Saturday, 24 October 2015

Arsenal v Everton Preview

The midweek win over Bayern Munich has to be the highlight of Arsenal's season so far and those three crucial points have kept their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages alive. It's still going to be an uphill struggle starting with the return game in a couple of weeks when any points gained would be massive. For the moment though it's back to Premier League action with Everton paying a visit to the Emirates on Saturday evening.

The game gives Arsenal a chance to ascend to the top of the table if they can take all three points with City not playing United until Sunday. I don't know if I could ever bring myself to cheer for United,  but a draw wouldn't be the worst result either and would leave Arsenal trailing City on goal difference only as long as Arsenal beat Everton. That's no foregone conclusion against a team who seem to save some of their best displays for games against Arsenal.

Everton were well beaten at home by United last week and another performance in that mould would suit Arsenal nicely. Everton have been good away from home so far this season though and are unbeaten on their travels as well as having the best defensive record away from home. They will fancy their chances of sitting deep and using Romelu Lukaku's power and pace on the break.

I'm not sure why they have done so well against Arsenal in recent seasons, but I suppose it's because Arsenal play a game which suits Everton. Like so many other Premier League teams Everton can and will take advantage of any team who don't play at their best or show them enough respect. Arsenal have more than enough to beat them as long as they treat the game as importantly as the did on Tuesday against Bayern or against United a few weeks ago. 

Everton have got some good results at home to Arsenal in particular and haven't won an away game against them in their last 21 attempts. Arsenal have won 17 of those 21 games too, but in the last few seasons it's been far from easy at home to them despite Arsenal usually ending up on top. 

In team news the injuries are starting to become a bit of a worry with Mikel Arteta picking up a knock in training and Aaron Ramsey obviously out after going off with a hamstring injury against Bayern. David Ospina won't be available for a few weeks either which means he won't play the midweek Capital One Cup game against Sheffield Wednesday. Arsene Wenger would usually make wholesale changes for that game as he did in the last round victory over Spurs, but it's hard to see who he has available to rotate in front of the defence.

The team are right up there challenging at the top of the league and their Champions League hopes are still alive too, but the squad is threadbare when it comes to backup attacking options. With Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky all out until the new year it means the Arsenal bench today will probably have Joel Campbell and Olivier Giroud as the only attacking options if it's the same team that started against Bayern with the exception of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in for the injured Ramsey. Chamberlain certainly needs a run in the team, but he's only in it by default thanks to the Ramsey injury. Let's hope he takes the opportunity with both hands and can remember to stay switched on for his defensive duties as well as thrilling in attack.

The defensive options are a lot more positive at the moment with the exception of the goalkeeping situation. Ospina's injury has meant academy player Matt Macey has been on the bench for the last two games with all the other first team goalkeepers out on loan. An injury for Petr Cech would be a real worry, but hopefully it's something that won't come to pass. 

We're been through the old "we've turned a corner" scenario too often in the past to think the team will continue in the current vein. It's rarely boring as an Arsenal fan because the highs are far too often followed by self inflicted lows, but hopefully the team will keep up their current form. It would be great to see them on the top of the table tonight and to put a bit of pressure on the two Manchester clubs before they play tomorrow.

I don't expect too many changes to the team from Tursday night and there can't really be too many with the lack of attacking options. Maybe Giroud will come in for Walcott although he's becoming a bit of a "super sub" with goals seeming to come almost as soon as he's introduced from the bench. What I do expect is a win and hopefully that's exactly what we will get.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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