Arsenal 1 Everton 0: The Gunners move to the top 4 thanks to a Van-tastic finish
The pre-match celebrations of Arsenal’s historic 125th anniversary made me bless the day I decided to support the club eons ago. Almost everyone I’d watched while growing up (and those when I wasn’t even born) wore black suits with the sacred Red and White mufflers. To top it all off, the great grand children of the founding father of the club came unto the pitch with “Danskin 125” boldly written on their jerseys to hand over the match ball to Howard Webb.
Despite the entire hullabaloo, there was an important game to be played and three points were paramount because it handed Arsenal a chance to get a sniff of the top four for a day or two at least. As expected, the stats before the game were staggering.
Robin van Persie had scored 32 Premier League goals in 31 games this calendar year; Arsenal had a meager seven points in their first seven games but a change of fortunes has seen Arsene Wenger’s men amass 19 points in the next seven. Arsenal had also gained more goals, wins and points against Everton than any other team in the Premier League.
The fans weren’t going to expect a Wigan-like performance against an Everton side that has been renowned down the years for their ruggedness and dogged style of play. With basically every Arsenal full back out of action, concerns were raised when Louis Saha and Johan Djourou had a clash that left both players seeking medical attention.
Mikel Arteta faced his former club for the first time since his move on the transfer deadline day and he almost supplied the assist for the first goal when he won the ball from Marouane Fellaini before teeing up Theo Walcott. The Englishman used his pace to create a chance for himself but he chose to pass it to Aaron Ramsey that wasn’t ready for it. Gervinho tried his luck with the follow up but a great chance went begging.
Theo Walcott’s last goal at the Emirates came in the 3-1 victory over Chelsea in Boxing Day last year and it seems as if that run won’t come to an end anytime soon. Alex Song waltzed forward to create a lovely chance for Ramsey but the Welshman swiveled on the ball before sending it over.
In a game that was marred by countless offsides, the next clear cut chance came to Gervinho but the Ivorian’s effort was blocked by Tim Howard in goal. The injury alarm bells began ringing again when Thomas Vermaelen’s ankle was clipped by Tim Cahill.
The second half was a bit reminiscent of the previous 45 with more profligacy in front of goal from the home side and a bit of sloppiness too. Walcott brought the game back to life when he executed an inch-perfect one-two with Ramsey to sting Howard’s hands with a fierce shot. Wily old Phil Neville produced Everton’s first attempt on target with a dipping shot that had some swerve on it but it went over.
When the chips were down and it seemed like it was going to be one of those days for Arsenal, Laurent Koscielny picked the ball further up the pitch before feeding Alex Song. The Cameroonian gem looked up to see his captain before lofting a carefully-weighted ball that was executed magnificently by Robin van Persie.
It was a goal that epitomized everything van Persie stood for in 2011; technique, precision and class.
Andrey Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky were stripped and ready for action but the boss made them wait a bit after van Persie’s superb effort went in. Vermaelen was on the wrong end of an elbow from Fellaini so he was withdrawn for Ignasi Miquel for “blurred vision”.
Rosicky also came in for Gervinho and exerted himself on the pitch with an exquisite blind pass to van Persie but the Flying Dutchman effort couldn’t match the lovely buildup. There was a scare late on with an Evertonian debutant called McAleny fired his effort just wide.
At the sound of Howard Webb’s whistle, the fans activated their party mode and for the first time this season, Arsene Wenger and his troops had moved up to the promised land and are now two points above Chelsea who are presently in 5th position.
Szczesny (7.0) was relatively untroubled but he answered admirably when he was called.
Djourou (7.0) put up a better performance in the right back position and went forward a few times.
Mertesacker (6.5) had a much unperturbed evening.
Koscielny (7.5) was a fighter at the back and put up a number of quality headers to break play.
Song (8.0) was rock-solid in the midfield and supplied an inch-perfect assist for the match clincher.
Arteta (7.5) put up a very decent performance against his previous employers. What David Moyes will give to have him back?
Ramsey (6.5) was sloppy at times but did okay in general.
Walcott (7.5) gave the Everton defense a torrid time but his decision making was quite questionable.
Gervinho (6.5) ran at the Everton defense with his direct style of play.
Van Persie (8.0) scored a goal that was reminiscent of his finish against Charlton in the 2006/07 campaign.
Rosicky (7.0) made a good cameo performance.
Miquel (6.5) deputized well for Vermaelen in the dying minutes.
Emmanuel Frimpong didn’t play long enough to get a rating.
The victory also meant that Arsenal had won seven in eight games and would have been the most in-form team in the Premier League with nine straight wins had Fulham not put a dent with that draw. The club also kept back to back clean sheets and the stats of the day undoubtedly belonged to Robin van Persie.
For starters, he is a goal short of equaling Thierry Henry’s all time record for most goals scored in a year but he had also scored the total amount of goals Everton had scored all season long which stands at 15. Before last week’s kickoff, he had scored 13 goals while the entire Wigan squad had amassed 12.
Say all you can about Arsenal being a One-Man team but,
Van’s the Man and Arsenal can always count on him to deliver.
Arsene Wenger and his men will face a true test next week when they visit the Etihad Stadium next Sunday to play the table toppers and it promises to be a great spectacle.
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