EPL: Late show augurs well for Gunners

EPL: Late show augurs well for Gunners
Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey (R) vies with Besiktas' Veli Kavlak (L) during the UEFA Champions League play-off first leg football match Besiktas vs Arsenal at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, on August 19, 2014.

EVERTON 2

(Seamus Coleman 19, Steven Naismith 45)

ARSENAL 2

(Aaron Ramsey 83, Olivier Giroud 90)

Everton would see this as the victory that got away.

The failure to win a home match they led by two goals with seven minutes to go was a disappointment they could certainly do without.

Arsenal would view yesterday morning's (Singapore time) 2-2 draw as a step in the right direction.

Critics may question their lack of fluidity as well as a worrying inability to seize the initiative in a game Everton controlled for 83 minutes.

But no one can fault them for not having the fight.

Among the chief complaints about Arsenal in recent years has been their tendency to implode when the going gets tough.

This may be the first sign that they are finally getting it right in the head.

Titles won't be won with the kind of insipid display that the Gunners produced for the majority of the game, but they can be ground out through the pluck Arsene Wenger's men found in the nick of time.

Seamus Coleman's 19th-minute header and Steven Naismith's disputed goal just before the break had left the Frenchman seething, and culminated in him storming down the tunnel at half-time.

Wenger's fury

The officials' inability to spot Naismith in an offside position just before he struck merely sprinkled fuel over a raging fire. One suspects Wenger's fury had already been building up since the first whistle.

Then came Aaron Ramsey to deliver a late lifeline and set the stage for Olivier Giroud's sublime headed equaliser in the 90th minute. The late drama changed the complexion of Arsenal's performance entirely.

Wenger is too wily and experienced to get too caught up with the late escape, and ignore the bland affair that his team dished out for so long.

There was a clear rustiness that dulled the edges to their game, one which the Toffees detected early and began to draw confidence from.

But there are also mitigating factors.

The World Cup was an energy-sapping exercise for the players, which perhaps explains why none of the Premiership big boys have hit the ground running, except maybe for Chelsea.

Wenger had also played Per Mertesacker and Mesut Oezil, who, along with German compatriot Lukas Podolski, were on extended leave, for the first time this season.

Arsenal have enough quality. They will find their groove eventually.

Fighting spirit is what genuine title contenders can't do without.

In their opening match just over a week ago, they dug deep and found an injury-time winner against Crystal Palace through Ramsey. And now, this late show of defiance at Goodison Park.

They seem to be getting the hang of it.

garylim@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 25 in The New Paper.

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