Arsenal rue lost points as Everton match their attack
Five points separate Arsenal from the pack after a thrilling encounter at the Emirates
Arsenal 1 Everton 1.
Arsenal moved five points clear of the chasing pack after a gripping encounter with Everton at the Emirates on Sunday. The Gunners went into the game knowing that a win would move them seven points ahead of their rivals after a weekend which saw defeats for Manchester United and Chelsea, and a point for Manchester City.
As it turned out Arsenal were also held to a draw and few of their fans could complain as Everton matched the energy and invention of their hosts. Even Arsene Wenger conceded that a victory would have been harsh for Everton.
"It was quality game with two teams who tried to play in an attacking way," reflected the Arsenal manager. "It was an enjoyable game played in an enjoyable spirit….we have to congratulate Everton as they played very well and started better."
Nonetheless Wenger will rue the fact that Arsenal, having gone one up on 80 minutes after Mesut Ozil lashed Theo Walcott’s cross into the roof of the Everton net, couldn’t close the game out.
Instead 19-year-old substitute Gerard Deulofeu grabbed a share of the points for Everton five minutes later when he stepped inside the Arsenal defence and unleashed a thunderbolt that flew past the startled Wojciech Szczesny.
It was nothing less than Everton - still on a high after their midweek win at Old Trafford - deserved and the result means they lie in fifth spot, just a point behind Manchester City.
"The first half performance was as good as it can be from an away side at the Emirates, to take the sting out of the game and stop Arsenal playing and creating a threat," said Toffees’ manager Roberto Martinez. "Their goal came from nothing but to display the character and come back to score with a goal of that quality was fitting for a game of that standard."
Everton have lost just once in the league this season (against Manchester City) but captain Phil Jagielka played down suggestions that they could be in with a shout of the title if their rivals keep tripping up.
"Hope and realism are two different things," said Jagielka. "We'd love to win the league but at the moment we are just looking to keep in touch with the top four."
As for Arsenal, they now have three days to recover before they travel to Napoli in their final Champions League group game. Then on Saturday it’s a visit to Manchester City before they host Chelsea on December 23.
"There is always room for improvement," said Wenger when asked how he assessed his team’s performance. "The three points would have been better but attitude and quality of players is there and is a good basis for improvement."
And if the Gunners needed any further incentive for their season they got it with Sunday's draw for the third round of the FA Cup at home to Tottenham in the first week of January. “There are not enough tough games,” sighed a sardonic Wenger. "[So] they gave us another one..." ·