On Friday I remarked that this could be a weekend of opportunity and it proved to be true as Manchester United dropped points, Chelsea were thumped by Sunderland and — crucially — our boys beat Everton at Goodison Park.
So often we have failed to capitalise on the mistakes of the other big sides around us but Sunday couldn’t have been further from the truth. We were patient, classy and gritty and fully deserved the three points.
Despite a Tim Cahill header that sailed wide with the game still scoreless Everton did not seriously test Lukasz Fabianski before we were two goals to the good. Sebastien Squillaci and especially Johan Djourou were excellent at the back and had it not been for Marouane Chamakh’s terrible miss on the hour mark we would have gone three-up.
Before then came two moments of quality in a game-winning blitz either side of half-time.
Bacary Sagna slashed home a great shot after Andrey Arshavin pounced on Samir Nasri’s initial effort. It was just Sagna’s second goal since joining Arsenal — the other coming in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea that ended our title challenge three seasons ago — and didn’t he enjoy it! One wonders whether he had a cheeky dig at Gael Clichy after the game.
After a patchy first-half performance Jack Wilshere was substituted for Denilson as the manager tried to add some stability in the middle of the park. After the game Arsene Wenger commented that the Brazilian had been brought on “to win the second ball from headers”, a remarkable thing considering the article I wrote on our lack of aerial intelligence last week.
Denilson’s arrival made an impact early on, but not in the way that Wenger envisaged. The Brazilian dashed forward to release Cesc Fabregas, the Spaniard exchanged clever passes with Chamakh and fired home a superb low finish. At 2-0, even away from home against a team as good as Everton, the game looked won.
Everton predictably rallied but our team weathered the storm well. Fabianski was once again excellent when called upon while Djourou won everything in the air. Denilson’s presence gave Alex Song extra security in the midfield and in general we looked solid all over the park.
Given the excellent performance of our defensive unit it was a shame to concede late on. I thought Howard Webb’s role in the goal was crucial: he allowed Everton’s corner to be taken far too quickly after remonstrating with Sagna as the home side took advantage of the space afforded to them on the left. Predictably it was Tim Cahill who got the goal but in my mind, Webb should have ordered the corner to be retaken.
In the end the score finished 2-1 and an excellent three points were secured.
As we all know now Chelsea’s incredible defeat to Sunderland means we are just two points off the top, a week after defeat to Newcastle left us seriously doubting our title credentials. The latest news that Chelsea will be missing John Terry for “months” coupled with another mediocre Manchester United performance shouts a message loud and clear: the Premier League title is up for grabs this season.
I’ve said before that tighter, hard-working victories are often more rewarding than comprehensive thrashings and I suspect our boys will be extremely pleased after navigating two difficult away fixtures. Wolves gave us a hell of a good game on Wednesday afternoon and although Everton were a little below-par for their standards, they showed enough to suggest that they will nick some points off the other big boys at Goodison this season.
Next up is the North London Derby. A win their against the darlings of the English media, the conquerors of Inter Milan, regardless of other results, will send out a huge message to the rest of the league. I’m already excited.
Just a quick message today to add that due to me starting a new job in Berlin, I’m going to decrease the amount of posts on AFCB for the time being. For me quality always comes before quantity and for that reason, for the moment, I’m going to drop back to two or three detailed posts a week (match reports and features) and handle more of the news-style posts on Facebook and Twitter.
I have to say that in my bid to improve the AFCB by adding new writers and perspectives, my own personal relationship with the readers has fallen away a little bit. I used to reply to virtually every comment directed to me and was far more active on Facebook and Twitter. I hope that by making this slight change my own quality of writing on the AFCB will improve and I can get far more involved in the community once again. I hope everybody understands.
Oh, and to everybody who wished me a happy 25th birthday yesterday, thanks! I really appreciate it.
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