Arsenal is hosting Everton at the Emirates Stadium this evening for their Premier League clash; with both teams on relatively good runs-of-form at the moment.
The Gunners come into this match on the back of a nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions, whilst the Toffees have just one defeat in their last 11 league outings (W6, D4) to give them a two-point advantage over us in the league standings.
Since taking over the reins at the Emirates Mikel Arteta has made Arsenal a difficult side to beat. Our defenders, who were much derided for their inability to keep clean sheets prior to his arrival and even labelled “uncoachable” by Gary Neville, have really stepped up, and at a time we are missing quite a few through injury.
We went from a team not knowing where their next clean-sheet is coming from to having five in nine matches since the turn of the year, including three on the bounce in our last three matches.
This give credence to the opinion that we have a talented group of players who were either just under-performing or lacking the right guidance in recent times. And with the Arsenal faithful now starting to feel hopeful about their progression under Arteta’s care, concerns about his “lack of experience” has all but fade away.
Our attack still need to improve though, as too often their lack of finishing seems to undercut the efforts of our defence. That’s why it was so good to see Alexandre Lacazette ending his goal drought to score in successive games. If we can get a good spread of goals amongst our attackers, we should have a good chance to qualify for one of the European competitions next season.
Everton head to the Emirates in decent form, however, north London hasn’t been an easy place for the Toffees with their last victory away at the Gunners all the way back in January 1996. Something Carlo Ancelotti will no doubt hope to change.
Whilst defence remains an ongoing issue for the Italian, as their wins mainly comes from them having to outscore the opposition, there’s no doubt about their improvement since the days of fluttering above the drop zone under Marco Silva. Their leading goal scorers Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, with 20 goals and four assists between them, even caught the eye of some Europe’s top clubs.
Mesut Özil, Hector Bellerìn and Lucas Torreira all missed the trip to Greece but are expected to return; the former two to the starting lineup, the latter on the bench as Dani Ceballos continue his midfield partnership with Granit Xhaka.
The front-three could be the dream team of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pépé and Alexandre Lacazette, with the latter leading the attack.
Sead Kolasinac could replace Bukayo Saka, for some rotation to give the young ‘un a rest ahead of more games to come. Pablo Mari may be named on the bench, with Cédric Soares and Sokratis missing out.
The last time these teams met the match ended 0-0 as both coaches watched on from stands, but Ancelotti will fancy his teams chances this time round.
However, Everton’s good form is mostly at home with them somewhat inconsistent on the road. If you add their miserable history away to Arsenal, it certainly doesn’t look for the visitors. Ergo I think the Gunners may just edge this one, even if it could turn out being a very competitive match. COYG!