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Everton 0 Arsenal 1

With 9 rather quiet days in Arsenal terms having elapsed since our last game, the appetite for another game was ravenous. A midweek trip to the Northwest hardly ideal for those of us of the 9 to 5 persuasion, but the getting was good so there were no complaints. Terry greeted me from work at around 1.30pm on the Farringdon Road in brilliant early spring sunshine for the drive to Merseyside. Having safely collected Akhil and Young Tim from Archway, cans of red stripe were cracked to lay siege to my bladder and a compendium of cheesy Arsenal hits were inserted into the CD drive to get the mood going.

Having arrived in Liverpool at shortly before 6pm, we took a brief sojourn across Stanley Park, past Anfield and to the King Harry Pub which was strangely deserted but for our throng of Gooners. Well, the sparse population of the bar was not quite so strange when one scanned the assorted Liverpool memorabilia that littered the walls. Clearly not a pub for Bluenoses! After suitable liquid refreshment and a passable steak and gravy pie, we made our way into the East Stand Upper Tier in anticipation of the match. Arsene sprung something of a surprise by opting to play Aaron Ramsey from the left, allowing the in-form Tomas Rosicky to keep his central berth. Given the fact that Tony Hibbert is a functional right back that doesn`t offer the greatest attacking thrust. Royston Drenthe starts from the right but has license to wander. Playing Ramsey effectively allowed him to tuck in. Most of Everton`s threat comes from the left, so it was a calculated risk to leave their right flank a little open and match them in midfield.

Arsenal took advantage of a very sluggish Everton start and should have been ahead after three minutes. Rosicky floated a diagonal ball into the box to van Persie, he spotted the run of Ramsey and duly headed the ball into his path, only for the Welshman to blaze over. Ramsey has 2 goals from 50 shots in the league this season. It`s not difficult to see where he should be seeking improvement. The Gunners cut Everton open again a minute later, Sagna`s angled pass found Walcott on the right, he checked back in the box and pulled back to the onrushing Ramsey, but his shot was well blocked by Heitinga. From the subsequent corner, Arsenal took the lead. Van Persie swung in a precise delivery, Vermaelen foxed Fellaini with his movement and headed into the corner from close range. His fifth of the season. More than Torres and Carroll put together in the Premier League.

The Toffeemen looked punch drunk and the Gunners really, really ought to have finished the game off. Arteta`s deft flick found van Persie in the penalty area, he held off Baines, checked onto his left foot but found Howard equal to his effort. I`ve watched both of United`s last two league away matches at Spurs and Wolves. In both games, they were 3-0 ahead before registering five shots on target, thus making the remainders of those games very simple. Arsenal must aspire to be that clinical. Everton should have been slain before the 20 minute mark. Profligacy will cost us if we repeat it too often. Moyes needed to do something and his answer was to move Fellaini into a more advanced role and drop the ineffective Cahill into a more traditional central midfield role. Fellaini immediately caused problems with his height when he connected with Heitinga`s diagonal free kick and flicked it back into the area. Fortunately for the visitors, Leon Osman made a sow`s ear of it, tamely heading wide.

But sloppy play from Arsenal would reset the tone for the game. For my money, Alex Song does have a tendency to overelaborate and think that a game is easy when Arsenal are comfortable. He played a really poor pass from the edge of his own box which was cut out by Osman. Osman found Jelavic, who flicked to Cahill. The Australian found Royston Drenthe in acres on the right hand side of the area, who beat Szczesny with a low finish, only to be denied by an offside flag. Replays showed the assistant`s judgement had very much erred to Arsenal`s serendipity. Song was lucky that his lack of concentration wasn`t punished on this occasion.

Arsenal re-established a rhythm, despite the fact that Everton finally began to execute the harrying, pressing game you`d have expected from the off. Ramsey picked up the ball from Arteta and span a beautiful pass wide to Rosicky. The Czech, full of confidence, chested the pass down and lashed the ball goalwards from the edge of the box, but Tim Howard beat his fierce drive away. At half time, 1-0 was a pleasing scoreline but you felt disappointed the Gunners hadn`t produced a scoreline more reflective of their dominance. It was clear Moyes wouldn`t allow his side to enter the second half with the same cumbersome attitude with which they began the first.

So it proved. After 53 minutes, Baines swung in a free kick from the left, Fellaini connected but could only flick his effort straight at Szczesny. But despite increased Everton pressure, the Gunners rearguard was holding firm. Gibbs turned in his best performance of the season, Sagna won everything in the air. Koscielny and Vermaelen were their usual, unfussy selves, averting all danger. Arsenal ought to have grabbed a precious second goal when Song found Gibbs in the left channel, the left back pulled the ball back to van Persie. The Dutchman couldn`t quite wrap his foot around it and saw his effort smack the base of the post.

