Van Persie gets party started
When Thierry Henry emerged as part of Arsenal's 125th anniversary celebrations, the crowd broke into a hearty chorus of "sign him up". Before kick-off, Arsenal were conscious that the striking department would be somewhat bare once they looked beyond Robin van Persie. Afterwards, even more so.
In front of Henry, Ian Wright, Charlie George et al, Van Persie was not actually having one of his slickest afternoons. "He said he was not in his best of days," Arsene Wenger said afterwards. The game was lumbering, a bit of an anti-climax, when Alex Song scooped a perfect ball towards Van Persie with 20 minutes to go. The Dutchman suddenly sprang to life as if boosted by an electric charge. He cracked an exquisite left-footed volley in off the far post before Tim Howard had even a chance to move. It was a gorgeous goal, and enough, with former manager George Graham watching from the stands, to secure a classic 'one-nil to the Arsenal'. With Chelsea not playing until tomorrow, a seventh win from eight Premier League games takes them into the top four for the first time this season.
Afterwards, Wenger was not in the mood to go overboard, conscious of the key fixture coming up next, which takes him team to Manchester City. "It will be a good test to see where we are," he said. "In August I needed to say, 'we will not be fighting relegation'. We have come from so deep that nobody could predict we would be where we are at the beginning of December."
Although Van Persie again stole the show, Wenger was keen to acknowledge the improvement of the defence. Wojciech Szczesny was untroubled by Everton, and was well protected by a back four that consisted of only centre-halves.
The team in front of them spent a while nodding to the old traditions of 'boring, boring Arsenal' as they struggled to find their rhythm and Everton certainly played their part with a base of resilient defending.
"We weathered a lot of what they had," said David Moyes, who was relieved to go in goalless at half-time after Theo Walcott and Gervinho had wasted chances, Aaron Ramsey hooked over and Gervinho saw a drive repelled by Howard. Everton strained to offer much in response, and bizarrely when they did look like stitching together a break the referee, Howard Webb, intervened because Tim Cahill had lost a boot in the build-up. Moyes's men showed more ambition after the break and Arsenal were grateful for a saving Thomas Vermaelen header to prevent Cahill from sneaking in at the far post.
Everton's only recognised striker, Louis Saha, was withdrawn, and Moyes admitted he had little option as the Frenchman was suffering at half-time.
Oddly, they then had their most dangerous spell. Marouane Fellaini advanced further forward, Arsenal lost their composure and in the spirit of anyone having a go, Phil Neville scooped a shot onto the roof of the net.
Then, from nowhere, a thunderbolt. Van Persie's 33rd Premier League goal in 2011 did the damage. Wenger admitted afterwards he had run out of superlatives for his Dutch striker, and began his post-match assessment by getting in ahead of the anticipated first question.
"You could say we are Van Persie dependent," he said wryly. It would not be such a joke though if anything were to happen to the striker, considering none of the other forward options have form on their side.
Wenger ruled out a loan deal for Henry, although his argument that Arsenal have enough in the squad to cover for when Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho disappear for the African Cup of Nations was not convincing.
Everton almost stole Van Persie's thunder in stoppage-time with a wonderful effort from Conor McAleny, but a once sacred scoreline in these parts remained intact.
There were questions afterwards about whether Van Persie was another who deserved a statue outside the stadium, and then someone piped up that Graham would be another candidate. With a look of absolute seriousness, Wenger said: "He deserves one."
Sunday Indo Sport