Arsenal are in desperate need of three points as they welcome Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Friday night.
Arsenal’s weekend fixture against Fulham saw them grind out a 1-1 draw, with Eddie Nketiah’s late goal helping them earn a point. The joy was short-lived as the club was one of the twelve European heavyweights involved in a (shorter-lived) European Super League debacle.
Although the north London did later officiate their departure from ESL plans, it has caused a furore among the fans, with many questioning the club’s integrity as well as the futility of the ones at the top.
The political pressure is coupled with sporting pressure as well as Arsenal continue to underperform in the Premier League. They are already dawdling in mid-table with no real hopes of making a late push for the European places, essentially leaving UEFA Europa League as their only route to European football next season.
Nevertheless, the Gunners will still be hoping to return to winning ways when they welcome Everton on Friday. The Toffees, having failed to win any of their last six competitive matches, are not the most in-form team in the division at the moment, with Arsenal even having the opportunity of overtaking them in the league table, should they secure a victory.
The Merseyside giants, though, were the 2-1 victors in the reverse fixture, thanks to the winner from Yerry Mina. Coach Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping for a similar display from his men in this vital away fixture, and here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two teams ahead of this fascinating contest at the Emirates on Friday.
Team News & Tactics
Mikel Arteta will have to make some key decisions in terms of squad selection, as he is missing a few important players including the two frontline strikers in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette while Martin Odegaard remains a doubt heading into this clash.
Eddie Nketiah, therefore, is tipped for his first Premier League start in 2021 after making an impact off the bench against Fulham. The youngster should spearhead the Arsenal attack, hoping to catch the opposition on the break with his speed and dynamism.
Nketiah also has a good understanding with other young players, so Arteta will be tempted to continue with Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli, ahead of both Willian and Nicolas Pepe while Bukayo Saka remains a guaranteed starter on the right flank.
Although it won’t be surprising to see Arsenal dominating possession, their strength will be on the counter due to the presence of so many young individuals in the final third – most of who generally tend to shine in a counter-attacking system.
Nevertheless, the Gunners need to be responsible in possession and that is where the midfield combination of Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos could be useful, not only in terms of finding runners in behind the Everton backline but also in offering assistance to the backline.
Speaking of which, the absence of Kieran Tierney and David Luiz, coupled with Ceballos’ form in midfield, could see Granit Xhaka once again operating at left-back. There might be a few alterations elsewhere, though, with Hector Bellerin and Gabriel Magalhaes potentially making way for Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari, as Arteta keeps one eye on the important midweek game against Villarreal, in the Europa League.
Mat Ryan, though, is a particular case in goal for Arsenal. Recent reports suggest that the on-loan Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper is on the verge of a permanent move to Emirates, although it will be surprising to see him get the nod ahead of Bernd Leno this time out.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Chambers, Holding, Mari, Xhaka; Partey, Ceballos; Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli; Nketiah
Everton head coach Carlo Ancelotti has usually shuffled between a wing-back system and a traditional back-four, depending on the opposition this season. We are expecting the former Bayern Munich coach to shift to a 4-3-1-2 this weekend, knowing Arsenal, who are without Tierney, are unlikely to use the pendulating back-four system.
Ancelotti isn’t missing out on too many star players either and with no added burden of cup competitions, the Italian is likely to field a full-strength squad.
As such, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, back from injury after missing the Tottenham game, should spearhead the line for the Toffees, alongside Richarlison. The two attackers provide the physical presence inside the box, with the latter more equipped in dealing with balls outside the box.
Everton, therefore, will have every reason to try and dominate possession, in an attempt to patiently create chances. That is where James Rodriguez, operating in the number ten role could play a vital role, with additional support from Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The Icelandic international would usually start as the joint number eights alongside Tom Davies, but he will have more privileges in his attacking game while his English teammate may operate more closely alongside Allan, in the holding midfield role.
Defensively, the change to a back four may come at the expense of Alex Iwobi, as Mason Holgate is likely to shift to the right-back position, making up the backline alongside Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane and Lucas Digne, as they look to protect Jordan Pickford in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Pickford; Holgate, Keane, Godfrey, Digne; Allan, Davies, Sigurdsson; Rodriguez; Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 24 Premier League home games against Everton since a 1-2 loss at Highbury in January 1996.
- Everton are looking to complete their first league double over Arsenal since the 1985-86 season, following their 2-1 win at Goodison Park in December.
- This will be the 200th top-flight meeting between Arsenal and Everton – the Gunners have won 98 of the 199 so far, more than any side has beaten another in top-flight history.
- Arsenal have never lost in nine previous Premier League games played on Fridays, the most a team has played on a specific day of the week without ever losing. These games have produced 42 goals in total (4.7 per game), with the Gunners scoring 28 and conceding 14.
- Following their 2-2 draw with Spurs last week, Everton will become just the second team to play on consecutive Fridays in the Premier League, after Arsenal did so in April 2004.
Player to Watch
Bukayo Saka is, without a doubt, the main creator for Arsenal right now, especially with Martin Odegaard struggling with fitness in recent weeks. The Gunners, therefore, will once again be banking their hopes on the academy starlet, who has already been involved in a total of 15 goals in all competitions this season.
Saka’s ability to beat players out wide, coupled with his trickery might play a vital role in keeping the Everton defence occupied. However, the Englishman could turn out to be even more dangerous should the Toffees try to play with more possession, as the youngster is blessed with the raw pace that could trouble Lucas Digne.
Ancelotti’s men also need to be careful of the seamless understanding between Saka and the other young Arsenal attackers and must find a way to neutralise the supply if they are to salvage anything from this game.
Arsenal 1-1 Everton
Arsenal are likely to improve from their performance on the weekend and indeed the reverse fixture. However, with key attackers like Aubameyang and Lacazette missing, as well as the injury of Tierney, they are likely to struggle in offering productivity going forward.
Everton, on the other hand, are likely to operate to chase Arsenal on the ball, and could thrive on the counter, but they need to be efficient in front of goal. We are expecting a low-scoring draw at the Emirates.