Everton`s left still hinted at some Arsenal chaos though. Baines won a ground tussle with Sagna and pinpointed a low cross towards Fellaini. The Moroccan looked for all the world like he would stroke home a tap in, but Vermaelen sniffed the danger and cleverly positioned himself just in front of Fellaini, allowing the ball to drift past the six yard area and out to safety. The scores from the Etihad and White Hart Lane flashed up on the scoreboard periodically and I`m not sure how helpful that was to our players, who began to sat back with other scores going our way. A premature chant of "ten points and you f****d it up!" were quickly shushed with the news that Spurs had gone behind to Stoke. We were only in the 68th minute at Goodison.

Nevertheless, Arsenal still looked dangerous on the counter. Rosicky freed Walcott who wriggled his way into the centre, shifting the ball left to Ramsey. Ramsey switched the ball back onto his right foot and aimed a shot towards Howard`s near post, but the ex United keeper beat it away. Kieran Gibbs was providing a valuable outlet on the Reds` left and again was found by Alex Song. Gibbs played a measured pass to van Persie in the channel. With Howard narrowing the angle van Persie tried to cut the ball back across goal, but Walcott did not read the intention. The home side remained a danger from set pieces and another Baines delivery- this time from a corner, was only half cleared to the edge of the Gunners` box and Royston Drenthe lashed a shot just over the bar. Arsenal brought on Gervinho for Walcott and the Ivorian nearly made the match clincher when he raced away down Everton`s left, as they committed to finding an equaliser. Gervinho cut a pass back for van Persie, who was off balance and slipped as he sliced a shot high over the bar.

But in the end, Arsenal had done enough to hold onto a valuable three points, with Spurs and Chelsea both slipping up. Having shown a pleasing penchant for late winners and the ability to come from behind, Arsenal demonstrated different, but equally pleasing qualities. Holding onto a lead in a hostile atmosphere away from home. The defence- a five man unit which is unbeaten in the games it has played this season- were simply first class with Vermaelen and Koscielny giving a masterclass in no nonsense, concentrated centre back play. Both Gibbs and Sagna were equally resolute and deserve commendation for their displays too. The only grumble would be the lack of ruthlessness when we were well in the ascendancy in the opening twenty minutes. On very few occasions in this league will a team be wantonly dreadful for a full 90 minutes. So when Everton looked punch drunk in the first half, we ought not to have given them a chance to rouse themselves. Indeed, were it not for an errant flag, we would have been punished for letting Everton off the hook. But for now, we enjoy the victory and hope the momentum continues to build. Despite a ton of roadworks on the M6 slowing our route home, it was a victory we celebrated well as we rejoined the motorway, the three points safely secured in the boot. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 6.KOSCIELNY, 5.VERMAELEN, 28.GIBBS, 17.SONG, 8.ARTETA, 7.ROSICKY (20.Djourou `88), 14.WALCOTT (27.Gervinho `79), 16.RAMSEY, 10.v.PERSIE (c). Unused: 11.A.Santos, 15.Chamberlain, 21.Fabianski, 29.Chamakh, 30.Benayoun.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday March 22 2012

Time: 8:03PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
First post. Verminator has definitely stepped up when it mattered in back to back games now. Rode our luck a bit with the "offside" but in fairness we were denied a clear Pen which would have put us out of sight really. So all in all, it worked out well. Now lets beat Villa. The belief in the team is unbelievable. Not something we've been used to in the past few seasons.
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22/03/2012 20:14:00

For the love of all that is good. No first second third ***** here please. :) . Great report LD. Well, RvP wasnt at his clinical best and Ramsey was coming after a lay off. So not too worried. And our back 5 were top top class. Though I dont like Szcz's attempts to be too clever at times.
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22/03/2012 20:56:00

Thanks for another great report LD. Song's nonchalance should have been punished by a goal last night were it not for one of the worst offside decisions I have seen this year (Drenthe was being played onside by both Verm & Kos) ... I guess we're getting the rub of the green and I shouldn't complain about it but overplaying on the edge of our penalty area still seems inexcusable to me. Wonderful result tho when you consider how the other London teams fared.
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22/03/2012 21:16:00

Good write up and a great game. Nice to see us add the ability to hang on to a 1-0 to the art of coming from behind. Did you refer to Fellaini as Moroccan?
No 10
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22/03/2012 21:52:00

