Arsenal moved into third place in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Everton courtesy of a Thomas Vermaelen goal, bypassing Tottenham Hotspur and moving into the driving seat to qualify directly for the Champions League group stages next season. While the campaign is sure to twist and turn along the remaining nine league games of 2011-12, with six successive victories Arsene Wenger’s side are finding form at the right time.
On this occasion however, goal-scorer Vermaelen and centre-back partner Laurent Koscielny barely put a foot wrong. With such a solid defensive pair, Arsenal’s forward players finally had a base on which to build.
It has so often been Robin van Persie who has been the difference for Arsenal in attack but the Dutchman was as close to quiet against Everton as a player of his calibre is ever likely to be. Still a danger without getting on the score sheet, van Persie had to make do with just an assist for Vermaelen’s goal, swinging in the corner converted by the Belgian. Ably assisted by Theo Walcott and a rotating cast of Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky or Mikel Arteta, Arsenal’s attacks were fluid and threatening, and would likely have been even against an opposition less supine than Everton were in the early going.
There has been the danger during van Persie’s remarkable run of goal scoring form that Arsenal would be over-reliant on their captain but with van Persie not finding the net for the first club match since scoring against Tottenham in late February, five games ago, his teammates rose to the occasion.
Having come away with three points on a ground that has claimed the scalps of Manchester City, Chelsea and North London rivals Spurs since the end of January, Arsenal are in decent shape for the near future. With Tottenham’s programme complicated by their re-arranged FA Cup match against Bolton Wanderers, Arsenal’s run home is much more straightforward. Between now and May Arsenal have to face Manchester City and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium, two difficult fixtures but home advantage should temper the challenge a little. Those two fixtures aside, Arsenal’s remaining Premier League games are against teams with no more to play for or teams fighting against relegation. In either case Arsenal will mostly be favourites against their opponents while Spurs face an uphill battle to pull them back, leaving Arsenal’s Champions League future in their own hands and reigniting the fight for capital supremacy.
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