again Robles sticks out a strong arm to parry clear. Everton need to clear their heads here.
GOAL!!! Arsenal 1-0 Everton (Özil 7)
McCarthy slips near the centre circle. Cazorla makes off down the inside-right channel with the ball, and slips it left to Özil. The out-of-form German international turns his season round, taking a stride down the left channel and slotting a low shot into the bottom right past the advancing Robles. A brilliant finish!
6 min: It’s been mainly Everton in the opening exchanges. A free kick to them down the left. Baines is set clear down the wing, and his cross finds Lukaku at the far post. The striker can’t get the ball from out under his feet, and Flamini races in to hack clear. But for a second a snapshot from close range looked on the cards there.
3 min: Barry takes a while to get up, but the Everton trainer’s magic sponge really is magic, and after a wee while the player is up and about again. The Arsenal free kick is in centre midfield, and therefore nothing more than a sideways tap to retain possession. We move on. “I have a tumescent feeling for Everton’s chances in this game,” begins Ian Copestake, who may well still be in bed. “Their defence is back to its solid best (apart from some foreign goalie whose name I have no clue about), and that Lukaku chap is an utter menace against a frail aesthetically-minded team such as this one. A narrow 2-1 thrashing in my book.”
Handshakes all round - and we’re off! Everton get the ball rolling. No Dixie Dean, so they don’t immediately rattle the crossbar like they did in 1928. A few passes, and then Barry takes one in the face from Arteta. Arsenal get the free kick, though, as he’d barged into the Arsenal man’s back first.
The teams are out! Arsenal are in their famous red shirts with white sleeves ...
... while Everton sport their equally revered blue number. It really is on!
Recent form: Arsenal’s is NOT GREAT. They’ve lost three of their last six, a run which includes that 5-1 defeat at Anfield, a lesson handed out by European champions Bayern Munich, a mentally staunch if slightly shaky payback win over Liverpool, and a ludicrous defeat at Stoke. Everton’s form meanwhile is NOT GREAT. They’ve lost three of their last six as well. They too were whipped by four goals at Anfield, then lost tricky games at Tottenham and Chelsea. Both teams are way better than this. A return to top-drawer form for all, and a minor modern classic, please!
Today's big-name official (plus assorted minor cast members)
Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Cazorla, Sanogo.
Subs: Rosicky, Podolski, Giroud, Viviano, Jenkinson, Miyaichi, Gnabry.
Everton: Robles, Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Mirallas, Barkley, Pienaar, Lukaku.
Subs: Hibbert, McGeady, Deulofeu, Naismith, Ösman, Howard, Browning.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
This is only the fourth time the Arsenal and Everton football clubs have been drawn together in FA Cup competition. Given Arsenal have been around for 128 years, Everton have existed for 136, and the FA first put up their famous old pot back in 1871, that doesn’t sound right, does it?
But it is. Everton have the upper hand overall. They battered Arsenal 5-0 in their first Cup meeting, back in February 1910 at Goodison Park. Then in 1981, the Toffees put an end to Arsenal’s love affair with the FA Cup final - Terry Neill’s side had made it to the Wembley showpiece in 1978, 1979 and 1980 - by knocking them out 2-0 in the third round at Goodison in January 1981. Actually, Arsenal rather knocked themselves out of that last one, Kenny Sansom scoring a late decisive own goal he later wryly described as “quite good, actually”. Explaining how his attempt to clear a Joe McBride left-wing cross went awry, he said: “I should have cleared the ball with my right foot but I tried to run it out to the corner flag with my left. Nine times out of ten it would have been alright. Instead it swung in late and bounced off my ankle into the net.” Oh Kenny! How could you!
Arsenal’s sole victory over Everton in the FA Cup came in 1928 at Highbury, and how we could do with a doozy like this today: 4-3! “As soon as the ball was in motion, Everton made for the Arsenal goal, and a fine drive by Dixie Dean rattled the crossbar!” Everton’s brisk start saw them go a goal up early doors through Alec Troup, and Dean was to notch two others. But his second was a last-minute consolation, and in between the Gunners spent the afternoon banging them in, Jimmy Brain, Joe Hulme (2) and Charlie Buchan doing the damage.
Arsenal may trail in the head-to-head, but they’ll note that home advantage has been decisive in all three matches. That’ll give them a boost going into this game, as events of up to 104 years ago would surely be weighing heavily on their shoulders otherwise. Perhaps more relevant in terms of pressure is the fact that Arsenal are in pursuit of their first trophy since 2005, while Everton have been on this particular hunt since 1995. These may seem first-world, big-club problems, accompanied by a maudlin soundtrack played on the world’s smallest violin, but they’re problems nonetheless.
Kick off: 12.45pm. It’s on!