If your glass is half empty you’ll be lamenting the fact that we were just six minutes from claiming all three points, yet couldn’t get the job done despite taking an 80th minute lead. If it’s half full, you’ll be delighted we’ve increased our lead on a weekend when our nearest rivals lost to Stoke and drew with Southampton while we got a tough fixture against Everton out of the way.
Both emotions are valid, but put into context that we were outplayed for almost the entire first half and only ended up with 44% of possession on a day we weren’t really at the races, I’m happy with the result. We can’t be at our swashbuckling best all the time and we showed good resilience to keep a lively Everton side at bay.
Aaron Ramsey epitomised this. Arguably the Premier League’s best player this season, he had a stinker and there weren’t too many Arsenal players who were on top of their game. Yet we didn’t lose, which is encouraging. Make no mistake, Everton are thriving under the confidence and freedom Martinez has given them and they turned Man Utd over in midweek, so avoiding the same fate as the declining champions is a plus point.
This time last year Man Utd led the way with 36 points while we languished in 10th on 21 points. This season the roles have been reversed as we have 35 points and they sit in ninth with just 22 points. It’s an incredible turnaround considering the results on the opening day of the season — a penny for your thoughts Mr van Persie.Anyway, today’s game was entertaining without producing much goalmouth action. For 40 minutes we were ‘out Arsenal-ed’ by a fearless Everton side, buzzing after their latest victory and giving a quality exhibition of slick, passing football. Yet they didn’t really penetrate us and we finally got to grips with them just before the break when Howard had to dive at the feet of Ramsey and then Giroud to keep the match goalless.
We raised our performance in the second half, but even though the match was a much more even contest we didn’t look like making the breakthrough. Then Rosicky found fellow sub Walcott who nodded an intelligent ball across the face of goal for Ozil to sweep home at the far post.
Lesser sides would surely have crumbled, but Everton rallied and their gifted super sub Deulofeu was allowed a sight of goal by Gibbs and his dipping shot had too much power for Szczesny. I think the Pole might have done better given the form he is in and that it was straight at him, but maybe that’s a tad harsh.
Giroud nearly conjured up an injury time winner when his sensational volley struck the woodwork, but it wasn’t to be and a potential seven point lead remained at five.
So Man City and Chelsea are up next in what will be two very tough tests for our new found defensive resilience. They are leaking goals though (especially Chelsea) so opportunity knocks for us in both games. It’s incredible how poorly the pre-season title contenders are playing at the moment — the likes of Chelsea, City and United are dropping so many points to lowly sides that we’re ahead merely by the virtue of being solid, consistent and professional. I’m not complaining though — credit to us for not falling into the same trap and beating what’s put in front of us.
That being said, if we come out of our next two fixtures with our five point lead intact I’ll let myself believe we really can win the title this season.