Thomas Vermaelen’s early goal secured Arsenal’s sixth successive Pemier League win at the expense of battling Everton.
The Belgian centre-back was also prominent in a resilient display from the Gunners defence to keep out the Toffees.
Arsene Wenger’s back four were excellent last night, though they were handed a huge slice of fortune when Royston Drenthe was adjudged to be offside before he slid the ball home, replays showed he was on by a yard or so.
The visitors did miss a number of chances, however, and had a strong claim for a penalty when Drenthe bundled over Tomas Rosicky.
Here’s how the two teams fared…
Tim Howard – 8/10
The American will be disappointed in his defence for the goal and he made a number of smart stops. Did not do anything wrong but will be relieved that he only conceded a single goal.
Tony Hibbert – 6
Another solid performance by the full-back, although he failed to track Aaron Ramsey on a couple of occasions during Arsenal’s early dominance.
John Heitinga – 6
Won most of his aerial challenges but struggled to cope with Robin van Persie’s movement early on. Steadied as the game wore on, but his Holland team-mate kept him honest.
Sylvain Distin – 6
Again, was reasonably solid apart from the first 15-20 minutes, but looked sluggish at times when losing midfield runnners. Tried to get forward late on but could not make a difference.
Leighton Baines – 6
Looked dangerous when getting forward – one cross especially caused concern in the opposition defence – but this was rare. Seemed shackled somewhat by the presence of Walcott.
Royston Drenthe – 7
Very unlucky to have a goal chalked off due to an incorrect offside decision and was lively. Delivery from wide areas needs to improve though and does not exploit dangerous positions nearly well enough.
Tim Cahill – 5
Lining up against his good friend Mikel Arteta, the Australian couldn’t really get into the game and was deployed deeper after 20 minutes. Was booked for a poor challenge and could have seen another for cynical trip on Theo Walcott.
Leon Osman – 5
Similar to Cahill in that he could not exert any great influence on proceedings. Headed wide in the first half but was ultimately subdued by Alex Song.
Steven Pienaar – 7
Worked hard out on the left and was part of the Toffees best work. Moved into a more central position later on but could not unpick a resolute defence.
Marouane Fellaini – 6
Was a constant problem in the air to the Gunners back four, but failed to elaborate on strong work early in attacks. Could have used the ball better on occasions but did at least provided some support to the lone striker.
Nikica Jelavic – 4
Not a great night for the Croatian where he failed to threaten at all and was handled effectively by Vermaelen. Caught offside on numerous occasions and looked off the pace – needs time to adapt to the pace of the Premier League.
Anichebe (for Drenthe 78’) – 5
Did not have much time and couldn’t get into the game at all.
Magaye Gueye (for Osman 78’) – 5
Was deployed to give more penetration down the left but Bacary Sagna was solid.
Denis Stracqualursi (for Cahill 87’) – 4
No time to do anything except stray offside in a crucial late attack.
Was nutmegged for the disallowed goal but did not have a lot to do most of the night.
Bacary Sagna – 7
Solid as ever form the Frenchman and did well to win some headers against Fellaini, but was booked for a late challenge on Pienaar.
An impressive performance and was very strong repelling most of Everton’s attacks in the second half. Even found time for one or two marauding runs.
Thomas Vermaelen – 9 MOM
Scored the winning goal and was everywhere at the back when Everton piled on the pressure. Showed why he is so integral to the success of this team.
Kieran Gibbs – 7
Dealt well with Drenthe mostly, forcing the Dutchman inside more often than not. Supported the attack well and is looking sharper with each game.
Alex Song – 7
Another solid display in defensive midfield, moving the ball on accurately without any of his now trademark through-balls. Got a huge let off with the disallowed goal as it was his poor pass that led to the chance.
Mikel Arteta – 6
It was always going to be an emotional return to his former home and it may have had effect on his display. Was more subdued than usual but his passing was steady without being spectacular.
Tomas Rosicky – 7
The Czech Republic captain was sensational again in the first 20 minutes, but his influence faded as defensive duties became more prevalent as the game wore on.
Aaron Ramsey – 7
Was reinstated to the starting XI after a period of injury and being left out. Was lively throughout but can’t seem to shake the look of being jaded – will welcome a summer rest. In an unfamiliar position on the left but fared well and should have scored early on.
Theo Walcott – 6
It was one of those performances where a lack of space to work him causes him to struggle. One or two decent forays into the Everton box but not a lot else.
Robin van Persie – 8
Although not on the score sheet (for once!) he provided the assist for Vermaelen’s goal – the 36th goal he has scored or provided this season. Movement, as ever, was sublime and constantly troubled the centre-backs.
Gervinho (for Walcott 79’) – 7
Not a lot of time to work in but managed to look dangerous and set up Van Persie to kill off the game, only for the captain to slip and shank over.
Djourou (for Rosicky 87’) – 6
Came on to help repel Everton’s late aerial bombardment and did his job.
How do you think the players played? Have GMF got it right? Comment below to let us know….