This article titled “Laurent Koscielny to the rescue as Arsenal turn the tables on Everton” was written by Kevin McCarra at the Emirates Stadium, for The Guardian on Wednesday 2nd February 2011 00.16 UTC
A night of forgettable football may just be remembered for years to come. Arsenal, of all teams, sustained their challenge for the title by winning ugly. They even capped their recovery from 1-0 down by scoring from a Robin van Persie corner, as Laurent Koscielny headed beyond Tim Howard in the 75th minute. The pressure was applied late and Everton could not quite resist it.
The victors had often been pedestrian, even if the goal they conceded was contentious. Samir Nasri, who has a hamstring injury, was missed terribly. A dependence has developed on a player who has been outstanding this season.
Still Arsène Wenger’s men stuck together and weathered a long stretch of ineffectiveness before the substitute Andrey Arshavin equalised. It has to be assumed that the attrition took its toll of David Moyes’s team later in the game after they allowed themselves to be pinned down. Although Louis Saha scored, the restricted menace in Everton’s squad means that they are likely to be dominated eventually by such opponents as these.
No suggestions of that sort can be made regarding Manchester United, who still hold a five-point lead in the table, and when they come to the Emirates on 30 April Arsenal will have to be sure of themselves in every element of the game. This was a chastening fixture for even a prodigy such as Jack Wilshere, who was taken off because too much was at stake for a teenager to be left on the pitch in the hope that he would muddle through.
As challengers Arsenal have reached the stage where there are hopes, if not assumptions, and the level of stress climbs. Just as Wenger’s side were settling down here, they suffered the loss of an unusual goal. In the 22nd minute Koscielny, who was the last defender, stretched a leg and deliberately made contact with a pass from Seamus Coleman. That touch nudged the ball on to Saha, who was behind him. The forward took his opportunity impeccably and no flag was raised.
The referee, Lee Mason, seemed to review the episode on the screen at the Emirates; he then consulted an assistant, Stephen Child. The offside law can be tortuous in its modern form and, unusually, both managers agreed afterwards that the goal ought not to have stood. Unsettling as it was for Arsenal, there had been more fundamental difficulties for them in the sluggish start they had made to the match. They might have had superior means to Everton but the hosts were conscious of one absentee.
With Nasri unavailable, Wenger could have been racking his brains over who could possibly assume the Frenchman’s responsibilities. The manager might have asked himself if that chap Cesc Fábregas could compensate for the loss of Nasri. Flippancy aside, the Arsenal captain is the club’s one player most capable of increasing his contribution and so helping to make this a season of real achievement for the club.
He has scored only three Premier League goals in the current campaign and his marksmanship was dubious here when he pulled a shot wide after he had been set up by a back-heel from Van Persie in the 17th minute. Fábregas is unlikely to come anywhere close to last season’s tally of 15 goals in the league alone, which he reached despite having his club season ended by a leg fracture in March.
There was a hint of another sort of impact in this match when he set up Van Persie but the centre-forward could not keep his balance and his attempt went high in the 37th minute. At that point Wenger’s men had not subdued the visitors and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov had to be denied by the goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, although the angle was tight.
Bookings for Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky gave the impression that the concentration levels of the Arsenal players were dubious. Everton, with an hour gone, had stopped their opponents from showing the normal grace. The visitors, indeed, were not always pinned down around their own penalty area.
Arshavin took over from Rosicky in the 62nd minute and he levelled the score eight minutes later. Arshavin was standing behind Jack Rodwell but it was the midfielder’s header from a chipped pass by Fábregas that set him up to equalise. Belatedly Arsenal were on course for a result that they will find curiously satisfying.
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