Jan 292009

Everton 1 (Cahill 61) Arsenal 1 (Van Persie 90)

It doesn’t bear thinking about exactly where we would be without Robin Van Persie right now. For 89 minutes we failed to threaten Everton’s goal, and then out of nothing, he chests Diaby’s ball down and lashes the ball into the corner – another in a long line of stunning finishes.

It was probably more than we deserved. Everton hadn’t exactly been sparkling either, and our defence had actually kept things pretty tight, but that might be as much due to the opposition’s lack of a striker as an improvement at the back. But when Cahill rose to power Baines’ cross into the corner, the outlook seemed bleak. Baines had far too much time to cross the ball, but once Cahill got on the end of it there was only to be one outcome.

And from that moment on, the game had 1-0 written all over it. Nasri was putting in the effort for little reward, but the rest of the midfield were really poor. Up front, Adebayor had one of those days where he seemed to lose interest entirely, so there was only one likely outlet – RVP. And he delivered, thankfully.

It was a crucial goal too, given that Everton would’ve been two points behind us had they won. Some will point to Villa’s win at Pompey on Tuesday night and say they are five points ahead of us, and that’s true, but Villa are right up there with anyone at the moment, so being behind them is no damning indictment. Indeed, with Chelsea and Liverpool facing each other this weekend, a win at home to West Ham would pull us very close to either. There is plenty left in this season.

But the optimism I still have for our Champions League qualification shouldn’t mask the gaping holes in our team. We still need the centre back we’ve been crying out for all season, Cesc needs a Flamini-esque partner, and he also needs backup. On the wings, we’re well covered except for the fact that they’re all injured. Up front too, we should be fine, but Adebayor has to wake up and start earning the payrise he got over the summer.

The most frustrating thing is that we’re really not far away. Denilson is a good backup, Song a squad player, and if those two were pushed down with the right players, we could be challenging just like last season. As it is, we’re fighting for the vital Champions League cash, which if received must be spent on reinforcements this summer. Yes, we’ve got some fine youngsters, but even Wenger must see that there are pieces of the puzzle missing.

Of course, there are three days left in this transfer window, but I’m getting increasingly pessimistic about our chances of bringing anyone in. Unless Wenger’s got an ace up his sleeve, the only arrival in store is Arshavin, and with that saga running into a new brick wall every day we may have to do with the squad we have.

If that is the case, they we have to get behind them, because their confidence is shaky right now, which seems an odd thing to say given the now nine match unbeaten run they’re on. If we can make it to the summer unscathed, that will be the best time to sort things out.

Fingers crossed.

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