Sunday 18 March 2018

Wenger's top Gunners gathering momentum

Arsenal 2-1 Everton

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny heads home the Gunners' second goal against Everton from a Santi Cazorla free-kick
Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny heads home the Gunners' second goal against Everton from a Santi Cazorla free-kick
Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (left) and Everton's Gareth Barry battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 24, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Arsenal. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Everton's Gareth Barry is sent off after receiving a second yellow card
Arsenal's Mathieu Flamini directs a header toward the Everton net

David Hytner

Arsenal have made various statements in recent weeks, as they have injected momentum into their season and they made the latest one here by clambering to the top of the Premier League table.

The position will not last beyond today's Manchester derby if City were to get a draw or more at United but it still felt like a moment for Arsene Wenger and his players to savour.

Few teams spark such outpourings of angst in defeat as Arsenal but they have rolled with the punches this season to find a groove, which was again in evidence in this slow-burning cracker against Everton. This was a victory sculpted by two memorable assists, the first by Mesut Ozil for Olivier Giroud, who was rotated into the line-up ahead of Theo Walcott, and the second by Santi Cazorla for Laurent Koscielny.

Everton's misery in this part of north London goes on. They contributed fully to the contest and they departed with regrets but their winless run at Arsenal now extends to 22 matches in all competitions.

Everton's away record against Arsenal might be dismal but Roberto Martinez's team is studded with quality and they made life difficult for their hosts.

With Gareth Barry and James McCarthy screening the back four, there was balance to the line-up, allied to attacking potential.

Arsenal probed through Ozil while Alexis Sanchez was quick and lively, as usual, and the former unlocked Everton just as the home support was beginning to wonder where the breakthrough might come from.

The precision of Ozil's clipped ball from the inside-right channel, in between Everton's centre-halves, was matched by that of Giroud's run and, when the striker jumped ahead of Tim Howard, he needed only to apply the merest of touches. When he did so, the flick looped into the net.

Arsenal were 2-0 up in quick time and once again the goal was marked by a devilish delivery, which made the chance almost unmissable.

After Seamus Coleman had fouled Sanchez, Santi Cazorla drove in the free-kick from the left and Laurent Koscielny, who had timed his run through the crowd, nodded home from point-blank range.

Arsenal had previously threatened only from corners - three of them had caused flutters in the Everton defence - and with the game turned, rather abruptly, on its head, the home crowd might have dared to relax. That is rarely an option, though, and Ross Barkley's goal just before half-time made things interesting again.

It was a goal that had Arsene Wenger, zipped up in his sleeping bag jacket as the rain came down, spinning on his heels in frustration. Barkley was at the apex of a break and there were three red shirts in attendance. He bought a yard of space and, with nothing else on, he swung his left boot more in hope than expectation. But the shot flicked off Gabriel to change direction from the far post to the near, and Cech was rendered a helpless spectator.

It was a bad time for Arsenal to concede but it did not seem to rattle them. They continued to force the issue in the second half, to hunt for the third goal and the game became stretched - perhaps, a little more than Wenger might have liked.

The finale was breathless. Lukaku's header from Gareth Barry's cross kissed the woodwork; the Arsenal substitute Mathieu Flamini headed at Howard by point-blank range and Deulofeu, who had antagonised the home crowd by going to ground too easily, was denied by Cech. There was even time for Ozil to hit the post and Barry to see red for a second yellow card. Arsenal could exhale at full-time.


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