WHEN David Moyes urged his players to show more artistry this season, he perhaps didn’t envision them to become so good at drawing.
Everton seventh Premier League stalemate of the season – six coming in the last eight games – ensured a familiar evening of frustration at Goodison against an underwhelming Arsenal.
Having recovered from the shock of falling behind inside a minute to Theo Walcott’s deflected opener, Moyes’s men responded on 28 minutes when Marouane Fellaini finished crisply into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
It was the inspirational Belgian’s seventh Premier League goal of a hugely productive season and deserved reward for the manner in which Everton fought their way back into the match.
Yet despite creating numerous chances – and seeing a strong penalty claim turned down when Mikel Arteta appeared to foul former team-mate Steven Pienaar inside the area – Everton once again failed to turn their superiority into goals.
The recurring shortcoming has now seen Moyes’s men slip out of the top five for the first time this campaign having won just three of their last 12 Premier League games.
But while it could, and should, have been so different, Everton’s level of performance last night has given real cause for encouragement at the start of a season-shaping triumvirate of games that continues with Saturday’s trip to champions Manchester City before the visit of Tottenham Hotspur.
Concerning, though, was the news Leighton Baines ended the game with a hamstring problem.
Although Darron Gibson made a welcome return after almost three months on the sidelines, injuries are beginning to expose Everton’s threadbare squad at precisely the time Moyes needs as many options as possible.
Gibson, of course, has become something of a lucky charm for Everton having never been on the losing side in a Premier League match when on the field since his January arrival.
But the hosts could not have got off to a worse start when they were behind after just 49 seconds.
It was a dismal goal to concede, as Arsenal caught their hosts completely cold after possession was coughed up cheaply by Moyes’s side.
Walcott, running directly at the heart of the Everton defence, benefited from a ricochet off Phil Jagielka before feed Aaron Ramsey. Walcott then continued his run into the left-hand side of the area to receive the return pass, with his eventually curled effort deflecting slightly off the sliding Tony Hibbert before floating into the top corner.
Arsenal, though, were disrupted just minutes later when Laurent Koscielny crumpled to the turf on making a clearance and was substituted for Kieran Gibbs.