Putting aside all the controversy over the penalty and Walcott being offside, Arsenal grabbed an important 3 points in a tough game against Norwich on Saturday to keep their momentum going in the Premier League.
7 wins in our last 8 league games has seen us slowly claw our way back into those Champions League spots that have been so elusive this season. However, a team that is hot on our heals is David Moyes’ Everton, who have not won at Arsenal for 17 seasons.
Everton also enter the game in pretty good form. The Blues have won four and drawn one of their last five league games, and can go level on points with Chelsea and Spurs if they win. The players to watch are the likes of Fellaini, who is a constant threat from set pieces, Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas.
As far as I am concerned, Everton need a win tonight more than Arsenal. A draw would not be such a terrible result for us considering the other fixtures between the top teams that still need to be played this season, but for Everton any dropped points are much more damaging. If we win then its hard to imagine that we won’t qualify for the Champions League for a 16th successive season.
Arsenal Tomas Rosicky is back in the squad after missing the Norwich game with a minor hamstring injury. Per Mertesacker is also back after serving a 1-match suspension, but Lukasz Fabianski is a major doubt with a rib injury.
Everton The Toffee’s have almost a completely clean bill of health, with no new injury concerns from the weekend’s win over QPR. Tony Hibbert made his comeback for the U21′s last week after 4 months out with a calf injury and faces a late fitness test, but is likely to be slightly short.
Predicted Starting XI
This is probably the best starting XI that we can put out at the moment. Szczesny will be back in the line-up to replace the injured Fabianski, while I am predicting that Vermaelen will keep his place despite the return of Mertesacker and have chosen Monreal over Gibbs.
Jack Wilshere is left out of the line-up because his performance against Norwich is an indicator that he is really lacking match fitness. I really like the Ramsey-Arteta combination in midfield and Rosicky is too good to leave out of the team. Wenger has also given a few indications that he would consider starting Lukas Podolski up front instead of Giroud.
Arsenal 2-2 Everton As I have mentioned above, I would settle for a draw, especially if we win against Fulham on the weekend. Everton are a tough team this season and I expect a real fight with maybe a few late goals.
Following our 4-1 win over Reading on the weekend, Arsene Wenger says that he is confident of a top-four finish and securing Champions League football for the 16th consecutive season.
Based on the fixture list for the Premier League run-in, I have to say that I definitely agree. We have arguably the easiest run-in, while Chelsea and Spurs are both still involved in other Cup competitions.
I am aware that Arsenal still have to play Everton and United, but both games are at home and we should be aiming to take maximum points from the other remaining fixtures against West Brom, Norwich, Fulham, QPR, Wigan and Newcastle. Four of these teams are very much in the relegation battle and West Brom, currently in 8th, have had very mixed form since the New Year (W3 D3 L7). In my opinion, the Baggies are only that high up the table because they started the season so well.
Spurs and Chelsea both have a busy run-in. They have mid-week Europa league matches plus Chelsea are now through to the FA Cup semi finals against Manchester City. They could both get further in Europe. While I admit that I would like to see Arsenal progress a bit further next season in the cup competitions, you cannot deny that having a week’s rest between fixtures is a huge benefit (- except for the Everton game which is played on Tuesday). When Rafa Benitez tried to rest some of Chelsea’s key players on Saturday they lost 2-1 away to Southampton.
Whether you agree or disagree with me, leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
1) Lukas Podolski missed the match at Goodison Park because he was “under the weather”. The club maintain that he is not ill and he should be in the squad to face Swansea on Saturday afternoon.
2) Theo Walcott scored his 10th goal of the season (- only 2 fewer than He Who Must Not Be Named at United) on his return to the starting line-up after missing the Villa game with a shoulder injury. Theo scored within the opening minute, but was slightly less effective in the second half. If we resign ourselves to the fact that he is leaving then I guess that the goal only bumps up his price if he does go in January. However, I think we would all like him to stay until at least the end of the season!
3) Maroune Fellaini also scored on his return to the Everton team. Fellaini missed Everton’s previous game against Norwich through suspension, having picked up 5 yellow cards already this season, but scored Everton’s equaliser on 18 minutes. Fellaini capitalised on some dodgy defending and curled a long-range past Sczcesny, who I think was unsighted.
4) Laurent Koscielny is out for several weeks with a muscular problem. Koscielny stretched awkwardly within the opening 5 minutes and was substituted for Kieran Gibbs, with Vermaelen moving to centre-back. We will keep you up to date with Koscielny’s injury (and a possible injury to Sagna) ahead of the Swansea game this weekend.
5) Misplaced passes really cost us. It was a misplaced pass that led to Everton’s equaliser and the team really seemed to lack any cohesion and fluidity. The game was a must win (we have now dropped to 7th in the league, behind Spurs and Everton and I don’t think that Wenger will be particularly happy with just a point. I noticed that Sagna in particular was responsible for quite a few dodgy defensive passes, but many of the other players were also to blame. We were very lucky that Everton weren’t able to capitalise on more of the misplaced passes between the back four and grab a win.
Arsenal.com have revealed the official Arsenal starting XI and substitutes that will take on Everton at Goodison Park in just under an hours time.
