Everton 1-2 Arsenal: Daily Mirror match report
Published 22:30 14/11/10 By David Maddock
You have to hand it to Arsenal. In illustrating why they are genuine title contenders this season, they still managed to suggest reasons why they won't be.
Two impressive victories on their travels in the space of five days against tough opposition have put them into second place in the Premier League, and identified them as the most likely challengers to champions Chelsea.
And yet after completely dominating Everton with a sublime, compelling performance for the best part of an hour at Goodison, they again displayed a soft underbelly in almost throwing the victory away.
Arsene Wenger's side were good value for the three points as they gave Everton a footballing lesson in the first half and at the start of the second. And yet by the end the home side will wonder quite how they missed enough chances to have won all their matches until Christmas.
The gift to the Merseyside club was inexplicable. Yes, Everton are a tremendous side who take some stopping, but Arsenal were so in control they should never have been left clinging on at the end.
Champions are ruthless. They seize their opportunities when presented with them, and squeeze the life out of any resistance. Yet Arsenal seem incapable of doing that.
It may have led to a fascinating game of great quality, both technically and tactically, but it will have done little for the blood pressure of Wenger and his team's travelling support.
On 62 minutes, the visitors were denied a three goal lead when Marouane Chamakh missed an absolute sitter from barely four yards in front of an open goal. At that points, you feared for Everton as Cesc Fabregas-inspired show had allowed the Gunners complete control through his goal just after the break, and an earlier one from the unlikely figure of Bacary Sagna.
Yet from there, Everton created SEVEN outstanding chances to have scored, and converted just one of them, right at the end of 90 entertaining minutes. Even at that stage, no one ruled out the possibility of an equaliser in the four added minutes of stoppage time.
The home side will complain too, that Sebastien Squillaci should have been sent off soon after they conceded the second goal, after the Arsenal defender looked for all the world the last man as he scythed down Louis Saha on the edge of the box.
Such a turnaround in fortunes, from such a position of dominance, suggests the soft centre which Wenger's sides have been accused of in their last five trophyless years still lingers.
Yet they are a supremely talented team, and the way they took Everton apart in the first half - which is no mean achievement - shows they have the class to maintain an interest in the title race well into the business end of the season.
Even before Sagna scored only his second ever professional goal on 37 minutes, Arsenal had done enough for the lead, with Andrey Arshavin shooting narrowly wide, and Sami Nasri denied only by the brilliant defending of Sylvain Distin.
Sagna smashed a shot home at the near post that will have Blues keeper Tim Howard looking hard at himself, and with Fabregas enjoying complete dominance over his countryman and friend Mikel Arteta, it was a one sided contest.
That superiority was reflected on 48 minutes when Fabregas showed a clear head to convert after Everton had twice failed to clear their lines, and when Chamakh had his moment soon after, it looked for all the world like the visitors could repeat the six they scored here last season.
Criminally though, they began to believe their own publicity, and should have paid dearly for such a poor attitude. Even before the break, Everton had enjoyed their moments, and both Tim Cahill and Saha should have done better with good heading opportunities.
After the hour though, it was all one way, as Goodison boss David Moyes threw caution to the wind with the introduction of Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford to form a three man forward line with Saha.
It should have paid dividends, and Everton must be hurting this morning at the chances they missed, though Gunners keeper Lukasz Fabianski must take great credit for fine saves from Beckford, Pienaar and then Saha, and Song also blocked brilliantly from the same player when a goal looked inevitable.
Still the chances came for Everton, with Saha again heading over when he should have scored, and Coleman and Pienaar also enjoying good chances, but it wasn't until the final minute that Cahill bundled in a Leighton Baines corner from close range.
Somehow Arsenal clung on, not always fairly, as Fabregas again produced an unwise challenge on Distin when he left a foot in - surely unwise after his poor challenge on Stephen Ward in midweek.
But cling on they did, and their skipper - like his team - made it to the end of the game. Just. Their performance for the first hour against a good team makes them serious title challengers, but Arsenal's inability to last the course for the final 30 minutes does raise questions about their stamina over a full campaign.