It's back to Premier League action tonight for Arsenal, as they play at home to Everton. At this stage of the season Arsenal are in a situation where they have to keep winning their league games to keep in touch with the leaders "Manure". The gap at the moment is five points with 13 games to go, and "Manure" have a tough run of games at the end of the month. It also has to be considered that Man City are only a point behind Arsenal having played a game more, and Chelsea are five points behind Arsenal.
Everton have had some good results against the better teams in the Premier League so far this season, with the exception of their 2-1 defeat at home to Arsenal. They will be keen to avenge that reversal tonight, and their away record is not too bad so far this season. They have been very hard to beat, as they have lost only three times in 12 games, but they have only won twice as well. That means that they have drawn seven times, and that's not a result that would do much good for Arsenal's title ambitions. Everton may be 14th in the table, but Liverpool showed how tight that table is by climbing up to seventh with just two wins in a row. Everton will know that they just need to do the same thing to be back in the race for a Europa league place.
Much has been made of Arsenal's very poor performance in their rather fortunate win over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup on Sunday. They got the result they wanted without having to play too many of what is regarded as the first team, and with tonight's game coming only two days later that was important. It would have been far better if the players blew Huddersfield away in style, but once Samir Nasri went off injured they lost focus and drive. The introduction of Cesc Fabregas for the last 20 minutes was the catalyst that Arsenal needed to turn the game their way, although I'm sure Arsene Wenger would have preferred if he didn't have to come on to rescue the game.
Arsenal also lost Denilson to a hamstring injury in that game, although I don't think he would have played tonight anyway. With Nasri being out for a few weeks it probably means that Andrey Arshavin will have to play tonight, and he put in a hard shift on Sunday afternoon. The other player that had to play all of that game, and will be in action tonight was Laurent Koscielny, and Alex Song played all of the second half too. I think that Koscielny, Song and Cesc should all be well capable of playing again tonight, but I can't see Arshavin lasting the full 90 minutes.
At this stage the Arsenal team more or less picks itself for Premier League games, and the inclusion of Arshavin for Nasri should be the only change from the 3-0 victory over Wigan Athletic a week and a half ago. January was a very busy month for Arsenal with nine games, and February is shaping up to be very busy too. After tonight's game the players are away to Newcastle in the league on Sunday, and then they have the luxury of a whole week without a game for the first time since somewhere back in December. It's a break they have to take advantage of, by recharging their batteries before they get down to the really serious business of a game against Barcelona in the Champions League, and a Carling Cup final against Birmingham City.
Luckily for Arsenal the fixtures have fallen pretty well for them, and that trip to Newcastle is their only away game between January 19th and March 8th, with the exception of that Carling Cup final which will be held on the neutral territory of Wembley, which is only just up the road for Arsenal. It means that they will get to play all of those games in familiar surroundings, and not have to travel the length and breadth of the country when they are playing so many games.
Getting back to tonight's game, and the team that plays against Everton. It's become the recognised Arsenal first team with the exception of the injured Nasri, and they have played very well as a team. With Cesc driving the team forward, and Robin Van Persie in attack I am fully confident that there will be goals from Arsenal tonight. That means that they need to be tight at the back, and Arsenal have managed four clean sheets in a row in the Premier League at the moment. Their often derided defence has only conceded one goal more than leaders "Manure", two more than Man City, and three more than champions Chelsea. If they can keep up their gooddefensive form it will go a long way towards bringing home the trophies that the fans crave.
Everton will have to defend very well tonight to keep Arsenal at bay, and from what I have seen I don't think they are capable of it. They are very good going forward though, but their biggest problem this season has been scoring goals. Tim Cahill was scoring freely for them before he went to the Asian Cup with Australia, and thankfully for Arsenal he won't be available for tonight's game. I think that Arsenal will win a closely contested game 2-1 with Cesc again being the player to make the difference. I'm hoping for a great performance from Arsenal to put Sunday's poor performance out of the fans' minds, but any win will do at this stage of the season. It's often been said that Arsenal don't win ugly, but they certainly disproved that theory on Sunday. Let's hope that they can win by playing the beautiful game tonight.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at a great win by Arsenal over Everton a few years ago.
See You Tomorrow.