I think also your stat about Rambos shots to goals is a little hash. I'm not disputing the numbers but he is the first CMF we've had for ages who gets 50 shots off. What are his accuracy stats like? I thought they were pretty good. His finishing will get better, and when it does we will have a top top young MF!
No 10
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22/03/2012 22:04:00

Sajit, that was actually my first first!!! I won't do it again. Don't worry.
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23/03/2012 00:50:00

No 10 - The stats are true, not 'harsh'. I though to myself a long time ago he needs to improve his shots. They seem very weak and he doesn't look comftable when he's shooting. In comparrison look at Verm (a defender) and Ox-Chamberlain (18 year old in his first season) - these 2 chaps both have better shots then Ramsey who is aspiring to be an attacking midfielder. His shot really isn't up to par.
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23/03/2012 01:03:00

Sajit, I don't like Szcz's attempts at being 'too clever' either, but I think this is a side-effect of his remarkable self-confidence, which is a crucial part in making him the keeper he is - it's what makes him great and could make him slip up: his fatal flaw, if you like.
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23/03/2012 03:24:00

The difference really was the first 20mins when Everton were still asleep and the officiating. One incorrect offside you can understand, but to have FIVE incorrect offsides against Everton was just plain ridiculous, and two of those could have easily ended in goals (in fact one goal did end up in a goal). Oh well, the league isn't priority for Everton, so I guess in the end there was no harm. Although the officiating against both sides really, wasn't the greatest
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23/03/2012 06:35:00

No.10 I'm a big fan of Ramsey and I think we're watching the blossoming of an incredibly promising player. But the stats on his shooting don't lie, it is something that needs work and I'm pretty comofrtable with the idea that the coaching staff will be working on it with him. It's his first season in this role and Fabregas only scored 2 or 3 in his first season in the team. Shooting can always be improved, it's when the positions don't come at all that there's cause for worry. Look at Chamakh for instance. He's not missing chances, but he's not even looking for them. That's a more permanent worry.
Little Dutch
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23/03/2012 08:06:00

I agree that from 50 shots he should have scored more than 2. But I don't think the point that he has made those 50 chances should go without praised. I'm just trying to prevent the Ramsey bashing I've seen starting to gain momentum.
No 10
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23/03/2012 08:48:00

What I find pleasing about Ramsey is his knack for getting into shooting positions or making himself available for the knock downs or knock backs; we've missed such a midfielder since the days of Freddie Ljunberg and Pires. The law of averages and the hope he's going to improve on his shooting, suggest that he will be a free-scoring midfielder in the future. Wenger, clearly, believes in him and has tweaked with our normal formation to accommodate him over the Ox or Gervinho and I must say it wasn't a bad decision considering his output that night. Let's give the man time; Wenger is going to have a good headache in midfield choices next season, for sure.
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23/03/2012 08:50:00

Ramsey's finishing certainly needs to improve, but it's more an area of improvement which will come with time, rather than a weakness that deserves criticism. That said, his next 2 shots on goal were on target, only denied by a good Howard save on the 2nd occassion. Good spot on Gibbs there, LD. He had a very good game, and I hope Rosicky's resurgence will enable that benefit of doubt to our more injury prone players. I was not impressed by Theo's performance, as he did not give Sagna enough support. For that cross which Fellaini couldn't get a touch on, there were 2 Everton players who robbed Sagna of the ball (Osman and Pienaar) with Theo watching from 20 feet away, doing nothing.
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23/03/2012 09:09:00

The way he gets into goal scoring positions is probably more akin to Lampard. It pains me to say, as I've spent years saying how overrated Frank is and how he only every scores deflected goals, but his goal return has always been very good. We have very good prospect in Ramsey and we need to get behind the young lad.
No 10
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23/03/2012 09:13:00

Overall, I thought it was a very good victory. The defence was solid for the most part and its good to see another name on the scoresheet. Both Kosc and Verm pushed forward on several ocassions and it gives another attacking threat, esp with organized defensive sides. The other results that went our way were really pleasing, but there is still some way to go.
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23/03/2012 09:14:00

Also Ramsey's 2 in the PL is double what Wilshere got last season.
No 10
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23/03/2012 09:19:00

Gibbs did have a very good game and Wenger is right when he says that he is getting better each game. I think by the end of the season we will remember why were so excited by him.
No 10
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23/03/2012 09:22:00

