Arsenal defeated Everton 2-1 today at the Emirates pushing the Gunners to the top of the table, for the time being.
Arsene Wenger made three changes from midweek as Gabriel came in for Per Mertesacker (illness), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in for Aaron Ramsey (hamstring crocked, again), and Olivier Giroud in for Theo Walcott (Giroud earning a start).
Arsenal were well on top throughout the entire first half, but neither side were creating much in terms of goal-scoring chances. It was a bit of a sloppy match initially as there was a torrential downpour in North London.
In the 36th minute, Arsene's striker selection paid dividends. Mesut Özil was given far too much time on the right hand side of attack and played a brilliant cross which was gingerly flicked in off the head of Giroud. It was a brilliant pass which got the slight touch it needed to get past Tim Howard. It was the German's seventh assist in ten Barclays Premier League matches.
Arsenal quickly doubled their lead as Alexis Sanchez was brought down on the edge of the box. Santi Cazorla whipped in a free kick, Howard was in two minds, and Laurent Koscielny put the ball into the back of the net. It seemed that Arsenal would roll their way to another easy three points at home.
Unfortunately, Everton quickly got themselves back into the match. Oxlade-Chamberlain took a shot in a crowded penalty area that deflected back favorably. Ross Barkley was on the end of this counter as his shot took a huge deflection off Gabriel, leaving Cech stuck in figurative and literal mud as the ball went across the line.
The second half saw the Gunners largely on top, but with Everton showing more initiative on the counter and creating plenty of dangerous moments for themselves. The biggest chance for the Gunners came in the 69th minute as Giroud had a nice curled shot clang off the crossbar.
Arsenal put themselves in a little more danger than necessary late. Once Mathieu Flamini came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 81st minute, the nominal defensive midfielder took up a support striker role. In his defense, he had two decent efforts on goal, including a free header he put right at Howard. On the flip side, Arsenal were committing far too many men forward after bring on players (Kieran Gibbs was the other substitute) to see the game out at 2-1. They were very nearly caught out right before the 90th minute as Gerard Deulofeu, Arsenal's diving, pouting nemesis on the night, had a clean look at goal only to be denied by the outstretched arm of Petr Čech.
The biggest chance for Arsenal, and a big one for Everton, late came in the 90th minute. Cazorla found Özil's diagonal run into the box which Howard had to come out for. The American came nowhere close but the best effort Arsenal could muster was a deflected Giroud shot. This led to a quick counterattack for the Toffees which saw Romelu Lukaku 1v1 against Gabriel in the box. The Belgian showed too much of the ball and Gabriel thumped it clear, his fist rising with his body in celebration.
Everton suffered actual injury to the insult of this loss as Gareth Barry picked up a red card late for a second yellow card foul in the last moment of stoppage time.
Not only was the result positive, but Arsenal managed to avoid any further injuries to players in the red zone today. Alexis, Mesut, and Santi, among others, will have a full week of rest before a crucial run of matches against Swansea City, Bayern Munich, and Tottenham.
The Gunners will at least be on top of the table for a day, pending the result of the Manchester derby.