By Randy Osae
With the pressure on amid poor results in past weeks, Arsenal were very much up against it today, but despite trailing at half-time, the Gunners raided Everton for a 3-1 comeback victory.
Injuries to several of the back four’s causalities meant Mikael Silvestre and Alex Song filled in for Gallas and Sagna. Walcott was rested so Eboue and Nasri foiled Fabregas and Denilson in midfield.
Contrary to the usual Arsenal, they picked up from where they left off with their sluggishness at Sunderland as Everton looked expert at creating an uncomfortable atmosphere at the Emirates during the opening minutes.
And it was not much of a shock when Leon Osman started and finished a move that caught Arsenal careless. The English midfielder had set up Steven Pienaar on the left and the South African cut the ball lowly for Osman to guide it home with Song, Silvestre, Clichy and Almunia all stranded.
As usual, Arsenal made a deceiving response to the concession of that goal after just 8 minutes when Van Persie beat Lescott but saw his shot denied by Howard. With Arsenal’s opponents very well organized to stop them these days, Everton weren’t any different, and so the Gunners relied on Fabregas’ long balls which either caught an offside Adebayor or a bullied Van Persie.
Arsenal’s task to bounce back would have been deemed impossible had Clichy not been guarding the goal line to deny Lescott’s header which had beaten Almunia well enough. Wenger’s men later went into half-time only fancying a draw at most on the evidence of their last two league games.
Kolo Toure – the skipper for the day – was replaced for the second-half due to a shoulder problem while Theo Walcott was introduced. But quick moments after the restart, Arsenal really rode LUCK. Yakubu had shrugged off clumsy defending by Song to meet Almunia one-on-one, but Arsenal’s stopper was fortunately strong enough to disallow an embarrassing 0-2 deficit at home, and potentially an early call for ‘game over!’.
Soon after, a scrambled Arsenal corner-kick broke to Samir Nasri on the edge of the box, and the French youngster who had been anonymous as any other today stroke well to finally beat Tim Howard from 20 yards out.
Van Persie should have given Arsenal the lead when Eboue cut back a low cross to him, only to blast it into the stands with his right foot. But the Dutchman did make impressive amends the next time he was found in that area. Van Persie headed in from close-range as a rebound from Fabregas’ saved shot.
There was a showering relief sensed around the Emirates Stadium – most of it courtesy of Walcott’s introduction. Everton dared to push for an equalizer anyhow with the match now lacking it’s intensity. A little injury worry for Samir Nasri meant he went-off for Abou Diaby to make his first appearance of the season.
And with minutes away from the final whistle, Theo Walcott capped off his effective impact with his first league goal on Arsenal’s ground. The high-paced English star drilled the ball home after a cut-back from fellow substitute Diaby and initiated a return to form for the Gunners. Prior to the clash, Wenger had labeled this match “the season opener” due to the interruptions of the international breaks and of course, some shameful hiccups.