This piece comes immediately after watching the Sunderland-Chelsea game. The league leaders lost at their home ground for the first time this season. Hopefully now people will learn that any team that misses the core players will suffer. Let’s be reminded that Arsenal missed Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Andrey Arshavin, Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas towards the tail end of last season and that took its toll on the team.
Likewise, this is probably the first time that Chelsea have missed so many notable names. John Terry, Alex, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien are first choice for Carlo Ancelloti. Without them, his Chelsea side are just not good enough. Maybe now they won’t be so quick to judge Arsenal and their recent failings when they had to deal with the high number of injuries.
Had we not picked up points at Goodison Park, Arsenal would have lost a great chance to narrow the gap to 2 points. This time though, the players made sure that we did. Everton away is potentially a banana skin for us. Credit to the players who gave as good as they got and came away with all 3 points.
The opening exchanges were littered with calculated fouls all over the pitch. Jack Wilshere is the unlucky recipient for most of them. In fact, he got kicked to the floor so many times that it was no wonder he couldn’t return to the pitch for the second half. Johnny Heitinga and Howard Webb renewed their acquaintance since the World Cup final and it almost turn out to be a repeat of that game as Heitinga seeked to get himself sent off for continuous rash challenges. It was amazing how Everton went into half time still with 11 men.
Samir Nasri and Wilshere combined to set up the first clear chance of the game. A delicate back heel sent the young English midfielder on his way inside of Everton’s box. Only a fine last minute block from Sylvain Distin prevented Arsenal from breaking the deadlock. The Frenchman also had a chance to open the score after running half the length of the pitch with the ball. But he got too close to the goal and waited too long before shooting, that allowed defenders to easily closed him down and blocked the shot.
The goal finally came 10 minutes before the break. Nasri again went on one of those jinking runs and found space for a shot. Tim Howard in Everton’s goal was quick to stop the ball but the danger wasn’t over yet. Arshavin reacted quickest and recovers the ball at the byline. He in turn released a quick pass to the onrushing Bacary Sagna. At this point, you would expect the right back to either cross or slam the ball across the face the goal.
He did neither. From an acute angle, Sagna unleashed a fearsome shot which flew in at Howard’s near post. Normally you would blame the keeper if any ball went in at his near side but this is not such occasion. The ball was flying as such speed that it could easily have broken his hand should the keeper tried to stop it. This was only Sagna’s second ever goal for Arsenal. Defensively wonderful at Wolves, offensively great today.
Before the half could end, there was another incident that caused much uproar among the Evertonians. Fabregas was rushing in to block Distin’s clearance and seemed to have caught the central defender. That of course was a slightly reminiscent of his tackle midweek but this time just late instead of dangerous. However, replay shows that Fabregas did not touch Distin and in fact, it was Distin swinging foot that landed on Fabregas’ ankle. Yellow card but Webb would not be too please to see the replay.
You always worry with Arsenal that one goal will never be enough. That is proven later in the game when Tim Cahill scored a consolation goal for Everton but it was a little too late. That is entirely down to the way Arsenal got out of the blocks in the second half. Just 3 minutes in and we increased our lead.
Denilson came on in place of Wilshere and he won the ball in the middle of the pitch. 3 passes later and Fabregas had doubled our lead. Quick interchange between Fabregas and Marouane Chamakh enabled our captain to drilled the ball into the bottom corner of Howard’s goal. Early goal meant that a lot of nerves and tension were eased. Arsenal could’ve added to that lead but Chamakh missed a complete sitter. Fabregas tried to return the favour to the Moroccan but somehow Chamakh managed to scooped the ball over the bar.
Arsenal then lived dangerously as Everton upped their tempo to try and claw their way back into the game. They managed it against Manchester United and we knew that we’ll are still in for a fight. We had Lukasz Fabianski to thank as he was once again in top form. His save from Jermaine Beckford’s shot on the turn was perhaps the best of the lot. It was also impressive to see how both Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou dealt with the aerial threat of Tim Cahill.
So that makes it 14 points from 7 away fixture, the best away record in the league. The next best, Chelsea, only managed to gain 10 points from their travels thus far. That win puts up within 2 points of Chelsea as we wrested second place back from United. Early on, most were saying that Chelsea are running away with the title, guess they won’t be saying that now.