Arsenal extended their winning run in the league to six games after securing a priceless victory at Goodison Park which capped a fantastic night for the Gunners. The win moves Arsenal up to 3rd spot in the league and completes a remarkable turnaround as they erased what was not long ago a twelve point deficit to move a point ahead of bitter rivals Tottenham. The win now leaves the Gunners in pole position to claim the 3rd automatic Champions League spot this season and also creates noticeable breathing space between themselves and Chelsea.
Wenger opted to make one change to the starting eleven following their late triumph against Newcastle as Ramsey re-claimed a first-team recall at the expense of Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsenal began the game very strongly and constantly forced their way through towards the Everton goal as they started where they left off against Newcastle. Ramsey in particular was heavily getting into the mix of the action after spurning two clear cut chances early on. In the 5th minute Van Persie connected on to a Rosicky pass by nodding the ball downwards towards the unmarked Ramsey before the Welshman wastefully blazed over the bar from six yards out. Just one minute later, Ramsey connected on to a deflected pass from Walcott in the penalty area but saw his low shot deflected wide over the bar.
Fortunately, Arsenal weren’t made to pay for these missed opportunities as Vermaelen continued his recent goal scoring heroics by planting a neat header past Everton ‘keeper Tim Howard from the resulting corner to put Gunners ahead. Soon after, Ramsey and Arteta both combined well to put Van Persie through on goal but saw his chance saved by Howard as Arsenal threatened to run away with the game.
However, after a grand opening to the match, Arsenal struggled to maintain their rhythm and were very lucky to remain ahead on 30mins after Royston Drenthe latched on to a Tim Cahill pass and scored what seemed to be a perfectly legitimate goal but saw his effort harshly ruled offside by the linesman. The decision seemed to rile Everton Manager David Moyes as he stepped up from his dugout to rally his troops who were still smarting from last week’s humiliating 3-0 defeat in the Merseyside Derby at Anfield. While the hosts finished the first half stronger, Arsenal still came close to doubling the advantage after Howard was forced into a smart save to deny a pile-driving effort from the ever-improving Tomas Rosicky.
Everton started the second half where they left off as the Arsenal defence were constantly called upon to combat against relentless pressure from the hosts. Szczesny was called upon to gather a Marouane Fellaini header following a free kick, while Nikica Jelavic produced a moment of worry when he raced through on goal but fell over far too easily under pressure from the impressive Vermaelen.
Arsenal came close to doubling the lead on 54 minutes after Van Persie saw a shot smashed against the post following a lay off from Gibbs who connected on to floated pass by Song. The Gunners should have been awarded a spot kick soon after as Drenthe blatantly fouled Rosicky in the penalty area but the incident was ignored by the officials. Fellaini then had another opportunity to score for the hosts but saw his header drift harmlessly across the goal and out wide, while back up the other end Ramsey produced another smart save from Howard.
Both sides then missed one chance each late-on as Drenthe shot narrowly wide over the bar from the edge of the box for the hosts, while the usually reliable Van Persie also blazed a chance over the bar from the centre of the penalty box following an assist from substitute Gervinho. Johan Djourou was introduced to replace Rosicky in the 88th minute as Arsenal tightened their grip on the game and claimed a vital sixth successive league victory.
Overall this was a superb result for Arsenal. While they rode their luck on occasions, credit needs to be given for the way they managed to produce yet another gritty away performance and scrap out three valuable points. The defence in particular deserved special praise as they produced a professional performance similar to the back line of the George Graham era. Koscielny and Vermaelen both managed to produce fine displays that even Tony Adams and Martin Keown would have been proud of as they marshalled the defence superbly. Credit must also be given to Manager Arsene Wenger who has been under immense pressure all season and has managed to inspire a magnificent turnaround of fortunes as the Gunners climb into the top three of the Premiership for the first time this season.
While there are still nine games to go, the confidence flowing through the side cannot be ignored and there is now an overwhelming sense of optimism that Arsenal can cement their place above their London rivals and gain automatic entry into next season’s elite European club competition. Next up is another vital game at home to Aston Villa and 3 points is once again a must.