LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Manager Arsene Wenger of Arsenal congratulates Robin van Persie of Arsenal on scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
1 - 0 Robin van Persie 70'
Arsenal struggled at times to create quality chances today, and Everton always looked enterprising attacking from the wide areas, growing in strength, but Robin van Persie's terrifying volley was the difference as Arsenal took all three points at the Emirates Stadium today. Arsenal move into fourth place on 29 points, ahead of Chelsea, who play Manchester City on Monday.
Follow us after the jump for all the details of what went down:
The opening five minutes of the match saw Arsenal with the lion's share of possession, but the Gunners' final ball was too heavy from Ramsey for Gervinho, and then for Walcott. A better ball over the top from Thomas Vermaelen nine minutes in nearly sent Gervinho through, but Phil Jagielka did just enough to prevent the winger from reaching the ball before Tim Howard could claim. At the other end, an Everton corner pinged around in the penalty area a bit before Gervinho was able to carry it away on the counter.
The best chance so far would come 15 minutes in, Mikel Arteta stealing the ball in midfield and releasing Walcott through on goal. Young Theo was much too selfless, though, as he elected to play a square to van Persie that really wasn't on, Tony Hibbert having recovered, and Everton escaped the danger as Gervinho couldn't find the angle to shoot eventually on the other side. Arteta was booked slowing up the Everton counter.
Leighton Baines did almost exactly the same thing Arteta did two minutes later, but received no yellow from Howard Webb. Twenty minutes in, Gervinho escaped up the left, but his square to van Persie was for nought as the Dutchman had drifted just offside. Another Arsenal counter forced Coleman to take Walcott down at the cost of a yellow, as Arsenal escaped another good moment of wide play from the Toffees.
Arsenal were absorbing some occasional pressure from Everton and countering, but the final pass wasn't always the best. Ramsey lofted a ball over the top on this occasion, but van Persie had drifted offside, and then Walcott injured himself somehow. He would recover, but the counterattacking would have to sharpen up a bit if Arsenal were going to find a breakthrough. Song fought well to steal in midfield and slot Ramsey through, who spun and lifted a curler just over the bar. Gervinho burst through onto a through ball and DID shoot immediately, but Tim Howard saved well low.
Arsenal kept possession fairly well, but Everton's defense was able to contain things more frequently as the half wore on. van Persie got Walcott to the byline, but his cutback couldn't find Song, Jagielka intervening. Marouane Fellaini escaped Ramsey's attentions up the left, but his attack fizzled and Arsenal countered again, to no effect. Ramsey picked up a yellow for his earlier "attention" to Fellaini (although Seamus Coleman didn't get one for a similar tackle on Gervinho, because he already had one and Webb was feeling greedy about keeping them). Arsenal won a corner which Vermaelen got a head to, and there were claims for hand ball, but play continued and Everton cleared away. Halftime arrived, and Arsenal looked not much closer to solving the problem.
The second half brought no changes for either side. Arsenal attacked up the right before Walcott fell awkwardly and hurt his ankle trying to cut back on his dribble. He left the pitch, but looked to be mobile, and would return. Indeed, two minutes later, van Persie played him through, but Theo had tiptoed offside. Everton were not uninterested in a bit of the ol' attack themselves, but Cahill couldn't make it work, and then Fellaini was offside collecting a good Baines cross. Walcott flung a left-footed shot well over the goal 56 minutes in.
Arsenal won another corner, but it came to nothing, van Persie's touch too heavy.
Everton won a free kick, but Szczesny was able to punch away. Another Toffees cross nearly found Cahill, but Vermaelen intervened for a corner. Arsenal were laboring for everything they could find, but Everton were holding strong at the back, despite having almost no midfield presence.
Everton brought on Silvain Distin for Louis Saha, and although it didn't seem too ambitious a change, they still were prowling around, and Cahill's header was weakly cleared to Phil Neville, whose shot didn't miss by much, curling over the crossbar by a fraction of a foot. Everton were starting to pile pressure on, but Fellaini's shot was wide.
Just when it looked like Arsenal were out of ideas, pinging long passes short of hope, well, one of them worked. Alex Song, who's capable of a delicious floated ball (see Eduardo vs. Burnley), floated one up for Robin van Persie, who stayed onside, and volleyed low, hard, and in off the far post from 15 yards. Tim Howard didn't even move. 1-0 to the Arsenal, 70 minutes in, and the Emirates had found their voice again.
Still, at 1-0, nothing was settled, and Everton had been finding themselves a little more before the van Persie strike. They nearly found an equalizer as the ball bounced from Fellaini's be-afro'd bonce towards Tim Cahill, but Johan Djourou was able to clear thunderously before Cahill could swing.
Connor McAleny was given his senior debut, coming on for club captain Phil Neville. Magaye Gueye also came on for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. van Persie headed a corner over the bar. Fellaini elbowed Vermaelen in the head, which stopped play briefly while a phone call was placed to Brussels. Everton won a corner on 81 minutes which Arsenal struggled with initially but cleared, Distin earning a yellow for stopping Arsenal's counterattack.
Ignasi Miquel had to come on for a dazed Vermaelen, and Tomas Rosicky would come on for Gervinho. Djourou did his best to work to make a cross with five minutes to go that van Persie nearly steered for Walcott, but Everton managed to clear. They nearly managed to find a way through, Mertesacker taking himself out of the play against McAleny and Gueye shooting through the gap, wide.
Ignasi Miquel made a nice tackle to win a throw which Rosicky nearly put through for Song, but Everton got back just in time. Emmanuel Frimpong came on for Walcott in a move to solidify. Song nearly picked out van Persie again, but the pass was just a bit too heavy, and Howard claimed. Rosicky and van Persie nearly combined in the 92nd minute, and then up the other end, McAleny sent a wonderful effort just wide of the far post on the half-volley from a Fellaini header. It was a tense final two minutes as Everton threw everything forward, but Alex Song stood tall on the edge of the area, said no-one shall pass, and Howard Webb brought the game to an end.
It wasn't a stellar performance, but Arsenal did enough and dealt with Everton's best chances, and a moment of pure van Persieness saw the three points go to the home club.