Tuesday, December 13, 2011

1-0 to the Arsenal

Arsenal 1-0 Everton

Arsenal celebrated 125 years on Saturday, and if the spectacle of the game did not match the grandness of the occasion, there was at least a goal to remember.

Though a lot of the play was scrappy in the opening 45, Everton were giving up clear chances. Arteta robbed his old partner Fellaini and released Walcott. With Gervinho and Ramsey square, a goal seemed certain, but last ditch defending denied the Ivorian. Song played in Ramsey, and the Welshman twisted onto his left foot, but only found the top of the net with his scooped effort. Almost immediately an Everton player inadvertently sent Gervinho through on goal, but his finish was predictably artless, and Howard parried.

Everton improved after half time. They denied Arsenal space in the centre. Van Persie was having an off day, overrunning the ball on a few occasions and not enjoying many sights of goal.

Even after sending on Distin and serving notice of their contendedness with a stalemate, it was Everton who were beginning to threaten more. Arsenal looked like they might need a scruffy goal, because they had not really put a move together all game. Instead, they scored a goal of real beauty.

Song found space in midfield and curled a perfect through ball over Jagielka's head to Van Persie. Despite his performance up to that moment, the Dutchman still had the confidence to take the ball first-time on the volley, and his technique matched that of the pass, the ball flying past a static Howard and glancing in off the far post.

While Arsenal never hit their stride except for that one moment, it would be hard to argue that Everton deserved anything from the game. They had shown an almost absolute lack of ambition despite the evidence that their opponents were not at their best.

That said, there were a couple of late half chances for the away side, both stemming from Mertesacker's continued uncertainty. One substitute, Gueye, dragged an effort wide when well-placed. Some a similar but more difficult chance, another sub, Conor McAleny, struck a brilliant effort that had Szczesny beaten but dipped just wide of the far post.

For the umpteenth time this season, Arsenal were indebted to the brilliance of their Dutch striker. But Song should also take some credit for the quality of his pass. He has again shown his underappreciated creative side. It's hard to think of any other "holding midfield" players who pass incisively with the regularity that Song does. As much as anyone else, he has softened the considerable blow of losing Fabregas's precision passing.

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