Goodison Park, Liverpool
April 06, 2014; 13:30 BST
Everton host Arsenal at Goodison Park in a highly anticipated Premier League fixture which could have a massive impact on the race for the 4th place in the league table. The Gunners do have a good record against Everton and the Merseyside club’s last victory over Arsenal in this stadium came in 2007.
Everton are currently fifth in the league table – 4 points behind Arsenal – with a game in hand. This has added greater importance to the fixture at this stage of the season as the winner will have the advantage as we head towards the closing stages. Roberto Martinez’s men are coming into this game on a five match winning streak, their longest winning run since 2002. In their last match they managed a 1-3 win over Fulham, although the score line made it look more one-sided than it was. Everton have also managed to keep a strong record at home this season and they have faced just one defeat in Goodison Park, against Sunderland, in the league so far.
Arsenal on the other hand haven’t been in inspiring form off late. The Gunners have managed to win only five of their last 14 matches in all competitions – a run which has seen them move out of the title race and are now having to defend their fourth spot in the table. Although Arsene Wenger is adamant that his side haven’t given up on the title yet, the fact is that the FA Cup remains their only hopes of salvaging this season.
This will be a typical six-pointer match and one that can have massive impact on the final standings of both these clubs this season. Will Everton finally get into the Champions League by ousting Arsenal, or will Arsene Wenger show his experience and outsmart Roberto Martinez?
Team news and tactics
Roberto Martinez has a lot of injury concerns to contain with ahead of this fixture – something which might stretch his squad at this crucial point of the season. Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Arouna Kone and Lacina Traore are all still injured and out of contention. Steven Pienaar, whose last appearance was in the 4-1 defeat against Arsenal in the FA Cup, is also yet to recover from his knee injury.
Ross Barkley was the latest addition to this long list as he was forced to be substituted at the halfway mark during the match against Fulham. He will undergo a late fitness test ahead of this game, along with Kevin Mirallas, who made an appearance in the second of their last game. The good news for Everton is that Phil Jagielka is close to returning to first team action, which he has missed since the 1-0 defeat against Chelsea back in February, but is unlikely to start in this game.
Roberto Martinez is expected to make only two changes to the starting eleven he used against Fulham in their last game. Kevin Mirallas is expected to regain full match fitness and start this game in place of Gerard Deulofeu on the right. Steven Naismith, who scored Everton’s third goal against Fulham, is expected to replace the injured Ross Barkley in the line-up with Osman starting on the left.
Gareth Barry and James McCarthy will have to keep a close eye on Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla when they drift infield. If they can minimize the influence of these two players then Arsenal will struggle to create from anywhere else. In attack Mirallas will be the key to stretch the Arsenal defence with his pace and directness.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Howard (GK); Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas, Naismith, Osman
Arsene Wenger still has a long injury list to contain with ahead of this match. He has revealed that Laurent Koscielny, who picked up an injury in the match against Chelsea, is still at least a week away from return to full fitness – which means he could be available for the FA Cup semi-final clash against Wigan Athletic. But the biggest news for the Gooners is the return of Aaron Ramsey to the squad.
Arsenal have struggled in his absence as they have fallen off the race for the title, and although initially he was expected to be out for only six weeks, his return was delayed by few set-backs. Ramsey was expected to return before the North London derby, but it was later revealed that he is yet to regain full fitness and Arsene Wenger was unwilling to take chances by rushing him to the side. But the Frenchman has now confirmed that the 23-year-old will make his much awaited return to the squad ahead of Arsenal’s important clash against Everton. Nacho Monreal, whose last appearance was in the 0-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur, has also returned to training, along with Abou Diaby, who has been out for a long time.
Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere are still struggling with their injuries and Arsene Wenger insists that the German international is sure to miss the FA Cup tie. Wilshere and Walcott, who are out for the rest of the season, are making good progress on their way to recovery. The Frenchman has also revealed that left back Kieran Gibbs and Serge Gnabry have problems with their fitness as well.
Arsene Wenger is likely to make just two change to the line-up he used against Manchester City. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to replace Lukas Podolski in attack, which means Santi Cazorla will move to his role on the left, while Monreal is likely to replace Gibbs on the left, who is struggling with his fitness.
Containing the Everton full backs Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines will be of Arsenal’s prime concern. The Merseyside clubs are strong at the wide areas on the pitch and both the Arsenal wingers will have to track back to help out defensively.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Szczesny (GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal; Arteta, Flamini; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Cazorla; Giroud
- Everton have now won five consecutive Premier League games, their longest winning run since November 2002.
- No team has lost fewer games in the Premier League this season than Everton (five). They have only suffered one home defeat this season (1-0 v Sunderland on Boxing Day).
- Arsenal have only taken 13 points from a possible 33 in their games against the current Premier League top seven this season.
- The Gunners have only won three of their last 10 Premier League games (W3, D4, L3).
- The last three league meetings have all been drawn.
Player to watch-out for
Gareth Barry (Everton)
Signing the 33-year-old midfielder on loan from Manchester City have turned out to be one of the best piece of business by the Merseyside club. Barry has been one of the most consistent Everton performers this season as he held together the Everton midfield and provided brilliant defensive cover for the defence. With Everton playing attacking full backs, Barry has had to cover for them at the back when opponents look to use the space left behind by Baines and Coleman on the counter attack. He will have to carry out the same role against Arsenal and the midfielder will have to keep a close on Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla.
Everton 1-1 Arsenal
Everton have been in fantastic form at home this season, while Arsenal come into this match on the back of contrasting form. Everton will be fired up for this big game and are likely to take an early lead, but the Gunners will fight back in the second half and salvage a draw.