Rosicky thaws out a point for Arsenal

A novelist’s execution of pathetic fallacy is a delicate skill and requires a certain amount of literacy prowess, yet on Saturday afternoon at the Emirates the Premier League’s ever-inventive scriptwriters were clearly up to the task. In front of 60,000 frozen supporters, a tumultuous display of excitement and intensity personified the whirling winds and furious blizzards that engulfed Arsenal’s duel with Everton. Had it not been for Thomas Rosicky’s deflected strike, Arsenal’s second of the day, in the 92nd minute, then 3,000 Evertonians would have returned back to Merseyside last night equipped with the emotion of ecstasy instead of frustration to accompany there cold toes and runny noses.

For those over-zealous patriots who constantly bemoan the state of the Premier League and the influx of foreign players and managers, attending this game would have been the perfect antidote. From the off Everton were sharp, sharper than Arsenal as a matter of fact and even more so they were hungry. Biting at every heel, winning every ball, running every extra yard, signifying that they are once more contenders for Europe. They also proved wrong that old adage that the table doesn’t lie. Of course the Premier League table lies. It lies every week up until the last standings of the season when it comes clean and coughs up a truthful account of the last 38 matches. And when this day comes, if Everton aren’t in the top 7, or even in the top 6, instead of languishing in the pitiful lower regions of the league, then I will eat my proverbial hat and all its offal.

David Moyes has done an excellent job with Everton, an excellent job indeed. Even with nine players still missing through injuries, suspensions and international duty, most notably of all Mikel Arteta, Everton still bullied Arsenal for the best part of 45 minutes, with their typical English. No one better personifies this spirit than the 5 ft 8 Leon Osman, who makes up for his lack of height with his work rate, passion and skill. It was he who broke the deadlock midway through the first half, meeting a Landon Donovan corner with pace and power, to out jump William Gallas and put his side into the lead.

Despite Everton’s tenacity, with Feilani acting as the midfield battering ram whilst Osman, Cahill and Pienaar behaved like terriers at every Arsenal player’s heels, the reds didn’t lose heart. On fine form themselves, unbeaten in the league since the 3-0 demolition by Chelsea and confident of mounting a title challenge of their own, a fight back was inevitable. Aaron Ramsey, a very promising talent and one who is improving gradually game by game, was always calling for the ball and looking for options. Although he was picking himself up off the floor more often than finding his frontmen, he kept playing and kept working. Similarly Samir Nasri, still finding his best form after a broken leg, was constantly running at players, looking to provide the killer pass for Eduardo or Arshavin, and soon that pair combined for Arsenal’s equaliser. Latching onto Denilson’s pass, Arshavin knocked the ball from one foot to the other before laying it to Eduardo who in turn passed it back to Denilson whose long range shot cannoned off Osman, deceiving Howard and rolling into the net.

As the winds picked up at the start of the second half Arsenal continued to try to fashion a clear chance whilst Everton stood firm and defended from the front. A thick snowstorm isn’t the sort of conditions Landon Donovan is used to in the MLS, but he coped well and nearly provided the pass for Piennar to give Everton the lead, only for the ball to fractionally elude the South African. Cahill also created a potentially clinical chance for Everton, expertly out muscling William Gallas and striding into the penalty box only to pass straight to Abou Diaby. Arsenal also had their moments, with crosses from the left and right alluding Eduardo and Rosicky respectively, yet with ten minutes remaining neither team was yet to land the killer punch, a task that Piennar stepped up to and in doing so affirmed himself as a potential wild card for being a key player at this summer’s World Cup.

The way he took Cahill’s wonderfully crafted pass in his stride, strode clear of Samir Nasri and delightfully looped the ball over the flailing left hand of Almunia was nothing short of genius. The ball bobbled over the line, and Everton could see a well-deserved 3 points on the horizon. However, title challengers have a knack of gaining late points when they are un-deserved, and no more so than Arsenal, whose annual flurry of goals in the last ten minutes have made those North-Londoners seeking to beat the traffic bemoan there misjudgement on countless occasions. With 5 minutes of stoppage time awarded, Arsenal sensed a chance to come within 3 points of the Premier League summit, and Diaby helped to meat the requirements, striding unchallenged deep into the Everton half before providing Rosicky with a perfect chance to redeem his team mates previous insipidness.

This is a result which will do more for Everton than Arsenal, but if Arsene Wenger’s side are able to continue this run of form and begin to win these nervy encounters, as they did at Anfield, then this Premier League race may be a three horse one after all.

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