I spent the weekend in Westport, and I knew when it came to the return journey that I would miss the second half of the Arsenal game away to Everton. I got to watch the first half in a local pub, and I was pretty happy as I got on my train , knowing that Arsenal had a 1-0 lead. Thanks to the beauty of my iphone I was able to keep up with the game, and I soon learned that Arsenal had increased their lead. I was a little nervous before the end of the game when Everton pulled a goal back, but thankfully I looked forward to getting home, and watching the replay of the game, safe in the knowledge that Arsenal had won.
I predicted yesterday that the team would be very similar to the one that beat Wolves 2-0 on Wednesday night, and so it proved as Samir Nasri came in for Tomas Rosicky in the only change from that team. To be honest it wasn't a classic game, and neither team started off in a particularly great fashion. I thought Arsenal looked the more likely to score, but a couple of timely tackles from Everton defenders made sure the Everton goal stayed intact. There was one great chance for Everton when a Seamus Coleman cross set up Tim Cahill for what looked like a simple finish, but the best header of the ball in the Premier League somehow managed to miss a great chance.
However, that changed after 35 minutes when Tim Howard did well to stop a Samir Nasri shot and the rebound fell to Andrey Arshavin. He pulled the ball back to Bakari Sagna, who blasted it into the net past the helpless Howard. It was only his second goal ever for Arsenal but he took it very well. I'm sure the Everton team were asking why he was able to arrive into their box unmarked, but that was their problem, and not Arsenal's. Everton tried to up the pace a little, but they never really threatened before half time arrived with the exception of a header that hit the post, but was wrongfully adjudged to have gone wide.
At half time Jack Wilshere was replaced by Denilson, and the Brazilian did very well in that second half. Wilshere had taken a knock in the first half, and I can only assume that he was taken off as a result of that knock. He is in the England squad for their friendly game against France on Wednesday night, along with Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott. It's good to see so many Arsenal players in the England squad, and the three of them could have a big role to play in the future of the country's team.
The second half started off with Arsenal looking for a second goal to settle their nerves, and it arrived fairly quickly. A Cesc Fabregas shot was straight at Howard very early in the half, but very soon after that Howard was picking the ball out of the net again. An intricate move on the edge of the Everton box ended with Marouane Chamakh setting up Cesc, who cut the ball across Howard into the far corner to double Arsenal's advantage. With Everton still trying their best Arsenal knew that the three points would not be certain until a third goal was scored.
There were plenty of opportunities to get that third goal, but when it didn't arrive I knew that Everton would keep pushing to get back into the game. The best chance for Arsenal fell to Chamakh from a Cesc cross, but he somehow managed to put the ball over the bar from inside the six yard box. To be fair to him the ball arrived very quickly, but it was still a great chance. Gradually Everton started to make a few chances of their own, as they pumped balls into the Arsenal box from every possible angle.
Arsenal fans were again treated to another good display from Lukasz Fabianski, who pulled off a few very good saves in that second half. The goal that Everton so badly wanted to get back in the game eventually arrived in the last minute of normal time. Everton had a corner on Arsenal's right hand side, and the referee called Sagna and Coleman aside to cut out a little spat between them. As soon as he finished speaking to Sagna, Everton took their corner, with Sagna out of position. The ball was swung to the far post, where Louis Saha used Alex Song's back to launch himself, and headed the ball back into the goalmouth. The ball fell to Cahill, and he made no mistake this time from six yards out to reduce the deficit.
I thought it should have been a free to Arsenal for Saha climbing on Song, and that the referee prevented Sagan from taking his position for the corner, but the goal stood, and Arsenal looked a little nervous for the four added minutes. As it turned out Everton huffed and puffed, but they couldn't really create a goalscoring chance. When the final whistle arrived the Arsenal players were happy with their victory, and I was happy that we had moved above "Manure" into second place.
Things would get even better if Sunderland managed to get something out of Chelsea later in the afternoon, but I didn't think there was any chance of that. Luckily I was completely wrong and Sunderland beat a below strength Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge. I watched the highlights of that game later on with a large smile on my face. Chelsea had a few players out through injury and suspension, but they were completely and utterly outplayed by Sunderland, and probably a little lucky to only lose by three goals. Arsenal have had to cope with worse injury situations that Chelsea currently have, and the lack of depth of the Chelsea squad is now clear for all to see. They culled some of their more experienced players in the summer, and with Lampard, Terry and Essien missing they looked clueless at times.
A win over The Spuds next Saturday in the early kick off will put Arsenal on top of the table, although it might only be temporarily. After the defeat at home to Newcastle only eight days ago I didn't think Arsenal would be facing that scenario quite so soon, but I'm very happy that they are. With 14 points from seven away games in the league so far this season their away form is what is pushing them up the table. If they can get their home form sorted out it looks like the league might just be there for the taking.
There were a few interesting points from yesterday's game for me. First of all Sebastien Squillaci received a yellow card in the first half for a tackle on Saha when he was the last man back. He caught the man and not the ball, and it could quite easily have been a red card which thankfully it wasn't. If it had been at the other end I wouldn't have been too happy if an Everton player had stayed on for a similar challenge.
The other point for me was that Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott both sat on the bench for the entire 90 minutes. Walcott started against Newcastle, but after that defeat it would seem that the manager has decided that other players have more to offer to the team than he does. RVP came on for the last 30 minutes against Newcastle to try to save the game, but we haven't seen him play in the two games since then. It's probably because we were winning both of those games, and the boss felt that he didn't either need to introduce him, or want to risk him. With an international game for Holland this week I hope that RVP spends the week at Arsenal working at regaining his fitness, but I doubt it.
In some previous seasons November has been a very bad time for Arsenal, and it looked like this season was following that pattern, after the defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk and Newcastle, but thank fully two wins in four days has turned that around very quickly. With a host of international friendlies this midweek I'll be having a look at the Fantasy Football standings tomorrow, before the build up to the north London derby begins later in the week.
In other news the Arsenal youth team won 3-1 away to Ipswich Town on Saturday with attacking midfielder Alban Bunjaku bagging a hat trick. They've had an up and down season so far, but a couple of wins would see them challenging in their section of the Premier Academy League. The real business for them begins next month with the FA Youth Cup, in which Arsenal have been so successful in the past. That's it for today.
See You Tomorrow.