Aye, Wilshere only got 2 goals overall last season. In fairness to him, he was playing in the role Arteta is in this year. I think you're right, in that Ramsey is akin to a Gerrard or a Lampard with late runs into the box. At his age he'll make improvements year on year and, as with Cesc, I think we'll see him add bits t his game year on year. If he and Gervinho can work on their finishing, we'll have 2 more big goalscoring threats there. Prits, totally right about Theo. I raged about that incident at the time but neglected to mention it in the report.
Little Dutch
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23/03/2012 09:29:00

Gibbs recent vein of good form only bodes well for the team, with Santos breathing down his neck, waiting for his opportunity. I think the Manager should stick with Gibbs and force Santos to prove his case on the training ground. It will ensure more efficient displays by both players as they fight for the top place.
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23/03/2012 09:35:00

It is not the first time I have caught Theo in a similar situation, Prits. There were two occasions in Milan where he could have helped in defensive work but appeared to be unaware of the impending danger and that he was in a position to snuff it out or help his teammate to prepare for it. One of them resulted in a goal. Theo needs to be more determined in the challenge as well; he is guilty of being easily bundled off the ball on a few occasions which can frustrate.
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23/03/2012 09:41:00

Big fan of Santos and generally regard him as first choice. But I make you right NG, Gibbs should keep the shirt until there's reason to suggest he should be dropped.
Little Dutch
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23/03/2012 09:42:00

Same thing often frustrates me about Theo. You can't help but compare his attitude with The Ox when it comes to challenging for the ball. Theo frequently looks wary of getting injured and lacks the upper body strength of his teamate.
Wyn Mills
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23/03/2012 10:44:00

AOC is much bigger that Theo was at 18 and Theo got a lot of kickings in his first few seasons resulting in a fair amount of time out injured. Also remember that Theo is a striker playing on the wing and AOC in a CM playing on the wing, so tackling will be one of the major differences in their respective football education.
No 10
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23/03/2012 11:47:00

Both Rambo and Theo can be frustrating at times but I agree with No 10, we need to be patient and get behind them as they are still young players. They are nowhere near the finished product and will improve massively if they can get a good run in the team and stay clear of serious injuries (which has unforutanely hampered both their careers so far). Theo perhaps should have developed a bit more considering the time he has already played at the top level but he seems to suffer from fragile confidence and lack of self-belief. Ramsey, I have a lot more sympathy for as he has been thrown in at the deep end in what has been a turbulent season for us and for the most part has coped admirably. His shooting technique needs to improve but he has amazing energy, awareness and passing ability to make up for that.
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23/03/2012 12:40:00

One of the things I've noticed about Theo is how sensitive to the crowd he is. His game against the Totts changed after his tracking back and sliding tackle that got a standing ovation. He's had a run of good games since then: he has scored a couple and set up more. I don't think he was great against Everton but I also don't think we should be so quick to jump on him when he has been playing very well in general.
No 10
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23/03/2012 14:30:00

The criticism of Ramsey is fully justified, as he is offering nothing as yet, since he was here. If he is a Lampard/Gerard type player, I'm affraid he does not belong here. He has to step up his game and his gamestyle. Ok, back to the main point, it was a fantastic win!. I love vermaleen for this. This team has character!, something that was missing all those cesc years. We now have characters in RVP,Vermaleen, even Rosicky, and these are experienced players. Goes to show why we were not being consistent all those years. No experienced players to push the game into our favour. I'd advise Wenger to get Podolski, not only for his skills, but also coz he is an experienced and a another character on the pitch. Add to that the ferocity of Wilshere and the stable world class Gk in schezny on the pitch, We would be 1 tough nut to crack on the most toughest days next season! bring on the expericned players, and put an end to the youngsters team I say!, and we will be the new Invincibles!
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23/03/2012 16:54:00

Ramsey needs to bulk up a bit in my opinion, if he plays in central midfield. He works hard but he gets outmuscled sometimes in midfield against stronger players. I'm hoping the "injection of strength when a player reaches the age of 20" as Arsene says, is going to come in to play here and make him into a top class midfielder. He's got the ingredients but he is raw at the moment and needs refinement
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24/03/2012 02:56:00

My bad. Forgot Ramsey's 21. Never mind. Maybe he is a late "injecter" of strength
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24/03/2012 02:58:00

Do I care about the offside goal? ***** do I! We've been on the end of bad decisions before and we will again no doubt. Do I care that Everton dominated for periods of the game - nope. All I care about is the 3 points and at the end of the season nobody (other than Everton) will remember anything else.
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24/03/2012 07:46:00


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