The Gunners will be relieved to have come away from the match with all three points as the tenacious Toffees battled hard to hold on to a contentious one goal first-half lead.
Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott were utilised on the wings, but as both players had a tendency to drift into the centre the majority of Arsenal’s attacks came through the middle of the park, making it almost impossible for the Gunners to spread out the legion of defenders who were quick to close them down in the final third.
Arsenal had a number of good passing movements throughout the first period but the 10 man Everton defence was sharp, quick and thorough in sniffing out and eliminating any possible goal threat.
The same could not be said for the home side’s defence who were under pressure as soon as they collected the ball and were not as quick thinking as their blue counterparts, which lead to them losing possession and eventually the night’s controversial opening goal.
After the Merseyside team took the lead through Louis Saha they began to sit back and allow Arsenal to attack, swarming round the ball en masse as soon as any danger began to build up, then hitting with a toothless counter-attack.
The north London side’s lack of width continued until the introduction of Andrei Arshavin in 62 minutes. The Russian had an immediate impact, making effective runs down the left. He looks to have regained some of his confidence as he no longer shies away when faced one-on-one with an opponent and his first touch has improved dramatically, shown through his delightful knock past Tim Howard to level the score.
The Gunners then managed to capitalise on the Blues’ first lapse of concentration of the night when they failed to mark the 6”2’ Laurent Koscielny from a corner, giving the 25-year-old a free header to put the home side in the lead.
Arsenal will feel lucky to have left the Emirates with three vital points last night. They sorely missed the width and creativity of the injured Samir Nasri. Fabregas was at the heart of the title challengers’ forward movements as he has been consistently this season. In contrast, his teenage understudy, Jack Wilshere, had one of his least effective performances in a red and white jersey as he was absent for large parts of the 68 minutes he was on the field. Arsenal’s entire midfield drifted in towards the centre, making it so easy for a hard working Everton defence to read their every attack.
Had it not been for the improving Andrei Arshavin, Arsenal’s title chances could have gone up in smoke as defeat would have meant an eight point deficit to overcome in order to keep the fires of desire of a potential quadruple alight.
3 Sagna – 6 Koscielny – 20 Djourou – 22 Clichy
17 Song – 19 Wilshere
14 Walcott – 4 Fabregas – 7 Rosicky
10 van Persie
46 – 2 Diaby on for 17 Song
62 – 23 Arshavin on for 7 Rosicky
68 – 52 Bendtner on for 19 Wilshere