Vermaelen hauls Gunners above Spurs for first time

EVERTON 0 vs ARSENAL 1

MANAGER Arsene Wenger last night warned his in-form Arsenal team not to take their foot off the gas after a sixth straight Premier League win lifted them above neighbours Tottenham for the first time this season.

Defender Thomas Vermaelen’s first-half header – his second winner in successive matches – hauled the Gunners one point above Spurs, who enjoyed a 13-point advantage as recently as January.

A hard-fought and often nervy win also tightened their grip on a Champions League place that looked a forlorn hope just weeks ago, but Wenger was mindful not to succumb to triumphalism. “We must not think that the most difficult thing is done,” said the Frenchman. “Probably the most difficult thing still remains to do, and to achieve it it is important we keep humility, focus and fight for each other. That is what we had to do tonight.”

Nine games remain but Arsenal are now the highest-placed London team and head a three-way battle with Spurs and Chelsea for the remaining two Champions League qualifying places.

Recalled Aaron Ramsey blazed over from 10 yards before Vermaelen bravely headed captain Robin van Persie’s right-wing corner through a crowd of Everton defenders in the eighth minute.

Everton, who remain 10th, mounted strong protests when midfielder Royston Drenthe’s would-be equaliser was disallowed for offside – wrongly, it transpired.

Drenthe and Marouane Fellaini wasted later chances to level while Van Persie almost extended Arsenal’s lead, hitting a post from a Kieran Gibbs knock-down.