Sunday 23rd September 2018
The impressive early signs of Marco Silva’s Toffees have taken a seriously heavy dip in recent weeks. Without a win in three, including last weeks terribly disappointing 3-1 loss at home to West Ham, big cracks have certainly started to appear.
On the back of last week’s defeat, the opportunity to quickly bounce back certainly doesn’t come much tougher than the trip to Sundays opponents, Arsenal. The Gunners are coming into the weekends clash in very good form, after winning their last three. However, much like Everton, the Londoners are yet to achieve a clean sheet this campaign.
It’s early days and with every transition period there are always going to be bumps along the way, and last week was certainly that. In fact, it was a pretty big bump. The main worry was the amount of times the Blues looked open to the counter attack, and combined with the side seemingly lacking the capability to retain possession, it was a recipe for disaster.
Without going over such a disappointing affair again, big warning signs were certainly exploited by the Hammers as last week’s contest highlighted a major vulnerability in Silva’s new look outfit. As disappointing as the defensive side of things was, the Toffees still showed a great desire to go forward and create chances, and if Cenk Tosun had his shooting boots it may have been a different story.
Lucas Digne displayed a fantastic work rate and the full-back’s delivery was spot on all afternoon. Apart from his positioning for the first West Ham goal, the Frenchman was fantastic for the rest of the game and certainly looks as if he could be a big hit at Goodison.
It’s still early days and way too early to get too carried away with negativity. For all the flaws of the Toffees recently, the side have been extremely unlucky with an early stacked injury list, not helped after the recent international break. Defensively this has hindered Everton hugely and the debut of Yerry Mina cannot come quick enough, as the Toffees badly need some leadership installing to a currently inexperienced centre-back partnership. With this said, it is far to early to have a strong judgement as many players are still entering the fold and need time to bed in, aswell as Silva still figuring his best side.
Going into the weekend’s clash, Everton’s injury list could shortly start seeing a much needed improvement. Seamus Coleman, Yerry Mina and loan signing Andre Gomes could be in contention for a return to the side, meaning a first taste of involvement in the Royal Blue for Mina and Gomes. The game will come too soon for centre-back pair Micheal Keane and Phil Jagielka, aswell as long term absentee James McCarthy.
New star man Richarlison will return for the Toffees after completing his three game ban.
Arsenal enter the weekend in stellar form. After an unforgiving first two games to begin life under Unai Emery, facing Manchester City and Chelsea, the Gunners have since turned a corner, quickly climbing the table. Scoring eight in their previous three, the Londoners have been a joy to watch going forward with an early partnership of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looking deadly up top.
Last time out saw the Gunners enjoy a successful trip to the North East as they overcame Newcastle. After a slow start for Arsenal due to the host’s pressure, two goals inside ten minutes in the second half put the visitors in the driving seat after Granit Xhaka and Ozil got themselves on the scoresheet to secure the three points. Newcastle did pull one back late on after a Ciaran Clark header once again highlighted a chink in Arsenal’s armour as they failed to deal with a corner.
Heading into Sunday, Arsenal’s front pairing of Aubameyang and Lacazette is sure to be a huge test for a leaky Toffees defence. The two combined so far have been fantastic with Lacazette finally looking like he is settling into the Gunners’ plans. The pair linked up superbly well again against Newcastle and are sure to be a big worry for Everton.
Arsenal have several injury concerns themselves. Laurent Koscielny, Sead Kolasinac, Ainsley Maitland Niles and Alex Iwobi all remain out and will have no involvement in Sunday’s contest.
It’s nearly 23 years since Everton’s last successful trip to Sunday’s hosts. On the 20th of January 1996, goals from Graham Stewart and Andrei Kanchelskis secured the points at Highbury. You could be forgiven for letting that stat somewhat douse your optimism.
Sadly the likelihood of this changing this time around is slim, with the contrast of form of both sides, this free scoring Arsenal attack and an Everton defence that is yet to look convincing. It’s hard to see past a home win. However, Arsenal do also have a few weaknesses. They have struggled so far similarly to the Blues to deal with set-pieces and balls into the box and this is something Everton’s pace going forward could cause problems. Theo Walcott and the returning Richarlison will be looking to exploit the wide area’s and give the Gunners back-line a difficult afternoon. Can the Toffeess give Unai Emery a headache or will it be another routine victory for the North Londoners?
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Xhaka, Guendouzi; Ozil, Ramsey; Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Everton: Pickford; Kenny, Mina, Zouma, Digne; Gueye, Davies, Sigurdsson; Richarlison, Tosun, Walcott.
Arsenal 3-1 Everton.