Arsenal faced Everton last night in a match between the fifth and sixth placed teams in the Premier League. Arsenal went into the game on the back of a disappointing 0-0 draw away to relegation strugglers Aston Villa. Everton had fared little better at the weekend with a 1-1 draw at home to Norwich.
Arsene Wenger made three changes to the team that drew with Villa. Jack Wilshere returned to play in the midfield trio and Theo Walcott returned on the right side of the attacking trio. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dropped to the bench and Lukas Podolski missed out through what appears to be a bout of illness. It meant Santi Cazorla moved to the left side of the attacking trio with Aaron Ramsey retaining his place in midfield.
The other change was the return of captain Thomas Vermaelen at left back with Kieran Gibbs dropping to the bench. I'm not sure whether it was a selection issue or if Gibbs was deemed unable to play twice in a week so soon after his most recent injury. As it transpired Gibbs was required to play almost the whole game anyway when Laurent Koscielny went off with a hamstring injury in the fourth minute.
By that stage Arsenal were already 1-0 up courtesy of a deflected Walcott effort after only 54 seconds. It was the quickest Premier League goal of the season at that stage, but the record only lasted 15 minutes until a certain Dutch traitor scored for United against West Ham after only 33 seconds.
Walcott was set up by a good pass from Ramsey and it was just the start Arsenal needed on the night. Everton came back strongly and it was no surprise when Marouane Fellaini equalised just before the half hour mark. The ball was given away too easily in midfield and Fellaini scored with a shot from just outside the box.
It was a fairly open game with both teams looking to take all three points, but despite numerous chances at either end it finished 1-1. Everton had what seemed a legimate penalty claims turned down in the second half when Mikael Arteta appeared to haul Steven Pienaar down in the box. In the end a draw was probably a fair result and neither team can have been too unhappy with it.
As a result of the draw both teams dropped one place in the table with Spurs going fifth after beating Liverpool 2-1. It leaves Arsenal seventh in the league and looking increasingly like a mid table team with each passing week. The manager complains of player fatigue and opponents hassle and harry Arsenal from first to last minute in every game.
There's no rest for those weary legs as Swansea come calling on Saturday and they're only a point behind Arsenal now after beating West Brom last night. They play an open attractive game and it should suit Arsenal, but if the players haven't got the energy to win the battle for the ball how can they be expected to win the match. It's a cliche at this stage but it's a game Arsenal quite simply have to win.
As I pointed out a couple of days ago it takes an average of two points per game to have any realistic chance of challenging near the top of the table. Arsenal now have one and a half points for each game they have played and need to win seven in a row to get back on course. The leaders are 12 points ahead of them and if the current form continues even Arsene Wenger will have conceded the title before December is out.
I'm not remotely worried about the title at this stage, as it was never a realistic target anyway. I'm starting to get genuinely concerned that a Champions League spot is going to be a real struggle though. Thankfully third and fourth place are still up for grabs and Arsenal need to get one of them.
If that means strengthening in January them it must be done and there is money available.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.