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Match Preview: Everton v Arsenal; Festive or Futility?

Ah the festival season is well and truly upon us as the midweek league fixtures arrive in full force today. For us that means a trip to Goodison Park where Everton v Arsenal could put a crimp in our holiday season.

Honestly, I have a bad feeling about this match. Every inch of my fiber tells me to expect doom and gloom. I should mention I felt that way before West Ham away and Stoke at home. But there are signs.

First, Everton have only won 1 in the last 11. They’ve looked abject over the last few weeks after having started the season coming out of the blocks like Usain Bolt.

Conversely Arsenal have been going from strength to strength, having only lost 1 in all competitions over the last 8 matches. They successfully put to the sword two bogey teams in West Ham and Stoke.

So why worry, right?

Physics. With these two forces coming together – something has to give. One of the ducks is likely to be broken and as an Arsenal fan, I fully suspect we could see Everton come to life today.

Ronald Koeman had a great blue print for beating Arsenal. His former side Southampton, pressed high and won the ball in the attacking third consistently and capitalized on our mistakes. They walked out of the Boxing Day match up with a well-deserved 3-0 win.

In that tie, we looked completely surprised with how ferocious Southampton played. It completely caught us off guard and it played into the repeated theme of last season – overlooking opponents we should beat.

Now, fast forward to this season. We have been better at playing against teams that we should beat. In fact we’ve been downright deadly. Still with the matches coming thick and fast now, we can’t lose sight of what’s at stake.

Against Stoke City, going down 1-0 on a penalty call, Arsenal remained patient and found a way through Stoke’s set up. Tonight, we’re going to have to be equally as patient and can’t get fussed with how Everton plays against. We should fully anticipate that this side will be hungry and prepared.

What is different is the midfield. Southampton had Victor Wanayama. Wanayama is a disciplined midfielder and made it hard on us to play through the middle. Everton aren’t blessed with that type of enforcer and it shows. They consistently get run over in the midfield.

What was interesting versus Stoke was how good our ball movement was in pulling them apart. If we didn’t have joy down one side we created an unbalanced situation with quick switching of the ball.

If Everton press against us then we need to move the ball similarly quickly and up to the forwards as fast as possible. We can’t and won’t be able to dwell on the ball. If it becomes a problem then we have to play more direct and take away the press.

Still, while I am worried, it’s not all doom and gloom. I just keep wondering when will the wheels come off this fun ride. When do we do something that allows all the negativity to come seeping back in?

It may not and frankly I’d love that but as an Arsenal supporter the last few years have allowed cynicism to become part of our DNA. Yes, we’re a better squad then we have been in the lean years but you still just wonder.

Still, we have a squad that is playing some fantastic football right now. We have arguably the best player in the league at this moment with Alexis Sanchez. When he is on form – like now – he is unplayable. He is partnered by one of the top five number 10s in Europe in Mesut Özil – who has given up assists for scoring.

The team is deep and today we may see some of that.

So why worry? We’re Arsenal that’s why.

Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Granit Xhaka. He is quietly turning in solid performance after solid performance.

Everton. Romelu Lukaku. He’s hurt us before and if given a chance he will do it again.

Probable Lineups: Everton v Arsenal 13 December 2016 Starting XI

click to enlargeInjuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Ramsey (toe), Mertesacker (knee), Welbeck (knee), Cazorla (achilles), Debuchy (achilles), Mustafi (hamstring)

Everton: Bolasie (ACL), Besic (ACL), Pennington (hamstring)

Last 5:
Arsenal: DDWWW

Everton: LDLDL

Goals Scored Per Game:
Arsenal: 2.40

Everton: 1.27

Goal Conceded Per Game:
Arsenal. 1.00

Everton: 1.27

Manager’s Point of View (Courtesy Arsenal.com)

“I said many times that we are 25, not 11 [players] and more than ever this season it has been proven,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “If we can maintain that spirit, that will help us be very efficient – especially over the Christmas period when even more will be needed.

“What pleased me most [against Stoke] was that we were 1-0 down and came back for the sixth time this season. Also, we kept our composure and didn’t rush our game.

“You feel we have built a level of trust and confidence in our game and we have to take care of that because it is an important quality. I would say that trust is linked with the fact we have players with more experience now – but also with the recent history of the team.

“When you build momentum, the pain of defeat is not in your mind and you just focus on how you want to play – that helps.”

“It is like Highbury, like Anfield, it is this kind of place where you have a very strong support and where you have a soul on the pitch and in the stadium,” he said. “That comes out with the pictures of the games from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s – the memories there.

“We know we have another big week ahead of us and we want to deal well with that. Everton is always a very important fixture in the schedule. It is always special. It is always a good atmosphere and a very tight game, but we want to do well and continue our run.”

Match Officials:
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (10M, 38Y, 1R)
Assistants: S Bennett, R West
Fourth official: M Dean

Broadcast Information:
UK: BT Sport: 19.45 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 2:45 PM EST

YAMA PREDICTS:
Everton 1 – 2 Arsenal

Match Facts (Courtesy FourFourTwo.com via Opta)

  • Everton’s only win in their last 18 league games against Arsenal was their 3-0 victory in April 2014 (D6 L11).
  • Arsenal have won more Premier League games against Everton (29) than they have against any other side.
  • In fact, Everton have lost 93 times to Arsenal in the league, the most defeats by one club to another in English league history.
  • A win for the Gunners at Goodison Park would make it their 12th in the Premier League there – only at Villa Park (12) have they obtained as many away wins at a single ground.
  • Everton have conceded exactly two goals in each of their last four league games against Arsenal.
  • Olivier Giroud has scored five goals in his last six games against Everton in all competitions.
  • The Gunners haven’t lost on a Tuesday in the Premier League since February 2006 v Liverpool (W10 D7).
  • Romelu Lukaku has scored (9) or assisted (3) 12 of Everton’s last 15 Premier League goals.
  • Since the start of 2013-14, Lukaku has scored 52 of Everton’s 187 Premier League goals (28%) and no other player has more than 20 goals for the club in this period.
  • Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 26 goals in his last 26 Premier League appearances for Arsenal (18 goals, 8 assists).

 

 

 

 

 

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