Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Everton Previewed

Arsenal travel north tonight to play Everton in a Premier League game that's very important to both clubs. Everton currently lie in fifth place in the table one point ahead of Arsenal. With Chelsea looking vulnerable ahead of them and West Brom surely unable to hold on to third place there's an opportunity for either team to make progress up the league.

Arsenal are still struggling to find any decent form and they need to put a run of victories together. A return of 20 points from 13 games isn't good enough for a club that claims to have title ambitions. Any team that wants to challenge for the title needs a minimum return of two points per game.

For Arsenal to average two points per game they would have to win their next six league games. It's certainly not a feat that is beyond them, but the further that target gets from them the harder it will be to make up the ground.

Theo Walcott is available again after injury to play tonight and I would imagine he will play from the start. Jack Wilshere should also return after being rested for the 0-0 draw at Aston Villa. There aren't too many other changes Arsene Wenger can make as the lack of squad depth is shown up yet again.

I have no doubt that both Mikael Arteta and Santi Cazorla could do with a rest ahead of the really busy Christmas schedule, but the team cannot afford to do without them. The continued injuries to Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky have really hampered Arsenal's midfield options. There is a possibility Rosicky will be back very soon but he will take a while to get match fit while Cazorla continues to play twice a week.

One of the biggest decisions for the boss tonight will be the make up of his defence. I'm sure Bacary Sagna will return after also being rested against Villa, and Kieran Gibbs has to remain in the left back role. That means he has to choose two central defenders from Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen.

Vermaelen was the man to miss out against Villa but it was seen as a rest for him. He should be ready to return tonight and as club captain he will surely expect to play. That would mean Koscielny would drop to the bench with Mertesacker having to play as the outstanding player in that position this season.

It would be tough on Koscielny but I would be very surprised if the club captain was on the bench yet again. I thought Koscielny was starting to rediscover his form from last season and I think he is a better defender than Vermaelen too. His ambitions for club and country won't be helped by being kept out of the team, but hopefully it can spur him on to do even better rather than react badly.

Everton will pose plenty of problems for Arsenal and Marouane Fellaini in particular is a real handful. He missed the game against Norwich on Saturday through suspension and I'm sure he will be eager to come back with a bang tonight.

Everton have slipped a little in recent weeks after their great start to the season. They led away to Reading before being pegged back and losing and then Norwich came from behind to take a home point off them at the weekend. They were games Everton needed to win to continue challenging for a top four place and they will be anxious to make amends tonight.

I'm hoping Everton come out and play an open attacking game which will give Arsenal the chance to play their own game. Arsenal have really struggled to break down defensive teams and an open game suits them better. Everton have let in a few goals more than would like to have at this time of the season and Arsenal need to take advantage of their slightly suspect defence.

Having said that Arsenal's defence hasn't been great recently either although it has shown signs of improvement since Wojciech Szczesny's return from injury. They will have to be at their best tonight to cope with the threat Fellaini offers from set pieces.

I think Arsenal have a very good chance of taking all three points, but they will have to play an awful lot better than they did against Villa to win. Walcott's probable return gives them more attacking options and he might just get in behind Leighton Baines as Baines pushes forward. They have to take any good chances that come their way if they are going to win.

The most disappointing thing about the 0-0 draw with Villa was the lack of creativity in the team. They had scored 10 goals on the previous three games but rarely looked capable of making anything happen. Let's hope any fatigue the players feel can be left behind them tonight as they turn on the style against Everton.

I'm predicting a 2-1 win for Arsenal and I think Walcott could be a crucial factor in any win. A lot has been made of his exclusion from the Arsenal calander for next season, but he couldn't really be included given his current contract situation. They best way for him to get the money he wants from the club is to make himself irreplaceable on the pitch and if that happens he probably will stay.

A win for Arsenal tonight would certainly lift spirits ahead of Saturday's home game against Swansea and the trip to Olympiacos next week.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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