A hard fought victory ensures that Arsenal rise to fourth in the Premier League
Theo Walcott battles with Everton defender Leighton Baines
Robin Van Persie once again inspired Arsenal to a narrow but deserved 1-0 victory over premier league opposition Everton, boosting them into the top four for the first time this season.
Despite there being no natural full-back in the Arsenal line-up due to the long term injuries of Bacary Sagna, Carl Jenkinson, Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal still managed to grasp three points on what seemed to be a frustrating afternoon for the Gunners. Johan Djourou was forced play at right back and the inform Thomas Vermaelen, who has scored 3 goals in his last four games since his return from injury, was to play at left back.
There were celebratory scenes at the Emirates before the game to rejoice the club’s 125th birthday since its foundation in 1886. There were past players and legends including Ray Parlour, Robert Pires, Jens Lehmann, Lee Dixon, Lauren and Thierry Henry; even the descendants of the club’s first kit manager.
Throughout the first half Arsenal dominated possession, giving Everton barely a sniff at goal. The first big chance for the home side emerged after 15 minutes, after Mikel Arteta stole the ball off Marouane Fellaini in the centre of the park and delivered a delightful ball that sent Theo Walcott on his toes down the right flank. Although he had a clear sight of the goal, he chose to slide a pass across goal that was cut out by Tony Hibbert, who prevented the ball from reaching Gervinho.
As the half progressed Everton saw themselves hanging on by a thread with chances from Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and the most clear cut chance by Gervinho. The Ivorian finding himself with the ball at his feet just inside the penalty box, but he smashed the ball straight against Tim Howard’s legs.
There were appeals for handball in the penalty area when Thomas Vermaelen felt as if his directed header was handled by Phil Jagielka; however referee Howard Webb was having none of it and waved play on.
Everton went into the break at 0-0 and would count themselves lucky they weren’t losing by at least a two goal margin. After the restart, Everton started to slowly grasp a foothold on the game, but they were still relying on counter attacks and break-away efforts. Tim Cahill found himself in a effective position at the back post but it came to nothing after Leighton Baines’ cross was well cut out by Thomas Vermaelen.
Walcott had another effort saved by Tim Howard but as the game progressed past the hour mark, the Emirates Stadium faithful’s frustration was evident with an anxiously nerve-racking atmosphere around the stadium.
David Moyes made interesting substitution when he brought frontman Louis Saha off and replaced him with defender Sylvain Distin.
For the next 15 minutes the side in blue managed to sustain a huge amount of pressure on Arsenal for the first time in the game with Phil Neville shooting over Wojciech Szczensy’s crossbar. The game was beginning to swing Everton’s way and was in desperate need of something special in order to break the deadlock.
That’s exactly what the Arsenal captain gave them with a stunning strike from just inside the box. Laurent Koscielny found Alex song and the latter pinged a delightful ball over the top of the Everton defence towards the Dutchman where he smashed a ferocious volley which swerved into the bottom right corner. Tim Howard had no chance and the Barclay’s Premier League’s top scorer upped his goal tally to 15.
There was a scare for Arsenal in injury time when young substitute Conor McAleny struck an audacious volley inches wide of the goal, almost giving Everton a point at the very last.
It was a very happy birthday for Arsenal and looking back at their atrocious start to the season, climbing the table to fourth wasn’t a very bad birthday present at all.
After the game, the Gunner’s boss Arsene Wenger congratulated Robin Van Persie in his post-match press conference, ‘Van Persie delivered something special […] the players were disappointed we didn’t score before half time’ he then went on to further credit the Dutchman, ‘the goal scorers get the plaudits but I must say Robin deserves that because has been remarkably consistent’
Will Arsenal continue their form and cement a place in the top four? Or will bad luck strike once again? Only time will tell come May. Anything could happen.