Arsene Wenger’s last roll of the dice.
In the last week, Arsenal have gone out of both the FA Cup and the Champions League. Granted, one was much more of a surprise than the other, but the long and short is that all the Gunners’ eggs are in one basket before we’ve even reached Easter. Oh, and they’re 11 points off the pace.
It’ll come as little consolation to the north London club’s seething fans, but they’ve been in worse positions in the not-too-distant past. Before the back-to-back FA Cup wins of 2014 and 2015, the Gunners endured three straight seasons of early cup exits – and in the latter two years it was a top-four spot they were chasing from way back, rather than the main prize.
In fact, creditable exits from the Champions League – and Wednesday evening’s 3-1 defeat at Camp Nou was hardly shameful – have generally inspired a domestic late-season surge. Last year’s almost-comeback against Monaco was followed by 18 points from nine Premier League matches, the previous year’s fruitless draw at Bayern was followed by 20 points from 10, and 2013’s away-goal loss to the Bavarian outfit inspired a run of 26 points from the final 10 fixtures.
Arsenal, and Wenger in particular, need a similar upturn this time around. They’ll aim to start that at Goodison Park, where Arsenal have lost just once in the previous eight seasons (a 3-0 humbling towards the end of 2013/14).
Everton's form this season has been mixed at best: Roberto Martinez’s men have won just two of their last 11 home league matches, and those were against Aston Villa and Steve McClaren’s Newcastle. Mercifully for Martinez – another manager facing questions from sections of his own fanbase – the FA Cup performances have been better. Last weekend’s victory over Chelsea has given the Merseysiders only their third FA Cup semi since winning the competition back in 1995.
It would be understandable if the cup became Everton’s primary focus from here on in, which would be music to Arsene’s ears. He simply cannot afford to lose this match.
Facts and figures
- Olivier Giroud has scored 5 goals in his last 5 games in all competitions against Everton, including in each of the last 3 league meetings.
- In 5 appearances (all comps) against the Toffees, Mesut Ozil has scored 2 goals and assisted 4 more.
- Everton have won just 1 of the last 18 matches in all competitions against the Gunners (D6 L11).
- Arsene Wenger’s side have won none of the last 3 league trips to Goodison Park (D2 L1).
- Everton have won just 1 of their last 8 league games at Goodison Park (D2 L5).
- Arsenal have won just 2 of their last 9 league matches on the road (D4 L3).
- Arsenal’s title challenge has faltered in recent weeks with the Gunners taking just 10 points from the last 27 available (W2 D4 L3).
- Arsenal have fired in the fewest shots on target from outside the box this season (25) and scored the joint-fewest goals from long range (2, along with Watford and Leicester).
- Roberto Martinez’s team have committed the fewest fouls in the Premier League this season (235).
- Only Arsenal (33) have picked up fewer yellow cards than Everton (36) in the top flight this season.
Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas are both suspended for the hosts, who may once again opt to leave John Stones on the bench in favour of the Chelsea-defying duo of Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori.
With Petr Cech still out, Arsenal must once again give the gloves to David Ospina. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also remains sidelined. Wenger is likely to rotate following Wednesday evening’s battle at Barcelona.
Key battle: Aaron Lennon vs Nacho Monreal
Saturday’s lunchtime encounter will pit Arsenal against a familiar foe. Former Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon has a history of scoring against Arsenal, having netted three times in north London derbies; he has also scored six times for Everton in 2016, most recently against West Ham, while at Aston Villa he was the Toffees’ busiest passer in the final third.
Attempting to stop him will be Nacho Monreal, who has been among Arsenal’s more consistent performers this season. In the home win against Leicester that so raised Gooner hopes, he kept Riyad Mahrez quiet and won 5 of his 7 tackles.
What won’t happen
The result to be met with suitable emotion by Arsenal fans on Twitter and YouTube.
What will happen
The result to be an impressive 3-1 away win, which prematurely reignites talk of a title push.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.