Everton 1 (Cahill 19) Arsenal 4(Eduardo 47, 58, Adebayor 78, Rosicky 90)
Chelsea at home, Spurs at home, Portsmouth away and now Everton away. Ten points gained from twelve, whereas just five were achieved in the corresponding fixtures last season.
Someone forgot to tell these players they were supposed to be in a blip.
Three seasons ago, Arsenal entered the season off the back of the unprecedented Invincibles achievement. Opening the campaign with a 4-1 away hammering of Everton, it seemed the follow up season would be as impressive. It wasn’t to be, but that day marked just how good the side was.
Yesterday saw the same result achieved against another very decent Everton team, but the match could not have contrasted more starkly. In fact, the first half was insipid – rarely has an Arsenal team showed so little creativity, and while Bendtner and Eduardo up front was an unfamiliar pairing, the truth was that they received little support. Cahill’s opener was just rewards for an Everton side that played much the better football in the opening 45.
One failing of some Wenger sides is that when they have played superbly in the first half, they can come out poorly in the second. Fortunately, the reverse is also true, and within two minutes of the restart, Eduardo had levelled with his first Premiership goal, beautifully tucking away Clichy’s long ball. Ten minutes later, the Croatian showed his class (after controlling with his hand, admittedly), pulling the ball inside the defender after another long ball, and slotting effortlessly past Howard.
All of a sudden it became apparent what is so good about the man. Absent for most of the first half, is there a player is the club who finishes a chance so clinically? His efficiency in front of goal is frightening, and goes a long way to explaining how, despite seemingly not making any impression since the summer, he still has nine goals. Yes, nine.
With a win now looking likely, Bendtner proceeded to hand Everton hope. Already on a booking, he went in recklessly high on Johnson, raking his studs down his shin, and earning himself a second yellow. In truth, he was lucky not to be shown a straight red, and as a result will still be eligible for next weekend’s FA Cup tie with Burnley, a match he may have been penned to start. Hopefully the Dane will learn from this day – all young players have setbacks.
But soon after the red card, a horrible mix up in the Everton defence made the game safe. Yobo and Howard left an Almunia clearance to each other, and Adebayor raced in to round the keeper and smash the ball home from all of half a yard. Arteta was soon sent off for elbowing Cesc, and while some may say it was harsh as there was likely very little intent, he was flailing his arm stupidly high, and a man of his experience should know what happens in that event. Before the end, Rosicky then put a very flattering spin on the match by wrong footing Howard at his near post to make it four.
And if that wasn’t good enough, results elsewhere made this a superb weekend. United lost 2-1 at West Ham after missing a penalty that would’ve put them two up, Chelsea beat Newcastle with a blatantly offside goal but lost Lampard to injury, while Liverpool drew at City to send them further back in the race.
Three days ago some people were writing us off after a draw at Portsmouth. But we’ve taken four points from our Christmas games, both tough away ones at that, while United gained only three, Chelsea four from two home games, and Liverpool a lucky four after only just scraping past Derby. We enter 2008 leading the pack by two points.
And they call this a blip. True, some of our players are not firing on all cylinders at the moment. But instead of bemoaning that, how about imagining how frightening we’ll be when they do?