Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Everton Previewed

Arsenal play at home to Everton tonight in a game which could have a huge bearing in the outcome of the top four places in the Premier League. At the moment Arsenal are in third place with six games left to play and Everton are four points behind them. In between those two teams sit Chelsea and Spurs who are both one point behind Arsenal and Chelsea have an extra game to play.

A win for Arsenal would more or less rule out Everton's chances of finishing in the top four and even a draw would make it hard for them. A win for Arsenal would also give them a four point lead over Spurs and Chelsea before Arsenal travel to Fulham on Saturday. It's a huge opportunity for Arsenal to turn the screw on both Spurs and Chelsea.

In team news Per Mertesacker returns from suspension and Tomas Rosicky is back from his brief injury. Lukasz Fabianski might miss out though afrer picking up an injury on Saturday. Arsene Wenger has almost a full squad to pick from and will have to think long and hard about his selection.

If Fabianski misses out I can only imagine Wojciech Szczesny will play despite the fact that Vito Mannone was on the bench on Saturday. Szczesny has had his problems with form and confidence recently but he still has to be the better choice. Hopefully Fabianski will be passed fit to play as he has been impressive since coming back into the team.

I hope Metesacker regains his spot after his suspension as the defence looks better with him in it. I'm not impressed with Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny as a partnership and I think one of them will miss out to bring Mertesacker back in. The most likely player to miss out will be Vermaelen as the Mertesacker and Koscielny partnership has done well in recent weeks.

I would like to see the return of Nacho Monreal at left back too. I was a little surprised to see him make way for Kieran Gibbs on Saturday. I've been impressed with Monreal since he joined in the transfer window and Arsenal need to have the strongest team possible out tonight.

I have no doubt that Gibbs is a very good player and the only thing holding him back is his terrible injury record. He has never really got a long run in the team without succumbing to an injury. He's still one for the future though, but I think Monreal is a better option at the moment.

In midfield the options are vast and it's not easy to predict which players will play or what the best trio might be. I have no doubt Mikael Arteta will play but the other two to play with him are not so easy to pick. There are four players vying for two places and they all have a legitimate claim to be in the team.

Rosicky has been great since his return to the team and he was missed on Saturday. His energy and willingness to keep going forward have been a great asset to the team. He's probably the best option to play in the attacking role of the midfield trio.

If Rosicky doesn't play then it's a straight choice between Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere with Cazorla the obvious choice for me. I think Wilshere was probably brought back from his injury a little too soon on Saturday and might be better used in a substitute's role. There is no doubt that Cazorla is the better attacking choice of the two at the moment.

Aaron Ramsey has been very good in recent weeks and should expect to keep his place in the team. His work rate has been great and he gives his all to the team from first minute to last. Ramsey has often been the player to miss out in the past, but I think he might keep his place tonight.

If Cazorla doesn't play in midfield he will definitely play in one of the wide roles and I expect Theo Walcott to start too. If Cazorla is in midfield I hope Lukas Podolski gets the nod, as I think a front three including him, Walcott and Olivier Giroud is Arsenal's best front three. They have formed a good combination, but haven't had a chance to play together in a while.

Whatever team plays will have plenty of quality and so will the bench. There will be loads of options available to the boss if he wants to change things at any stage. The squad depth is pretty good at the moment with such a scarcity of injuries for a change.

Arsenal haven't performed too well in games against teams at the higher reaches of the table this season and can count the 5-2 victory over Spurs as the only one over a top six team so far. In the other games they were mostly unable to play consistently for 90 minutes and gave away some very bad goals. They need to be at their best tonight with so much at stake for them.

There's a very strong case for including Rosicky as he is the player most likely to set the high tempo Arsenal want and to keep it going too. If they can move the ball around at pace and get players moving off the ball they will cause Everton real problems. When Arsenal are on top of their game they can cause real problems to any team.

I'm not overly impressed with the Everton defence and I think Walcott could get some joy against Leighton Baines on Arsenal's right hand side. Baines certainly offers a lot going forward and from set pieces, but Arsenal can get at him if they get him on the back foot. Everton have other good players though who can cause Arsenal problems.

Marouane Fellaini is a handful for any team and a very real threat from set pieces in particular. Norwich showed at the weekend that Arsenal are still vulnerable to free kicks or corners well delivered against them. They will have to be at their best defensively to counter the threat of Fellaini in particular from Baines' deliveries.

Kevin Mirallas is also a man in form and he has scored some very good individual goals in recent weeks. With Victor Anichibe a good target man Everton will look to find him to take the pressure off them at times. No matter how good Everton might be they are not as good as Arsenal in my opinion and Arsenal need to show that tonight.

The quality available to Arsenal in midfield is second to no team in England and those midfielders can hold the key to victory tonight. If they can dominate Everton the chances will come and hopefully they will be taken. Arsenal left it very late on Saturday against Norwich but they kept trying and got their rewards in the end.

I think tonight's game will be very tense and very tight, but I think Arsenal will win. Their run of seven victories in eight league games had seen some real confidence come back into the team and to continue that run tonight is very important for them. This could be the game that tilts things in their favour in the race for a top four finish and a win is paramount.

Of course a draw is hardly the end of the world but it gives hope to the other teams in that top four battle. Hopefully Arsenal can show those teams they have little hope with a performance to show they will finish in a Champions League position yet again.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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