Last night Everton travelled to Arsenal with the clear intention of roughing Arsenal up a bit. Ross Barkley, Darron Gibson, Maraoune Fellaini and even Kevin Mirallas, the man dubbed ‘soft’ by David Moyes last week, got well and truly stuck in.
Speaking as an Everton fan I enjoyed the tactics but they were certainly risky. Even the most ardent of Evertonian’s would find it hard to disagree with me when I say Gibson should have walked for two yellows in the first-half.
The idea was clearly to disrupt Arsenal’s flow. As Moyes said after the game they were not going to ‘let Arsenal stroke the ball around and make 600 passes.’’
However as much disrupting as they tried to do one threat would always be present in this fixture; the pace of Theo Walcott.
It was Walcott who got Steven Pienaar in the book with a quick turn of speed and once again Walcott was the man who should have sent the Republic of Ireland international Gibson for an early bath.
His pace has long been heralded as the best in the league. Ever since Thierry Henry claimed he was beating him in sprints at training many took notice of his electric turn of foot.
We ourselves compiled a list of the eight fastest players in the league back in October last year. Antonio Valencia, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ryo Miyaichi, Nedum Onouha, Gareth Bale, Matt Jarvis, Jimmy Kebe and of course Walcott all made the starting blocks in our fictional race.
But on the evidence of last night it appears we missed someone out. As for all of Walcott’s efforts there was one man he could not beat for pace; Everton centre-back Sylvain Distin.
The Frenchman has long been lauded for his pace at the back; in fact it is probably his best asset. However you rarely get to see it up close and personal against one of the league’s finest in terms of leg speed.
Now while Walcott’s pace may be that of a cheetah, elegant and bursting, Distin’s is more like that of a rhinoceros, powerful and brutish.
If you were to line them up in lanes without physical contact you imagine that Walcott would pip him on the line. But allied with his exceptional strength he did a terrific number on Walcott last night in one of the many intriguing battles between these evenly matched sides.
This October it seems we may have to consider Distin for more than just the heats.
Who do you think is the fastest player in the Premier League?
image: © RuaraidhG