Giroud, Koscielny head Arsenal to win over porous Everton
LONDON (AP) French duo Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny headed Arsenal to a 2-1 victory over Everton by seizing on porous defending twice inside two minutes in rainy London on Saturday.
With a fourth consecutive Premier League victory, Arsene Wenger’s team provisionally moved top of the standings ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby. It came at the end of a week when the Gunners raised morale by stunning Bayern Munich with their first Champions League win of the season.
”It is a perfect week,” Wenger said. ”We have to keep the concentration, the togetherness and the humility.”
A scrappy game came to life in the 36th minute when Giroud, with his back to goal, rose above Everton defender Phil Jagielka and glanced a header past Tim Howard.
Giroud had to settle for coming on as a substitute in the last four Arsenal games but the striker justified Wenger’s decision to leave Theo Walcott on the bench this time.
”He recently made the difference coming on, today he made it by starting,” Wenger said of Giroud. ”I have interesting options. I just have to be wise enough to use him at the right moment.”
And Wenger feels vindicated that he did not bow to pressure from fans to add another target man to the squad this season.
”Walcott is outstanding and Giroud is outstanding at the moment. So that shows sometimes they need the confidence,” he said.
Arsenal’s second goal came from a less likely source, with Koscielny netting for the first time in the league since January. The defender flicked in a header from close range past Howard after meeting Santi Cazorla’s free kick.
”You need to anticipate danger,” Everton manager Roberto Martinez said. ”We need to learn from those lessons.”
Everton had provided little goal threat until Ross Barkley pulled one back before halftime with a shot that deflected off Gabriel Paulista.
After a shaky first half for Howard, the American went some way to making amending after the break by running out to block Alexis Sanchez. Only the crossbar denied Giroud a second goal with around 20 minutes to go, with Howard already beaten.
”We should have scored another one but the luck was not with me,” said Giroud, who has scored five goals in his last four games for club and country.
Everton pressed for the leveler, with Romelu Lukaku heading against the crossbar and Gerard Deulofeu denied late on by goalkeeper Petr Cech. In the final moments of the game, Everton was reduced to 10 men when Gareth Barry was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Kieran Gibbs.
Arsenal moved a point ahead of Manchester City, which is at fourth-place neighbor United on Sunday, as it chases a first league title since 2004.
Even the opening-day loss to West Ham looks less of a shock now for Arsenal given its London rival is only two points behind in third place after beating Chelsea on Saturday. Still, Wenger never expected to be top this soon – although it could be for less than 24 hours.
”I thought after 10 games, no, honestly,” Wenger said. ”I thought it would take much longer because Manchester City started with five wins. It was difficult to envisage we would come back.”
Everton is nine points back in 10th place after three games without a win.