Arsenal travel to Everton this evening trailing their hosts by a single place and a single point in the league. Arsene Wenger will be looking to build on his good record at Goodison, with the Gunners having won on their last three visits there.
David Moyes’ Everton started the season very positively, but have stuttered of late winning one of their last six in the league.
Arsene Wenger expects Everton to be in the shake up for the top 4 picture at the end of the season, ‘”They are always serious, Everton, because they can give anybody a game,” said Wenger.
“I don’t think any big team in the league goes to Everton and thinks it will be a walk out there.
“For us it`s a vital game every year. They fight at the top of the league every year. They are one of the contenders for a Champions League spot as well.
“It is a period where we establish consistency. To go through with a positive result is very important.
“They have gone through a more difficult spell as well recently. It is just down to us and the quality of our performance.”
However, David Moyes still makes Arsenal favourites to join United, City and Chelsea in the top 4, ‘”I think Arsenal are actually in the batch above us,” says the Blues boss. “They`ve done it and never been out of the Champions League for over 10 years.
“Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have done it. I would put them as favourites to join those other three teams because they have done it before and they have been consistent over the years.
“Arsene has done a great job getting them in the Champions League every year. Of course their supporters want trophies – but you look at their stadium and it is unbelievable. Only one or two clubs in the country would not be envious of that stadium.
“He has put down something that is going to be there for a long, long time. Arsene is part of that.
“He has seen the club through the transition from Highbury to The Emirates and continually got a team that has made the Champions League.
“Okay, they`ve not won the league or cups in recent years but they have always been up there.”
Everton Team News:
The Toffees welcome back Marouane Fellaini from a one match ban, however, Phil Neville is still sidelined by a knee injury.
Darron Gibson, Victor Anichebe (hamstring) and Kevin Mirallas (hamstrong) are all out.
Everton (from): Howard, Mucha; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Duffy, Heitinga, Baines, Osman, Hitzlsperger, Kennedy, Oviedo, Pienaar, Naismith, Fellaini, Gueye, Jelavic.
Player to watch: Marouane Fellaini
On his day he’s a handful alright. I would imagine Moyes will play Fellaini just off of Jelavic, with the Croatian poacher feverishly feeding on Fellaini’s knockdowns.
The afro haired powerhouse is strong enough to bat off the physical attentions of a centre half and has the touch to bring others into play. His biggest flaw is his temperament but I don’t see Arsenal as the type of side to wind him up.
Arsenal Team News:
The Gunners welcome back Theo Walcott from a shoulder injury. Tomas Rosicky is back in full training, but will need an U-21 match before rejoining the squad.
Abou Diaby (thigh), Andre Santos (stomach), Lukasz Fabianski (ankle) are long term absentees.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Mannone, Sagna, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, S.Cazorla, Walcott, Chamberlain, Podolski, Arshavin, Gervinho, Giroud, Chamakh.
Player to watch: Mikel Arteta
Not simply because he is revisiting his old club, but because he will be charged more than anyone with looking after Maroaune Fellaini. Having played with the Belgian before, he will need to use his inside knowledge.
Arteta made five tackles and five interceptions against Aston Villa on Saturday, as well as recording a 96% pass completion rate. He’ll need to show that sort of accuracy again tonight.
Match Facts & Stats
Everton have only kept 1 clean sheet in their last 10 matches.
Arsenal have yet to concede in the final 15 minutes of a league match this season.
Arsenal are responsible for Everton’s two heaviest defeats in the Premier League. 7-0 at Highbury in May 2005 and 6-1 at Goodison in August 2009.
Mikel Arteta faces his old club.
Tonight’s referee is Michael Oliver.
I think this will be a 1-1 draw. Jelavic and Giroud with the goals.
Arsenal play at home to Swansea City on Saturday, whilst Everton travel to Manchester City.