So on the back of a slightly disappointing draw against newly promoted Leicester last week we have the first of the back-to-back home fixtures against two of the fancied teams expected to challenge for the league title. And we beat them both at home last season…
First up is Arsenal who we swatted aside easily last season at home with a 3-0 victory (see below). This gave all Everton fans the annual ‘hope’ that we might actually reach the CL places, but in reality it was possibly the last really good performance of the season seen by Blues fans.
The danger is of course that Everton fans and players alike think that the victory was so ‘easy’ that we’ll roll over them again without putting the same kind of effort in.
Head to Head/Previous Meetings
As mentioned above, the last game at Goodison was on Sunday 6th April 2013 – a 3-0 victory for Everton who went 2-0 up in the first half via goals by Naismith and Lukaku and never looked threatened after that point. The game was wrapped up with an own goal via lego-headed former ace Mikel Arteta. Weird how players get to be such snides when they move to the Emirates isn’t it?
Before that last match Arsenal were 13 games unbeaten against Everton (not including cup games) although the 3 previous games between the sides across both grounds had been draws, and the four matches before were all won by Arsenal by a single goal, showing that there really hasn’t been that much between the sides in the last few years. We’ll ignore their 4-1 win in the cup at the Emirates shortly before the 3-0 league win as we were chasing the game, etc.
Key Men/Areas – Everton
Our performance on the left side last Saturday showed once again that Baines and Pienaar are our most potent weapons when they are on song.
Last season Pienaar’s injuries and lack of good form meant that this was not available often enough, but they should be a test for Debuchy and Alexis, both of whom love to bomb forward. It’ll be an interesting dual to see who comes out on top.
Romelu Lukaku in the corresponding game last season was an absolute beast to handle, scoring a great individual goal to make it 2-0 and generally he caused havoc in the Arsenal defence. The thing is, he was pretty average last weekend and his great games are too far and few between for me at present.
He now has a hefty price tag to go alongside his potential and if he performs on Saturday he could make all the difference. Otherwise it could be a long afternoon for players like Naismith (who was excellent last weekend) and McCarthy/Barry who will have to do a lot of running to try and retain the ball without an effective outlet upfield to hold the ball up.
Key Men/Areas – Arsenal
An obvious one. Aaron Ramsay looks like he is going to be setting off as he did at the start of the last campaign (red card v Besiktas aside) with plenty of running and assertive forward play. It could be a long afternoon for Barry and McCarthy to track these runs through midfield at times.
In terms of other dangerous players, Alexis had a bit of an average game last week and Giroud was pretty awful, but they will play in the ‘Arsenal way’ and try and grind Everton down with their pace. Thank god that Coleman should be back for the Toffees to deal with this on the right, because John Stones clearly isn’t the answer out there!
It will be interesting to see whether Arsenal throw their German players (Mertersacker and Ozil) back into the side in such a frenetic game. I’d imagine the BFG will come back in in place of Chambers in order to deal with the Lukaku physical threat.
Well, hot on the heels of my prediction of a draw last weekend (okay, okay, I said 1-1, not 2-2) I would expect the same this Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
Arsenal will be desperate to avoid a damaging defeat such as last season, and Everton will be keen to show their fans that they mean business. Unfortunately for us I don’t think we will be firing on all cylinders just yet with some of our key players still trying to find their full fitness following the World Cup
So, another 1-1 draw predicted. Probably a penalty to equalize a Giroud header.
Booked: Barry, Coleman, Besic