How Everton allowed victory to slip away for a second consecutive weekend should trouble Roberto Martínez. A sloppy second half and a naive determination to go three-nil up were to blame although, as a move for Samuel Eto’o is under consideration, teams may be dealt with more ruthlessly as this season unfolds.
While Liverpool are focused on the impending arrival of Mario Balotelli, across Stanley Park they may yet have the 33-year-old Eto’o wearing Everton’s blue livery. Martínez does not believe the Cameroonian’s age is an issue. “No, because every player can contribute in a different way,” said the Spaniard. “It is about trying to see what we need in the squad and how we are going to repeat our first-half performance over 90 minutes.”
Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck is also on the market after Louis van Gaal told the forward, who can operate in wide positions, he can depart. As the final week of the transfer window begins Martínez pointed to the medical bulletins on Bryan Oviedo and Arouna Koné as crucial factors regarding whether he will strengthen. Last season Oviedo, a winger, broke his leg while Koné, a forward, suffered an equally serious knee injury.
Of Welbeck and Eto’o, Martínez said: “There is a lot of money involved in those two. At the moment, if I am honest with you, I am looking at all the options.
“While the window is open we are looking at anyone who can help us and also looking at our injured players and seeing how they react. Oviedo and Koné will have a big say on how we end the window and I have an open mind about it. Our first-half performance shows what we have got in the squad.”
With only a week left until the 1 September deadline the clock ticks. “Yes, and that is what we are going to be doing, to make sure we make the right decisions,” said Martínez.
Everton had breezed into a comfortable two-nil lead after Seamus Coleman on 19 minutes and Steven Naismith on the stroke of half-time scored slick goals that exposed the visitors’ defence on an afternoon that was not Calum Chambers’s best.
At the break Arsène Wenger made the switch that changed the contest. On came Olivier Giroud for Alexis Sánchez, disappointing as the lone striker, and the Frenchman claimed the late equaliser to follow Aaron Ramsey’s 83rd-minute opener for Arsenal.
Yet despite dominating possession in the second half the Gunners had the old failing of being too sideways whenever Everton’s goal was approached. Giroud, as can be the case, missed three or four chances before he finally struck. Here was evidence to support Gary Lineker’s view that the Frenchman is not ruthless enough for Arsenal.
After Giroud proved toothless in Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Besiktas in their Champions League play-off first leg during the week, Lineker tweeted: “Playing in front of Arsenal’s midfield should guarantee a minimum of 25 goals a season, for a striker of note. Alas ...”
Yet when this was put to Wenger he claimed Giroud could return that tally. “How sure are you he won’t be that man?” the manager said.
“He scored 16 [in the league] last season and what he demonstrated today when he came on was very convincing. You never have to set limitations or targets for any player but for me he is improving every year. I wouldn’t rule out that he will get to 25 goals.”
Wenger smiled when asked if he would, then, not countenance signing another marksman. “All our opponents have been looking for strikers as well and no one has found a world-class one now available better than the one they have.”
Arsenal had retained an interest in Balotelli but Wenger is unconcerned that the Italian will not join. “He’s been in England before, and I believe we have [Yaya] Sanogo who will be important for me. We have Giroud, Joel Campbell can play as centre-forward, and, of course, Sánchez, and Theo Walcott coming back too, don’t forget. You don’t put a pot of players together and bring in people just to have them there, it doesn’t make sense.”
The deciding leg with Besiktas is on Wednesday evening at the Emirates Stadium. After the heart that Arsenal showed to grab a point, a similar display would be welcome against the Turkish side.
“We need a good performance against Besiktas at home, because it’s a game we have to win,” said Wenger. “I believe we can do it. And if we play well with the same spirit, we can do.”
Man of the match Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)