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Arsenal 1 Everton 0

Arsenal 1 Everton 0

Arsenal have taken a kicking for any number of things over the last 12 months. But the way the club have acknowledged the 125th anniversary and involved the supporters in that celebration deserves effusive commendation. A selection of supporters (not me, my invite must`ve got lost in the post) were invited to view the unveiling the statues of Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams and Thierry Henry. Those bronzed identities were available to the rest of the populace pre and post game.

The Royal Artillery Band warmed up the cold winter afternoon about half an hour prior to kickoff. Fifteen minutes before the game a crescent of Arsenal legends walked out next to the tunnel to greet the teams. The son of David Rocastle, Ryan and Ian Wright drew the biggest cheers until a certain Thierry Henry emerged at the side of the pitch. But aside from the tear jerking sentiment, there was a game to win.

Arsenal set about doing that straight away in the first half. Mikel Arteta dispossessed Marouane Fellaini in midfield before slipping a ball past Everton`s high line into the path of Walcott. The wing heeled Walcott was through on goal, but looked up for the square pass to the onrushing Ramsey and Gervinho. But Tony Hibbert was blocking the path of both, his sliding intervention meant the chance went begging. Walcott`s altruism in these situations is admirable. But for me, you always pick the best option available to you. The shot was the better option given Hibbert`s presence and I think it was a poor selection from Theo as a result.

The Gunners continued to look threatening. Alex Song found a clever angle for a pass to Ramsey. The Welsh midfielder was confronted by the presence of Hibbert. Ramsey cutely performed a three point turn which did with the attentions of Hibbert, but he turned his left footed, curling finish just over the bar. The home side again found an opening that they ought to have made better hey with. Ramsey and Phil Neville contested an aerial challenge in midfield. Neville won but unwittingly pushed the ball into the path of Gervinho. The Ivorian bore down on goal but smashed his shot straight at Tim Howard`s legs.

According to opta, Gervinho has had 20 shots on target, 9 off target and 7 blocked with three goals. I`m not overly worried about his finishing at this stage. Such an issue is easily ironed out on the training ground. He keeps getting the positions and that makes him a very threatening player indeed. Arsenal continued to cut Everton open but lacked finesse with the final touches. Van Persie jinked his way past Baines and found an angled pass to Walcott. He tucked the ball back into the six yard area from the by line, but Jonny Heitinga cut out the danger.

The Reds had a mild penalty claim shortly before half time when van Persie`s cross was met with Vermaelen`s header. The ball was travelling goalwards but was intervened by Jagielka`s arm. I think it would have been a harsh award as Jagielka`s arm was by his side. In any case, I think it was just as likely a foul by Vermaelen, who used Heitinga for leverage rather. At half time, the over riding feeling was one of disappointment. The poverty of the finishing left you with the impression the Gunners should have been one goal clear at the very least. Given half time to reorganise, I never had the impression Moyes would allow us the same chances in the second half.

So it proved. Everton sat deeper and were more compact, limiting our chances. Vermaelen flicked on Arteta`s set piece to Walcott at the back post, he volleyed the ball back across goal, but with too much pace for van Persie to rearrange his feet leaving him to helplessly spoon the ball over the crossbar. Ramsey found Walcott again in the right channel. He cleverly flicked the ball beyond Baines before firing a venomous shot towards Howard`s front post, which was well saved. The Toffeemen briefly started to threaten on the counter. Baines swirling cross to the back post was cut out by an exceptional defensive header from Vermaelen with Cahill lying in wait on the back post.

Another Baines cross worked its way to the back post. Koscielny could only clear as far as Seamus Coleman. Gervinho failed to track back, leaving Coleman with an easy tuck back to Phil Neville, who curled a shot onto the roof of the net. But just as Arsenal looked at their most bereft, a piece of inspiration won the game. Alex Song played one of those diagonal balls which are quietly becoming a trademark (think Vermaelen`s goal v West Brom and Eduardo`s volley against Burnley) the ball just sailed over Heitinga`s head and Robin van Persie hit a first time volley right into the bottom corner.

There are probably only three forwards in the world I`d bet on producing that finish, two of them played against one another in Madrid a few hours after this game. Stunning technique. Watch the slow motion. The body shape, the fact that both feet are of the floor at the moment he strikes the ball. The way he shifts his body towards the bottom corner, like a bowls player guiding his attempt after its left his foot. A quite unbelievable strike from a player who just keeps setting his standards higher and higher. I`ve said on these pages for some months that I believe Arsenal fans are watching the world`s finest striker. It`s becoming not so much opinion as bona fide fact.