This is not the team that most of us had predicted. Kieran Gibbs is dropped, with Thomas Vermaelen replacing him at left-back, and Aaron Ramsey is in for Lukas Podolski, who is not on the bench and has probably been rested. Tomas Rosicky is fit enough for the bench, but I highly doubt that he will make an appearance. Wenger said in his pre-match press conference that he thought Rosicky needed a few outings with the reserves before he returned to first-team action. Theo Walcott returns straight to the starting XI after missing the Villa game with a shoulder injury.
Arsenal travel to Everton tomorrow in what must be one of our most important matches at Goodison Park in recent seasons. Recent history in this fixture (see match stats, below) would suggest that we should be capable of taking all 3 points, but neither team is in fantastic form at the moment and this one could go either way.
Despite our hideous start to the season, the fact remains that we are only a point behind Everton and 5 points behind Chelsea. I guess that we just have to count ourselves lucky that the other teams around us have gone through equal patches of bad form. A win tomorrow would see us slowly claw our way back up the table into 5th place. However, there is also the possibility of dropping to 7th if we fail to equal or better Tottenham’s result.
After playing against us, Everton will take on Manchester City and Tottenham. The Toffees in dire need of a result and will really need to be on their A game tomorrow. The result against Arsenal will no doubt have a big mental impact on the Everton players and will affect confidence ahead of their trip to the Etihad.
Arsenal need to be ready for a tough and physically challenging game. In particular, it will be interesting to see how our small midfielders deal with somebody like Maroune Fellaini. As well as being physically imposing, Fellaini happens to be pretty good on the ball. I cannot stress enough the need to create space for Arteta and Cazorla to do their magic. When our two Spanish midfielders are shut out, Arsenal shut down. The good news is that we will have Wilshere back in the team ahead of Ramsey, which will definitely work in our favor.
Arsene Wenger is under no illusion that this game is going to be tough. Despite Everton’s poor run of form of late, they remain serious contenders for the Champions League places this season.
“They are always serious, Everton, because they can give anybody a game. 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.
Team news/Predicted Starting XI
Theo Walcott returns to the squad after missing our trip to Villa Parkwith a shoulder injury. There are no other injury concerns from the 0-0 draw. Given that we have a relatively clean bill of health, we should be able to field what I would argue is the strongest Arsenal starting XI, and still have a pretty strong bench.
Sagna, Vermaelen and Wilshere should all return to the starting line-up after being rested on Saturday. Click here for full team news, including the latest update on Tomas Rocisky.
Our recent defensive record may not be great, but the good news is that we are finally able to field a full-strength back four of Sagna-Mertesacker-Vermaelen-Gibbs sitting in front of Szczesny, who was fantastic against Villa. The midfield of Wilshere – Cazorla – Arteta pick themselves, while the front three is likely to be Walcott – Giroud – Podolski.
Everton have only one win in their last seven league games (W1,D5,L1) and have kept only one clean sheet in their last 10. Arsenal’s defensive record is half as bad, having kept 2 clean sheets in our last 10 league games.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League games against Everton (W8, D2) since we lost 1-0 at Goodison in 2007.
Despite all the defensive problems, Arsenal are the only team who have not conceded in the final 15 minutes of a Premier League match this season. We would sit 2nd in the second-half result table, behind Manchester United.
Everton’s two biggest defeats in the Premier League have come at the hands of Arsenal. A 6-1 defeat at Goodison Park on the opening day of the season in August 2009 and 7-0 loss at Highbury in May 2005.
Arsene Wenger has given the latest Arsenal team news ahead of tomorrow’s game at Goodison Park. We have no new injuries from our 0-0 draw with Aston Villa, while Theo Walcott is available after missing the game on the weekend with a shoulder injury. Tomas Rosicky is short of match fitness and will require a few games in the reserves, but Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen (who were rested on the bench against Villa), will almost definitely return to the starting line-up.
There is no mention of Diaby, Santos and Fabianski, but it is pretty safe to assume that they are all out. Let’s face it, if Wenger had given us an update on Diaby it would probably be that “he is 3-4 weeks away.”
General team news/Theo Walcott
“From Aston Villa everybody got though the game well and the player who will come back is Walcott, who is fit again to play.
“Rosicky is back in the squad – not match fit, but in full training. He will not be in the squad for Wednesday night because he needs a game or 2 in the reserve team. He has not played for 6 months, but he is fit.
“He had surgery of the plantaris tendon that is situated down a the achilles, and it took him some time to recover. It’s a similar injury to Scott Parker, with a similar time of surgery.”
On Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen, who were rested against Aston Villa at the weekend.
It’s been a mixed week for Arsenal fans. After a pretty dire performance against Olympiacos in a meaningless match (from our point of view anyway), both Manchester clubs were subjected to a torturous night in the Champions League, culminating in their relegation to the Europa League. As for the Olympiacos match, we can point at three main factors for the loss – 1) Olympiacos needed to win to have a hope of qualifying whereas we didn’t, 2) We started with a very weak side and the errors leading to the Greek side’s goals reflected the lack of quality of our players, 3) It was an away game in the Champions League which is never easy. It was an unimportant match and rather uninspiring for us Gooners to watch. But Wednesday night produced the kind of drama that we all love. And seeing Man Utd face up to teams of the calibre of FC Metalist will be a brilliant experience.
