In the pre-match press conference Roberto Martinez reiterated that his Everton side were not in awe of any side in the Premier League, and would display no fear in their trip to Arsenal. Unfortunately, between selection and injuries, the lineup on the pitch played less like the games at Old Trafford and Emirates earlier in the year, and more like the wide-eyed side that got hammered at Anfield.
Phil Jagielka missed out through injury and was replaced in the starting line-up by John Stones. Martinez controversially chose to use his 'Cup-keeper' Joel Robles in place of Tim Howard. Ross Barkley came back into the side as the attacking midfielder, Martinez giving him the chance to play through his patch of poor form. A win here would have taken Everton to Wembley and a chance of finally breaking the trophy-drought that has plagued the Blues for close to two decades.
Yet within minutes of kickoff Everton found themselves down a goal. James McCarthy slipped and fell just inside his own box springing Santi Cazorla who set up Mesut Özil to pull the ball wide of Stones and Seamus Coleman before coolly finishing past Robles in the far corner. Everton struggled to maintain possession as the home side were rampant, and were it not for their wastefulness, this game could have been over long before halftime.
Robles made a sheer mockery of his selection and though he kept out a couple of speculative shots, he was generally awful in handling crosses coming into the box. Between palming a ball headed wide onto his own bar and selecting to punch the ball away every single time it came to him, it is indeed a wonder that the scoreline remained 1-0 at the half hour mark.
Everton though did settle into the game and on a rare flowing counter-attack, Barkley charged down the right and crossed early for Kevin Mirallas, whose miskick allowed Romelu Lukaku to walk the ball into the net. Tied game, and an opportunity for the Blues to come back into the game which they did leading into half time.
At the start of the second half, the Blues did have their chances, the best of which was wasted by Barkley as he blazed over trying for the stylish finish instead of getting the ball on goal. To his credit though, he gave Mathieu Flamini an absolutely torrid time between the Arsenal lines and looked by far the best Everton player on the pitch.
However, the Gunners always looked the better side in this game and it ended up taking another mistake by a player who has had a solid season so far to take the game away from the visiting side. Gareth Barry let his leg hang out in a tired tackle on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who gladly went down to take the penalty. Some drama ensued as former Blue Mikel Arteta converted the shot only to have to retake it as Olivier Giroud encroached upon the area. Robles guessed right on the retake, but couldn't keep the ball out and the home side led with a quarter of the game left to play.
The Toffees traveling contingent had been excellent making themselves heard (and seen) throughout the game, but even their voices couldn't rouse the team from the stupor they found themselves in. Arteta had invoked their ire more than once throughout the game with his antics, having elbowed McCarthy, then conveniently fell down to break up an Everton counter, and he topped off his less-than-classy day tauntingly tapping his Arsenal badge to celebrate his goal.
Martinez had held off on his substitutions and finally threw on Aiden McGeady and Leon Osman but with fifteen minutes to go it felt like it was too little too late. And as the Blues committed resources forward, Arsenal displayed some clinical finishing on the counter attack and Giroud grabbed a late brace.
The final score of 4-1 for the home side was both deserved and yet not deserved. Everton were better value for most of the game and should have had more out of it, while the Gunners created plenty of chances in the first half but were wasteful in front of goal. Once again, the Blues lack of depth came back to haunt them in a tired-looking performance where no one player was exclusively to blame, yet the entire side looked lethargic in what was the biggest game of the year for the team.
Once again, Everton failed to deliver when the stakes were high and there was something to play for. Martinez has done much in his first season, but there's lots left to do.