That van Persie expressly chose to celebrate the goal with the substitutes says everything about how he has taken to the captaincy too. In the twenty first century, captaincy is less about fist pumping and chest thumping in this age of egos. Little gestures such as these are seldom noticed but make a difference. Van Persie played a neat one two with Rosicky, which culminated in van Persie blasting over the bar. The points only briefly threatened to be shared with Everton playing sans strikers, Fellaini flicked on Baines` long ball and substitute McAleny volleyed just wide.

But in the end, Arsenal were well worth the three points. The finishing was sub standard in the first half until van Persie was given his only real chance of the game. Song joins Arteta on 7 assists for the season, Ramsey has 6, Gervinhon 5. Creatively the load is being shared, but one striker is showing the efficiency in front of goal that`s maintaining our assault on the top 4. It was a goal fit to win any game and one that gave us a scoreline so associated with our history. With Thierry Henry and George Graham in the stands; you can`t help wondering what they thought. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 20.DJOUROU, 4.MERTESACKER, 6.KOSCIELNY, 5.VERMAELEN (49.Miquel `83), 17.SONG, 8.ARTETA, 16.RAMSEY, 14.WALCOTT (26.Frimpong `89), 27.GERVINHO (7.Rosicky `83), 10.v.PERSIE ©. Unused: 1.Almunia, 23.Arshavin, 29.Chamakh, 30.Benayoun.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday December 11 2011
Time: 8:56PM


Greta analysis as usual LD. Let's hope that RVP can keep going until January, AW will hopefully get some back up for him at that time. The window is not a great time to buy, but if RVP has an injury (which even if it is not a long one there will be some spell on the sidelines), who is going to "lead the line" to borrow a sad Match of the Day phrase.
11/12/2011 21:13:00
No complaints, thoroughly deserved win, we didnt even stand a chance with Moyes' tactics, but somehow it kept you scoreless (mainly down to your lack of finishing) until Van Persie's piece of magic, was an absolutely beautiful goal, all I could do was applaud the goal as there was nothing we could have done to prevent it
12/12/2011 02:08:00
All the best for the rest of the season Rob. Our play is more composed and less spectacular now, good to see us closing games out. Vermaelen's fitness is essential in the game against City, we cant afford him missing the game.
12/12/2011 10:23:00
It was a superb finish by RvP, but he had an average game otherwise - a sign of class, in one way. There were other positives as well, from the game. The clean sheet, for one. The defence is slowly becoming more and more solid, snuffing out most Everton moves with comfort. Playing with 4 CBs should only make us more solid at the back, even though we might lose a bit offensively from the full backs. I'm not concerned yet with Gervinho's finishing, like you said, but he lacks confidence in 1 v 1 situations. He needs to sort it out before it becomes an issue, and the pressure is on him.
12/12/2011 12:49:00
Has anyone heard anything about Vermaelen's injury? We really can't afford to loose any more defenders, let alone such an important one. I think it will take more than a bit of confidence to get Gervinho's finishing up to scratch. It's not just the timing of his finishes that he can't get right at the moment, his body-shape as he goes to strike the ball is far too square. Nothing that can't be sorted out on the training pitch, but I'm not holding my breath for a goal-flurry. He's a very important player for us nevertheless. One only has to see the improvement in our overall play when he replaced Arshavin vs Fulham.
12/12/2011 13:40:00
There is no end to the depths of stupidity of sp*rs.....
12/12/2011 16:47:00
Good one, LD. Can't get over that goal by our captain (relief, maybe). Well taken. "the ball just sailed over Heitinger's head....". Was that Heitinger or Jagielka with van Persie? I really am not sure as I haven't seen the replay of the game and always thought it had to be Jags who was beaten by the flight of the ball. On the goal celebration, I did see that too and thought what a nice touch by the Captain. Not just leading, or engendering team spirit, that lso sent a message of inclusiveness and said "we are in this together, whether you are on the pitch or on the bench".
12/12/2011 18:24:00
*that also sent...*
12/12/2011 18:25:00
Santos out for over 3 months :( Looks like we'll be fielding CBs as full backs for some time to come.
12/12/2011 18:35:00
Could have happened at any time I suppose but it wasn't Wenger's brightest decision to risk our one fit full back in a game that didn't matter. We may just get away with Vermaelen as back up for a while but we'll miss Santos' creativity. Hopefully Gibbs is on schedule to return early in January.
12/12/2011 18:58:00
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