Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud
Subs: Vermaelen, Rosicky, Walcott, Monreal, Flamini, Fabianski, Bendtner
Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the Premier League after a pulsating 1-1 draw against Everton at the Emirates this afternoon.
Arsene Wenger made four changes from the team which beat Hull in midweek. The manager brought back Olivier Giroud after his midweek rest against Hull, Kieran Gibbs replaced Nacho Monreal at left back, while Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere came into in place of Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky.
With both teams in confident mood because of excellent recent form, it was the visitors who started brightest. After a good spell of early possession, Kevin Mirallas fired in a low cross which fizzed across the Arsenal box but thankfully no blue shirt read the play.
Arsenal were somewhat wasteful with the ball in the early stages, adding to the pressure, and there were warning signs as Brian Oviedo found space down the Everton left, putting in good cross which required Mertesacker to head away.
Sylvain Distin then hit a shot wide from an Everton corner but as the game progressed Arsenal showed signs of getting back into it. But it was Everton who had the next attempt, Mirallas shooting high and wide when a cross to the back post towards Lukaku might have been the better option.
Seamus Coleman then had a go, shooting over after a very obvious handball in our box which Howard Webb ignored. At the other end Arsenal finally put together the kind of move they’re famous for. Santi Cazorla got it down the right hand side, he hit a first time cross which skidded across the Everton 6 yard box with Kieran Gibbs straining to make the touch which would have resulted in a goal.
Lukaku then found space to get in a cross which ran just behind Mirallas as Arsenal struggled to maintain possession for any period of time. Laurent Koscielny had to block a shot from the powerful Belgian, and when they did get up the other end of the pitch mistakes from Ozil and Jenkinson squandered possession.
Lukaku then got away with tripping up Koscielny off the ball after the Frenchman made a pass out of defence, and there was some attacking end product late in the half with Giroud involved. A Wilshere flick saw him through on goal but flagged offside, and moments later Tim Howard came out quickly to smother a chance from close range.
More intricate passing saw Aaron Ramsey clean through but again Howard came out to make a good save as the Gunners finished the half well and the teams went in level at the break.
There was an early second half shout for an Arsenal penalty against Oviedo, but the ball came off the Everton man’s shoulder, before Kieran Gibbs whacked a 30 yard volley not too far wide.
The Gunners bright start continued with a good move that almost fashioned a goal. An Ozil cross from the right hand side found Jack Wilshere at the back post. He clipped the ball back to Santi Cazorla but it was slightly behind the Spaniard and he couldn’t get any power in his close range header.
Everton weren’t cowed however, and Peinaar forced Szczesny into a good save after a swift break, but at the other end a fine Gibbs cross found Aaron Ramsey at the back post. He swiveled and shot at the near post but Howard pushed it away for a corner.
It’s wrong to say the game went into a lull but there was a period when both teams traded possession without doing a great deal with it. Lots of passing, full blooded tackles and plenty of effort but not much happened.
Szczesny had to make another save after Jack Wilshere let a ball run across him on the edge of the Arsenal box, and that saw Arsene Wenger make changes. Ramsey, Wilshere and Cazorla went off, Flamini, Walcott and Rosicky came on.
The Frenchman almost broke the deadlock Jenkinson got down the right hand side. He put a cross in which deflected out to Flamini on the edge of the box. He hit it first time and it fizzed just past the far post.
Kevin Mirallas forced Szczesny into another good save after he found space to crack a shot at the near post, and it proved important as the Gunners opened the scoring shortly afterwards.
Tomas Rosicky crossed it from midfield to Walcott at the back post. The winger headed it back across goal, Giroud completely missed it but Ozil was on hand to poke it home from close range. 1-0.
The joy was short-lived however as Everton equalised shortly afterwards. Ross Barkley made space in midfield, the ball came to Delofeu at the back post, Gibbs was really tight to him but he got off a shot which dipped viciously past Szczesny. That made it 1-1 and it really was a fantastic goal.
They had the keeper to thank for keeping them ahead when Lukaku found himself clean through after a deflection but the big Pole smothered with his legs. Arsenal had a couple of late corner which Everton dealt with well, and when Arteta lost it in midfield Lukaku came forward and shot over the bar with men better placed outside him.
And in injury time Olivier Giroud almost won it with a 25 yard volley that smashed off the corner of the bar with Howard well beaten.
In the end it’s hard to argue both teams deserved something from the game, a draw the fairest result on the day, and despite winning so many recently we do extend our lead at the top with that draw.
Now, to Napoli.