Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud
Subs: Macey, Debuchy, Gibbs, Flamini, Chambers, Campbell, Walcott
Arsenal moved to the top of the Premier League after a hard-fought 2-1 win over Everton at the Emirates this evening.
Arsene Wenger made three changes from the team that beat Bayern Munich 2-0 on Tuesday, with Gabriel, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud coming in for Per Mertesacker (ill), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and Theo Walcott (bench).
The French striker was involved early with a good take and some pressure on Tim Howard to try and set the Arsenal pace, and he had the first chance of the game, heading wide from a 7th minute Cazorla corner under pressure from the Everton defenders.
Gabriel had a clearer sight of goal from another corner but headed over, before Mesut Ozil found himself one on one with Howard. His shot was saved but the German’s blushes were spared somewhat when the referee penalised Giroud for a foul in the build-up.
A sumptuous pass from Ozil to Alexis brought about another corner, and again Gabriel won the header but couldn’t direct it on target. Francis Coquelin picked up a harsh 24th minute yellow card, before the visitors had their first sight of goal. With the pitch and ball increasingly slippy because of the rain, Petr Cech parried a low cross into the path of John Stones but the bit defender hooked his shot wide.
It was a bit anti-climatic after Tuesday. Ozil curled in a dangerous free kick which Koscielny almost got a touch to, Alexis shot over from distance, but in the 36th minute the Gunners were ahead. Ozil picked the ball up out on the right, stepped inside a defender, and lofted a beautiful ball into Giroud, who flicked it beyond Tim Howard and into the net. 1-0.
It was Ozil’s 7th assist of the season, Giroud’s 6th goal. Arsenal have had a good habit recently of scoring goals quickly, and that was true again because 90 seconds later the lead was doubled. Alexis won a free kick just outside the box, Cazorla whipped it in, and Koscielny was there to bundle it home from close range. 2-0.
The lead was cut just 5 minutes later though when Everton grabbed one back. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s decision to shoot into a crowd of players rather than play it to Bellerin outside him proved costly, as Everton broke downfield and Ross Barkley’s shot deflected off Gabriel, wrong-footing Petr Cech. 2-1. Arsenal took the one goal lead into the half-time break but it really shouldn’t have been so close.
There were no changes at the break, and Oxlade-Chamberlain looked to make up for his mistake, finding Alexis at the back post but the Chilean’s shot was saved by Tim Howard. The same pair combined again in the 53rd minute, again Howard was forced to come out and make a stop to deny the Arsenal number 17.
The Ox was involved again, setting up Giroud who saw his swiveling effort saved at the near post. With the Gunners dominating possession, there was danger on the break but great defending from Gabriel prevented Barkley from getting a shot away, while Monreal stood up brilliantly to the always diving Delofeu.
Oxlade-Chamberlain blasted a shot into the head of a defender from a Monreal cross, and more fantastic craft from Ozil fashioned a chance for Giroud – the Frenchman unlucky to see his curling effort come back off the bar with Howard beaten all ends up.
There were warning signs for Arsenal that the game wasn’t won, Galloway heading wide from close range after a cross to the back post found the home defence ball-watching. Arsenal looked tired, feeling the effects of Tuesday night, and got away with it in the 79th minute when a Lukaka header brushed the top of the bar with Cech beaten.
Arsene Wenger made his first change then, bringing on Mathieu Flamini for Oxlade-Chamberlain to try and shore things up. It didn’t stop the Frenchman from having a pop at goal, shooting wide after being set up by best mate Mesut, and then heading straight at Howard from an Alexis cross. Immediately, Everton broke, and only for a fantastic smothering save from Delofeu the scores would have been level.
The Arsenal keeper was again called into action, this time stopping a Kevin Mirallas shot, and after Kieran Gibbs replaced Alexis, fantastic play by Ozil resulted in his shot coming off the outside of the post.
There was danger at both ends in the 4 minutes of injury time, Gabriel making a brilliant tackle in our box to deny Lukaku, and there was just time for a second yellow for Gareth Barry.
In the end a tired but committed Arsenal hung on and took the three points which put them back on top of the table.