Fightback saved Arsenal's season, claims Wenger

Arsenal 3 Everton 1

So slight are the margins of error available to Arsenal that, on Saturday 18 October, more than seven months before the Premier League title is presented, Arsène Wenger declared: "We played for our season today." Although it was uttered with the benefit of hindsight – and three points which, if Wenger's argument is followed, kept his team's campaign alive – it was still some statement.

Would it have been all over, after just eight games, if Leon Osman's first-half goal had not been cancelled out? "All over, no," Wenger said before pretty much saying it would have been. "You give yourself a big mountain to climb if you are seven points behind Chelsea," said the man who, before kick-off had watched much of their humiliation of Middlesbrough on television. "We have to stay as close as we can to the top. We lose here and we are seven points behind. That's too many."

It is going to make for a nervy time even with so much of the race to run and given Arsenal's injuries – Kolo Touré is the latest addition having strained shoulder ligaments which rules him out of tomorrow's Champions League tie away to Fenerbahçe – and what Wenger euphemistically calls a "compact" squad, there are reasons to be fearful.

Striker Robin Van Persie outlined one of them: "The whole squad realise that because we still have to play against the big teams there are lots of big tests for us on the way. We cannot really afford to lose any [matches] – especially at home and also away against some of the so-called smaller teams."

It seems the trauma of that home defeat to Hull City has caused plenty of damage to Arsenal who will look at the league table and realise that the only teams they have played so far who are in the top 10 – apart from the Tigers – are placed ninth and 10th.

"Personality" and "mental strength" are two qualities that Wenger harps on about and his hope is that the experiences of the last campaign, when Arsenal fell short by just four points having had the title under control, will be a benefit. "We deserve a lot of respect but we need to move on and we will be stronger this year," he said.

One player who is certainly stronger is Theo Walcott. As promised, Wenger rested the 19-year-old, who has started nine games for club and four for country already this season – but only for the first-half. He needed Walcott's pace and directness and what is increasingly becoming clear – his talismanic qualities – to overhaul an Everton side who, in that first period, looked the more threatening.

"If you compare with last season, he is exactly the same except he is now scoring," Van Persie said of his team-mate which, in fact, is a pretty significant difference. "There is lots of action from him and he's really quick." Not just quick but, Wenger said, "a turbo", who had "a big impact".

The Everton manager, David Moyes, brushed aside any attempts to get him to eulogise about Walcott. He has problems of his own to deal with and, despite signing a new five-year contract last week, there is an air of uncertainty around Everton, especially concerning the club's ownership. Moyes met that head on, admitting the lack of financial power had been a consideration as he delayed signing. "Yes, it was," he said. "I have to say that. But I do think – how many managers would like to be manager of Everton? I can think of hundreds who would want to do it and I can only think of maybe three or four who would not want to. Not all managers in football have money to spend and maybe my time is coming."

He then laid out a very specific comparison of the kind of owner he would like. "I look at Randy Lerner at Aston Villa and I see someone who has come in and gone about his job nicely and let the manager get on with his business and backed him," Moyes said. "They are getting the benefits from a couple of years of steady building."

Everton have had the benefit of Moyes' building and it was there to be seen again on Saturday in the promise of 17-year-old Jack Rodwell – playing as a holding midfielder but destined for central defence – and a 16-year-old and 18-year-old on the bench. And it was there as they pushed ahead when Osman combined with Yakubu before the former ferried the ball to Steven Pienaar. Osman carried on his run to side-foot home Pienaar's cut-back.

Gaël Clichy cleared Joleon Lescott's header off the line while Van Persie wasted three clear-cut opportunities before a crisp, low shot from Samir Nasri brought Arsenal level. Everton wilted. Pushed back they conceded again as Van Persie headed home from close range and then Walcott completed the scoring with a cool finish. It brought floods of relief.

Goals: Osman (9) 0-1; Nasri (48) 1-1; Van Persie (70) 2-1; Walcott (90) 3-1.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Song, Touré (Walcott, h-t), Silvestre, Clichy; Eboué, Denilson, Fabregas, Nasri (Diaby, 83); Van Persie, Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Vela, Ramsey, Gibbs, Hoyte.

Everton (4-1-4-1): Howard; Hibbert (Vaughan, 80), Jagielka, Lescott, Baines; Rodwell; Arteta, Fellaini (Saha, 74), Osman, Pienaar; Yakubu (Neville, 80). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Valente, Gosling, Wallace.

Booked: Arsenal Adebayor, Clichy. Everton Lescott, Hibbert, Pienaar, Osman.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Man of the match: Clichy.

Attendance: 60,064.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week