Mikel Arteta returns to Goodison Park in search of a vital win as Arsenal face Everton in the Premier League on Saturday.
Only five points off the drop zone – Arsenal’s clash against Everton at the Goodison Park this weekend could be way more consequential that one would have imagined start of the campaign.
Arsenal are desperately searching for a win following a run of six games without a victory in the Premier League. It has even put Mikel Arteta’s job under heavy scrutiny. With West Brom recently sacking their manager, the Spaniard could be next in line should his side fail to clinch all three points, which could allow 16th-placed Brighton & Hove Albion to overtake them in the table.
Everton, in contrast, are gunning for a top-four place by the end of this weekend’s round of fixtures. The Toffees seem to have gotten out of their rough patch and have won three of their last five league matches, including a 1-0 triumph over west London giants Chelsea and the high-flying Leicester City.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men are already ahead of clubs like Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City in the league table. And securing all three points could potentially see them overtaking third-place Southampton, who drew with Arsenal in the midweek fixture and have a tough game against Manchester City on Saturday.
Everton could even overtake either Tottenham Hotspur or Leicester City as both these clubs face each other on Sunday. Things won’t be complicated for Arsenal, who simply need to build a winning momentum and look to at least get into the top half of the league table before the turn of the year.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this key encounter in the Premier League this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Everton faced a massive blow in midweek when key midfielder Allan picked up a hamstring injury. Ancelotti has confirmed that the Brazilian will miss a period of matches during Christmas, thus joining Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Lucas Digne and Fabian Delph on the sidelines.
Allan’s absence means Ancelotti should opt for a traditional 4-2-3-1 backline that should see Abdoulaye Doucoure and Andre Gomes operating in the double-pivot. These two could be supported by Gylfi Sigurdsson, who is set to occupy the number ten role, although he will primarily be hoping to provide the creativity going forward, especially in the absence of James Rodriguez.
The Colombian, who was a doubt heading into this game, has been ruled out, although Ancelotti remains confident that he should recover within the next midweek game against Manchester United, in the Carabao Cup.
Nonetheless, James’ absence should pave the way for Alex Iwobi and Richarlison to feature in the wider attacking positions. With no Allan or James, the hosts will be relying on the pace of their attackers to provide something useful on the counter, with the club’s top-scorer, Dominic Calvert-Lewin ready to pounce on any given opportunity.
Among all the absentees, however, Everton have been boosted by the return of Seamus Coleman. The right-back is in contention to start against Arsenal, although it remains unlikely that he will be rushed back into action.
Mason Holgate could thus continue in the said position, with another centre-back in Ben Godfrey operating on the opposite flank. These two should look to play narrow, helping out the two centre-backs in Michael Keane and Yerry Mina.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Holgate, Keane, Mina, Godfrey; Doucoure, Gomes; Iwobi, Sigurdsson, Richarlison; Calvert-Lewin
Much like Ancelotti, Arteta is also missing some key players. Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Magalhaes are both out with suspension while Thomas Partey is injured, meaning the Spaniard might once again have to deploy Dani Ceballos in central midfield, alongside Mohamed Elneny, who has done relatively well this season.
It remains unlikely Arteta will make any defensive changes either, aside from the returning Hector Bellerin replacing Ainsley Maitland-Niles at right-back. The Spanish international is better equipped to operate as a traditional right-back, which should hand Arteta the opportunity to opt for a back-four.
David Luiz is in contention to return to the squad, deputising for the injured Gabriel, though Pablo Mari remains a curious option. The Brazilian should operate alongside Rob Holding at the heart of the Arsenal backline, with left-back Kieran Tierney serving as the third centre-back if required.
Meanwhile, in the attacking department, Alexandre Lacazette is guaranteed to return to the starting eleven, at the expense of Eddie Nketiah. The Frenchman has featured in a number ten role in recent matches but might settle for a more natural number nine position with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shifting out wide and Bukayo Saka operating just in behind.
Arteta could also opt to reintroduce Willian by replacing Nicolas Pepe at right-wing. Emile Smith Rowe is a curious option that Arteta might call upon, although the same cannot be said for Gabriel Martinelli even though the Brazilian is recovering quite nicely and could be ready for the first-team action soon.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Tierney; Elneny, Ceballos, Saka; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang
- Both Teams to Score – NO @ 2.10
- Everton to win @ 2.45
- Everton have kept a clean sheet in each of their last two home Premier League games against Arsenal, last keeping three in a row at home to the Gunners between November 1966 and April 1969.
- Arsenal have won more Premier League games (34) and scored more Premier League goals (110) against Everton than they have versus any other opponent in the competition. Indeed, their 110 goals against the Toffees is more than any side has netted against another in Premier League history.
- Everton haven’t won their final league match before Christmas in any of their last six seasons since a 2-1 win against Swansea City in December 2013.
- Since beating Fulham 3-0 on opening day, Arsenal have scored just twice in their last five away league games, failing to find the net in their last two. The Gunners went three away league games without a goal in September 2017.
- Arsenal have lost eight of their last 12 Premier League matches kicking off at 5:30 pm, although one of their wins in that time was a 5-1 victory over Everton in February 2018.
Player to Watch
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s neat finish in the draw with Southampton may have been more rewarding for Arsenal fans than a potential win itself. After all, it ended the striker’s horrific goal drought that saw him score the last Premier League goal from open play in the very first matchday of this season, against newly-promoted Fulham.
This weekend, the Gabonese international will be hoping to capitalise on that performance and build positive momentum. It would perhaps be wiser for Arteta to deploy him in a more central role, with Lacazette once again operating in that auxiliary number ten position so that the ex-Dortmund star can enjoy most of the potential scoring opportunities.
Aubameyang’s greatest stretch is his remarkable mentality when it comes to taking chances. He rarely gets bogged down by his form, but considering the lack of services he has received this season, the Arsenal forward must remain sharp if the Gunners are to have any hopes of salvaging anything from this game.
Everton 0-0 Arsenal
Arsenal have performed very poorly in the final third this season and with no real spark and key players missing, there is very little to believe that things will improve. Similarly, a depleted Everton attack could also find it difficult to breach the Arsenal backline even though the Gunners are missing their key centre-back in Gabriel. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts this one to end in a goalless draw.