By David Alexander
Convincing or frustrating? Arsenal eased their way past Everton courtesy of Nicolas Anelka's sixth goal of the season, but despite totally dominating the game, one came away from the game wondering why it had not been more.
A slender lead is never comfortable when a player like Duncan Ferguson is putting himself about in the area and as Everton forlornly searched for an equaliser they never deserved, there was always the fear that they may get it.
Anelka's goal was sublime, blasting the ball into the far corner after Parlour's fine through ball. Anelka is the type of striker who will always score more goals from outside the area than inside the six yard box and he is growing in stature as his responsibility to lead the line increases.
He showed his confidence and skill with the goal, but later missed similarly tempting passes that should have been simple to collect.
He almost doubled our lead when latching onto a pass from Emmanuel Petit, but Everton keeper Thomas Myhre somehow blocked his efforts twice.
No wonder Arsene Wenger rates Anelka so highly, and we should remember that he is still learning the game, but for the Highbury fans, patience is not a word which sits well. It was all too easy in the first half. Fredrik Ljungberg flicked on a Parlour corner three minutes into the game that was somehow scrambled clear and he too is looking a better player with each passing game.
Ljungberg almost scored our second with a glancing header from another Petit corner, getting free at the near post and he later volleyed over from the edge of the box. It seemed only a matter of time before he too got on the scoresheet.
The two young forwards combined after half an hour, Anelka just placing his shot wide of the far post. Wenger said afterwards that he believes Anelka is way ahead of his time. He said: "Show me another 19 year old striker at a top club. He wants to be the best and has the talent and the ambition and we have to give him the time as well.
"He has not scored a better goal with his left foot". But Wenger added that he feared a repeat of the Southampton game while the lead was just one goal: "I had the Southampton game in my mind because we could not finish it and I was always scared. "It was a relief when the game was over and to grab three points was very important. We lack a bit of aggression in the box."
It was exhibition stuff, the Gunners showing their skills and playing with their opponents, creating chances for fun. But as with previous games this season, there was always the fear that one goal would not be enough. Arsenal should have had a penalty ten minutes from the interval.
Parlour ran through every Everton challenge and was just about to shoot when he was pulled back by Dave Watson, but referee Gary Willard turned away what seemed to be a clear spot-kick. Wenger thought it should have been given.
The opening period of the second half was memorable only for bookings to Martin Keown, Gilles Grimandi and John Collins and the likelihood of a red card increased. Indeed, the player who seemed to the victim of the harshest treatment was Ljungberg, who was felled almost every time he got the ball. Some of his tumbles were somewhat theatrical, probably the reason they did not earn the free kicks they deserved.
Vieira and Ferguson, who was also booked, niggled at each other constantly and their confrontation threatened to boil over. Vieira almost doubled the lead with a delicate glancing header from Parlour's cross and Overmars hit the side netting after Anelka had played him through. Still, a win is a win and Manchester United's draw lifts us nicely into second position in the table.