x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Arsenal still hopeful in Champions League chase despite being held by Everton

A robust Everton performance saw them hold Arsene Wenger's side to a goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal's Theo Walcott is challenged by Sylvain Distin of Everton.
Arsenal's Theo Walcott is challenged by Sylvain Distin of Everton.

Arsenal 0 Everton 0

Arsene Wenger insists his side still has what it takes to achieve a top four finish this season despite being held to a goalless draw by Everton last night.

Arsenal had won four league games in succession to move above London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the chase for Champions League qualification.

But David Moyes' side's determined performance at the Emirates Stadium left Arsenal just two points clear of their rivals, who have a game in hand.

"We should have won the game, but it still keeps us in a strong position in the race for the top four," said the Arsenal coach afterwards.

"We had the chances to score, and that's my regret. Maybe we used power instead of technique too much in our finishing.

"My belief was always strong and still is. I am confident we will do it. The best way is to put the same effort into the next game."

Everton's physical approach to the game was enough to outmuscle Wenger's side, who saw Olivier Giroud fail to properly test Tim Howard with his best opportunity of the game.

It was a lively start by Everton and after six minutes, Steven Pienaar was played into the right side of the Arsenal penalty area by Seamus Coleman, but lifted his shot over both goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and also the crossbar.

Chances were few and far between, as Victor Anichebe squirmed a shot away in the Arsenal six-yard box, which hit a defender and then Szczesny's legs before being gathered.

On 41 minutes, Giroud should have put Arsenal ahead when Aaron Ramsey got away down the right and swept the ball back through the penalty area, where the French striker arrived at pace ahead of goalkeeper Howard - but stabbed the ball wide.

Santi Cazorla's angled shot was blocked as Arsenal finished the half strongly. The Spaniard tested Howard again following the restart with a rasping half-volley as Arsenal looked to break down the stubborn visitors.

Everton, though, refused to lie down and were awarded a free-kick just outside the penalty arc in a central position when Mikel Arteta tripped Pienaar - but Leighton Baines fired it into the wall.

Ross Barkley was inches away from slotting Everton ahead with a curling effort after sidestepping a couple of challenges on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. Giroud then showed good footwork to fashion a shooting chance from a tight angle, but blasted over.

There were plenty of hefty challenges from the visitors, notably from Darron Gibson in the first half on Theo Walcott - with the midfielder fortunate not to have been shown two yellow cards in succession by referee Neil Swarbrick for body-checking the England winger.

"I felt that in the first half the referee didn't deal at all well with the intimidating physical challenges, but that we responded well to the physicality," said Wenger.

"It was detrimental to the fluency of our game, but we kept going, had good concentration. But that is part of the game. We had to deal with that.

"You have to respect the effort Everton put in. They decided to make it very physical for us to disturb our game and sometimes went a little bit over the edge, but the referee had to make the right decision.

"I don't blame Everton for that. 'Protecting' is a big word, but they (referees) have to make the right decisions."

Everton boss David Moyes, meanwhile, defended his side's robust approach.

"Do you mean when we were a little bit rough with the tackling?" he said afterwards. "Up north we do that quite often, that's actually allowed in football.

"We weren't going to come here and let Arsenal stroke the ball around and make 600 tackles."

"I am pleased with the performance, and with the result. You are never disappointed taking a point at the Emirates, you can't be with the quality they have here.

"We went to try and win it. We knew if we got three points here we would have a real chance (of the top four), but a point keeps us ticking along."

Everton remain in sixth place, a point behind Tottenham, but having played a game more, leaving Moyes with what he concedes will be an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League.

"I think that result suits Spurs more than anybody... but I don't think we are out of place where we are.

"It is hard for us compared to clubs like Arsenal, but we go out on the pitch and do everything we can to beat them, make sure they don't beat us.

"I would take [the Europa League] but I am going to try and get the Champions League - if we are still getting that mention in mid-April, then it is not bad for Everton."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE