The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Everton
The battle between the Premier League’s most unpredictable sides.
- Arsenal 2-0 B Munich (CL)
- Watford 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 3-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-3 Olympiakos (CL)
- Leicester 2-5 Arsenal (Prem)
- Everton 0-3 Man Utd (Prem)
- Everton 1-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- WBA 2-3 Everton (Prem)
- Reading 1-2 Everton (LC)
- Swansea 0-0 Everton (Prem)
The last time these two sides met in the Premier League back in March, they were both in turmoil of sorts.
Arsenal were fresh off a disappointing 3-1 home reverse at the hands of Monaco in the Champions League last 16, while some sections of the Everton fanbase were calling for Roberto Martinez's head following a terrible run of form which could be attributed to their ultimately doomed pursuit of Europa League glory.
Six months down the line, however, and both sides are in much better shape than they were last time out.
Arsenal come into this fixture on the back of another European home game, although their fortunes couldn’t be more different.
The Gunners went into Tuesday night’s clash against Bayern Munich fully aware that only aiming for victory would keep their hopes of advancing to last 16 for the 16th consecutive season alive, but Arsene Wenger’s side defied all expectation to secure a famous 2-0 victory courtesy of a disciplined performance.
Petr Cech was particularly impressive; pulling off some spectacular saves to keep his side in the game and in the process was rewarded with a third consecutive clean sheet in all competitions.
Wenger’s men have also been unstoppable of late in the Premier League, and sit second just two points off Manchester City after five wins from their last six, 14 goals and only four shipped at the other end. Arsenal have the joint-best defensive record in the league this season (seven goals conceded, the same as Spurs).
Alexis Sanchez has also returned to his scintillating best with 10 goals in his last six games for club and country. But the supporting cast have been in a good knick themselves: Mesut Özil and much-maligned forward Olivier Giroud grabbed both goals in Tuesday’s vital victory, after both played an important role in the Gunners’ dizzying second-half display at Watford. With Chelsea faltering and Manchester United struggling to convince, Wenger's side can mount a serious title challenge.
Everton, for their part, appear to have put last season’s dismal performances behind them with a decent start to the new campaign, although last weekend’s shambolic 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Manchester United underlines the fact that Martinez’s side still have their work cut out – particularly in defence. The Toffees are currently eighth with 13 points – four behind fourth-placed West Ham – and have been on a good run themselves, losing just one of their last six league outings.
Several players have treated Everton fans to quality showings this season: Romelu Lukaku is performing on a consistent basis with five goals and two assists in his last nine games; Ross Barkley seems to have rediscovered his best form after slightly losing his way last season. Martinez’s side have been beset with injuries in defence this term but, rather heart-warmingly, youngsters Brendan Galloway and Tyias Browning have put in assured displays at the top level. Most importantly for Martinez, though, has been the form of John Stones. Tempted by a big-money move to champions Chelsea in the summer, the England international has put all that behind him and turned in a string of convincing performances with the calmness and determination that belies his young age.
Arsenal’s Champions League victory came at a cost: Aaron Ramsey pulled his hamstring midway through the second half and will therefore miss this game, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain expected to deputise.
Wenger’s post-match comments about Sanchez being exhausted following a hectic schedule suggests the Gunners’ chief may rest him, but given Arsene's previous use of the Chilean it seems unlikely.
Tom Cleverley and Steven Piennar both made their returns from injuries in Everton U21s' 1-0 defeat to Schalke in the Premier League International Cup on Tuesday, and could make the trip to the Emirates.
Tony Hibbert, Muhamed Besic, Leighton Baines all remain out but there are no injury woes for Martinez to contend with. Kevin Mirallas is back from suspension.
Key battle: Alexis Sanchez vs Seamus Coleman
Coleman had a day to forget against Manchester United’s Anthony Martial last time out, and the Irish international could be on the receiving end of another hiding against the in-form Sanchez. With most of Arsenal’s best play coming via the Chilean’s flank, Coleman faces a tough test on Saturday evening.
Sanchez’s tendency to cut infield from his nominal position on the left may also create problems for his Irish opponent. Everton’s right-back is one of the best in the Premier League and more than capable of dealing with the threat Sanchez poses, but he will need help from those playing ahead of him – especially Aaron Lennon – to keep the fleet-footed pitbull quiet.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Arsenal 2-0 Everton (PL, Mar 15)
- Everton 2-2 Arsenal (PL, Aug 14)
- Everton 3-0 Arsenal (PL, Apr 14)
- Arsenal 4-1 Everton (FAC, Mar 14)
- Arsenal 1-1 Everton (PL, Dec 13)
Wenger, understandably, is in good spirits following his team’s recent run of good results. "We had an absolute necessity to win and we did it in an intense, disciplined game," said the Frenchman. "It can strengthen our belief and the belief of the fans." Martinez was furious with his team’s slow start in the loss to Manchester United last week and will be looking for a response in order to halt Everton’s record of zero wins in their last 21 visits to Arsenal in all competitions. "It was very uncharacteristic," groaned the Spaniard. "We started quite slow, it looked like a group of players coming back from internationals."
Facts and figures
- Arsenal have lost just 1 of their last 16 Premier League meetings with Everton (W9 D6).
- Petr Cech has the best saves-to-shots ratio of any goalkeeper in the Premier League so far in 2015/16 (82.1%).
- Everton have scored 5 goals courtesy of substitutes in the Premier League this season, more than any other side.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
A close, entertaining encounter but Arsenal’s quality to eventually shine through with a 2-0 win.