April 4, 2014
Draws are never ideal. You always want the full three points. But sometimes you see them as two points lost, others as a good point earned. Our last two games are perfect examples of this.
After a less-than-stellar first half against Swansea, Arsenal stormed back only to surrender the lead in the final minutes. Sure, we didn’t lose, but there was very little satisfaction from that single, solitary point.
But Saturday's result against Manchester City had a very different feel.
The visitors took advantage of a counterattack and went ahead after 18 minutes on a somewhat fluky goal by David Silva. But we played our way back into the game and arguably were the better side going into the break.
Arsenal poured on the pressure after the restart and were rewarded within eight minutes. After some quality build-up Lukas Podolski sent in a fantastic cross from the left side toward the penalty spot. Mathieu Flamini read it all the way and pounced on the ball and whipped it past Joe Hart for the equalizer.
The flow of the game went back and forth over the remaining 30 minutes, but Arsenal looked the stronger team. We created a few decent chances, but in the end settled for the point.
A good point.
Arsène Wenger described it as "a game of quality" and said that it was "played with a great spirit on both sides." He later added, "We have shown we can fight and be united, that we can respond to adversity and they are the positives of the day.”
The boss did admit to a bit of frustration at not picking up all three points, but was happy that his squad responded to criticism they had picked up from the previous two matches.
Flamini agreed that it was an important result, albeit not entirely what they wanted. "It was important for every single player in this team because it was difficult after what happened at Chelsea," he said. "We wanted to find a victory but it was important to find something from the game."
But it wasn't just down to the team's spirit or mental strength. Mikel Arteta heaped praise on the home fans for helping to push them on. "When we have the crowd behind us, it gives us something extra," he said. "We have got the crowd back with us now and hopefully we can finish the season strong because there is still a lot to play for."
With six games to go, only seven points separate the top four teams in the Premier League. Talk of the winning the title slowed to a crawl after the loss to Chelsea, but 18 points still up for grabs it is a bit premature to declare Arsenal's season over. And that's not including the FA Cup.
But for now, the biggest reason Arsenal need to finish strong is the threat of this weekend's opponent. Everton are three points behind us for fourth place with a game in hand. Roberto Martinez has the Toffees playing some spectacular football of late and they are currently on a five game winning streak. On top of that, Everton have scored three times in each of their last three games. Interestingly, they have only once scored more than one goal against us in our last 22 Premier League match-ups.
Still, Everton played well against us in their first visit to the Emirates this season, going home with a point after a late equalizer by Gerard Deulofeu. And our win in the FA Cup was not nearly as comprehensive as the 4-1 scoreline might suggest. The fact is, this Everton side are confident and composed and will be flying at home behind the Goodison Park crowd.
The Toffees have many weapons, from Romelu Lukaku up front, to Ross Barkley in the middle, and Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines at full back. They will be dangerous from kickoff until the final whistle.
One extra bit of wariness comes from it being an early away kickoff. Those have not worked out so well for us this season. If we can take anything from it, it's that it is not the dreaded 12.45 p.m. start, but a hopefully less cursed 1.30 p.m.
On the positive side, Arsenal have received some timely good news on the injury front. Aaron Ramsey is slated to return to the squad after missing the last three months with a thigh injury. Granted, It would be silly to expect him to pick up where he left off from a goal scoring standpoint, but it's definitely good news to have him back in the fold – even if he's just as an option off the bench.
Want another feel-good story? Abou Diaby is also back in full training.
It's a hugely important game for Arsenal. A loss would make for an incredibly nervy run-in. A draw, while certainly not ideal would keep a small cushion between us and Everton. But a win would be a great kick-start going into the final six games of the season – and more importantly into next weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Wigan.
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