Everton are Verminated

3rd place has never looked so good, has it? A win at Goodison Park last night continued an excellent recent run of form to move Arsenal above Spurs for the first time this season.

Although there were many chances for Arsenal, this will go down as a hard-fought, scrappy 1-0 away victory, with a defender, Thomas Vermaelen, the main hero, scoring the winner early on from a corner and defending like a hero throughout.

There has been an element of luck along the way: Liverpool missed some good chances in our game at Anfield before our late winner, and Everton last night were the victims of some poor refereeing, but that should take nothing away from an Arsenal side that has rediscovered the art of getting stuck in.

And let’s not forget we’ve not been without some ridiculous bad luck ourselves: For a difficult few months we didn’t have any fit full-backs, and all sorts of things were going wrong in games, even in this run of ours now – Blackburn scoring with their only shot at the Emirates, Mertesacker’s slip at Sunderland, Bale’s dive to win a penalty at the Emirates, and a penalty not given for a foul on Rosicky last night.

We have faced endless struggles this season. At times every mistake has been punished, every good chance missed and every decision has gone against us, but we are finally seeing the ‘mental strength’ that Arsene Wenger has talked about for so long. Despite losing key players in the summer (and even more to injury over the course of the season), despite one of our worst starts ever, despite increased competition from big-spending Man City and Liverpool and a much-improved Spurs side, we now sit in 3rd place with nine games to go.

Talent-wise, this is far from the best Arsenal side we’ve seen in recent years, but the character cannot be disputed. Of course everything will come under incredible scrutiny if we hit a bad patch again and drop out of the Champions League places, but I hope we remember that this team at least gave us hope in a season where there rarely looked like being any at all.

The most important factor in our recent run has been the improvement of the defence. This has obviously been helped enormously by the return of Sagna and Gibbs, and the return to the centre of Vermaelen, who is forming an excellent parternship with Koscielny. Yesterday was the first time, in what feels like forever, that I felt pretty confident we would hold on to the lead. We simply weren’t allowing Everton to create anything, and our pressing all over the pitch was excellent. There is a lot of attacking talent in David Moyes’ side, especially with the return on loan of Pienaar, but they weren’t given any time on the ball by our midfielders, not least the recently re-born Rosicky.

It was interesting to notice last night – aside from important results for Chelsea and Spurs – that Liverpool produced one of the capitulations of the season at QPR: 2-0 up with 15 minutes to go and they managed to lose 3-2 to the relegation-fighters. They lie in 7th, 12 points off Spurs in 4th. I guess winning the Carling Cup doesn’t solve all your problems does it? This is not to say I wouldn’t welcome some silverware, but perhaps too much emphasis was put on winning it last year; never before have we taken the League Cup that seriously, and yet when we lost the final it felt like a tragedy and ruined our confidence for the rest of the season.

Anyone can win the cup competitions, just look at Liverpool’s opponents in the final – Cardiff City, who still held the Premier League club to a 2-2 draw. It is all a bit of a gamble and doesn’t really reflect how good you are. I’m sure we’re a better side than Liverpool and were probably more deserving of the cup last season than they were in this.

There will be no silverware this season, but – and perhaps I’ve been listening to Wenger for too long – with all things considered, 3rd would feel like a minor miracle for this season. Hopefully it would provide the springboard for somewhat loftier ambitions next year.

For more on Arsenal and the footballing world, follow me on Twitter @markbrus

  • PacoJones

    Yesterday was the first time, in what feels like forever, that I felt pretty confident we would hold on to the lead. 
    We simply weren’t allowing Everton to create anything?
    What are talking about,Everton had a goal disallowed, there was countless offside given that weren’t. If the goal has stood the whole game might of changed. Arsenal had some good chances,but Everton were the better side for large portions of that game.

    • Steve of Chiang Mai

      Correct me if I’m wrong but playing the offside trap is a method of stopping a team from creating anything – no?

    •  Apart from the disallowed goal never saw everton having a clear cut chance at goal. Suffice to say Arsenal were also victims of the offside qualandrum  and a penalty denied. I would prefer winning ugly than being the better team. If only Arsenal had taken the chances that came her way in the first 30mins and later part of second half, could have being talking about a goal fest. Up gooners

    • Djofils

      If Everton had scored we would have won the game by 6!!! 

  • Djofils

    Great read. I would rather finish 3rd and qualify for the CL this season that win the FA or CC cup. No disrespect but these are only cups competitions and from the horrible start of the season we endured i believe finishing 3rd would feel as good as the unbeaten league we won. #COYG

  • johninnorfolk

    This Arsenal side is not as bad as some of the press and some of the fans think. 

    There is a lot more character in this lot than in last seasons squad.  The defence is at last becoming a unit, not a mix-and-match amalgam of out of position stand ins.

    The quality of Arteta and Rosicky is becoming more evident with every game, while Walcott has found a measure of confidence that was previously lacking.  Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey and Benayoun have all chipped in when required.  Song has been a rock and van Persie just scores when he wants to.

    With Wilshire nearing fitness and even Diaby spending some time on the pitch the outlook for the rest of the season is looking rosier than any of us could have wished back in August.

    All of this is due largely to one person Arsene Wenger!  Where are the doubters now?

  • Mashman147

    Everton Have beaten top teams at homethis season. They have also beaten Tottenham. To go there, keep a clean sheet and take the 3 points, is a great performance. A day to be proud of our team.

  • Redtillded

    Absolute crap.  I’m a Liverpool supporting who (coutesy of a free ticket) was at last night’s game rather than travelling 200 miles to QPR.  Everton and this hurts to say it were robbed by weak officials who fell for Arsenal’s well tutored arm raising and diving antics.  It was a shameful performance by Everton for the first 20 mins or so but after that they created more and threatened more.  However the linesmen inparticular were conned by Arsenal’s antics each time.  They should be barred for a month on that performance.  Equally referee Mason was very weak and clearly pro Arsenal.  Arsenal could tackle high and from behind but every minor shite, sorry, Everton infringement was penalised. THIS REALLY HURTS TO THINK NEVER MIND SAY  but Everton deserved a point at the very least. 

    • Freddie

      Never heard from you lot when you fluked tha FA cup final against us in 2001. That was about as one sided a game as you’ll see. You take what you can. 

    • johninnorfolk

      Unfortunately, for Everton, offside is a law that has to be obeyed.  If the morons playing for Everton as well as the ones in the crowd do not understand that law, tough!

      You also choose to ignore the fact that Arsenal were denied a nailed on penalty by the  “clearly pro Arsenal” referee.

      Everton deserved nothing from the game and that’s precisely what they got, the same as the Liverpool a few games ago.

      Let’s not forget that Liverpool were awarded an offside goal at, the Emirates, earlier in the season.

      Everton created little and threatened the Arsenal goal on only one occasion.  The most under worked player on the pitch was Szczesny.

      Liverpool and “king” Kenny have blown it, but then that’s what they have done for season after season, how many years is it since they last won the League title?

    • Mashman147

      Cant even spell dead. That proves to me you are a true scouser. So you think Everton were robbed. Another scouse pastime there. Fact is, they got unlucky with one decision. We had a penalty not awarded, so it evens itself out.

      Liverpool are an embarrassment. Spent all that money and are so far off the pace. How the hell is Kenny still in a job??

      Didnt you win a penalty against us from that diving racist cheat at the game a couple of weeks ago?

      • Berg10

        Ha Ha, he  sounds like another twisted troll (bigsy) that due to their team’s total incompetence can only get their kicks trying to divide this site.