But now it is back the Premier League, where London clubs have also been doing pretty well recently. In Europe, Chelsea and Arsenal are flying the flags whereas in the domestic league, Arsenal and Spurs are the two sides who are really impressing at the moment (along with City, but they bought their glory so it doesn’t count).
Arsenal will face Everton with something of a full back crisis. Sagna, Jenko, Gibbs and Santos are all unavailable. Our big German centre back has been speaking about the situation:
“We need more full-backs I think! It’s not good for the squad if so many full-backs are injured, but what can I say?
“We have to manage the situation. We have had some bad situations with injuries in the last month but we managed quite well.
“We are looking forward to climbing the league more and more. We have had a lot of pressure to get to fifth in the last month but we need more consistency, in December more than ever.
“Therefore I hope we can pick up a lot of points to get to the top four. We want more than that, of course.”
Mertesacker has gone from strength to strength in his time here, despite the odd lapse in concentration. He is performing far better than Koscielny was when he was this far into his Arsenal career, so I think we can continue to expect great things from Per. He can be expected to line up in a back four which will contain four centre backs. It will probably be Djourou, Kos, Per and Vermaelen, although Wenger might give Miquel a chance ahead of Djourou. I expect Koscielny and Mertesacker to start in the centre, with Vermaelen at RB and Djourou at LB, although that could all change if Miquel steps in. Miquel looks like an exciting prospect but obviously needs more game time. With the injury situation we have now, it could be Miquel’s big chance to shine.
Arsenal – W W W D W
Everton - W L L W W L
The match tomorrow will celebrate 125 years of the Arsenal. The statues were revealed today, depicting our most innovation manager Herbert Chapman, our most influential skipper Tony Adams and our record goalscorer Thierry Henry. We have a decent record against Everton – unbeaten in the last 8 and having won 13 out of 15 home league games against them under Wenger. Van Persie is now only four goals off Alan Shearer’s Premier League “Goals in a calendar year” record (36 in 1995), and the Dutchman has five games in which to score those goals. It would be great if he can do it, but right now the main task is about consolidating our place in the table – we are 5th, level on points with Newcastle (6th) and only two points off Chelsea (4th).
Djourou – Koscielny – Mertesacker – Vermaelen
Ramsey – Song – Arteta
Walcott – van Persie – Gervinho
The only changes at the moment are likely to be in defence due to the injury problems. The front three are on fire and so I don’t expect changes in that department. The midfield is also ticking along nicely, and with Wilshere and Diaby injured, there isn’t much competition in the midfield. Rosicky and Benayoun just haven’t given Wenger enough of a reason to force their way into the side, although we don’t know how they have been performing in training.
2-1 to Arsenal with two goals from van Persie, putting him level with Theirry Henry’s best haul in a calendar year (34 in 2004).
It was reported by The Sun that Christopher Samba said the following about his potential move to Arsenal:
“A player who has no ambition to play at a higher level has made a mistake and chosen the wrong sport.
“I don’t know what is happening with Arsenal because I am not dealing with it and it’s not my problem.
“At the minute I am still at Blackburn but it would be a big lie if I told you ‘everything is good and I don’t want to play in the Champions League’.
“I don’t know what the board and the manager at Blackburn are planning or what provisions they have made for signing new players.
“It is difficult for me at the moment because I’m just waiting to see what happens and concentrating on my preparation for the new season.”
Before you get your hopes up, it is likely that such comments are fake. Samba has expressed his anger towards them. He has said, on twitter, that they are not his words:
“The declaration made of the sun about me are totally false never said that nonsense I never mention other club I’m a rovers player and will never mention other club it’s disrespectful,
“Not happy right now.”
I have to say, I admire Samba’s loyalty to his club, but I do not think that such comments necessarily rule out a move for the Blackburn Rovers captain. He has, in the past, expressed his desire to play at a higher level, and has emphasised that he is an ambitious player. Whether or not Samba does indeed join Arsenal is still unclear. Arsene Wenger is also said to be looking at a potential move for Everton’s Phil Jagielka, and Bolton’s Gary Cahill is still a possibility. One thing is for sure, we do need to sign at least one defender. Even Wenger has admitted this:
“Certainly, we will have to find one more defender,
“We [are] working on it.”
I have a feeling that Wenger will sign Samba, and I would be very happy to see him play for Arsenal. He is a very strong, tall and dominant player, and can help strengthen our defence, especially when it comes to defending against set pieces.
News reports are indicating that Arsenal has been told by Everton to pay up for Jagielka. The fee that is being thrown about is around £18 million. If we can get Cahill for less, why not go for him? Cahill is younger, more comfortable on the ball (from what I have seen + several reports), he is taller and has scored more goals in the Premier League.
I’d like to reiterate the point that no quotes exist regarding an Arsenal bid for Jagielka. Until there is some more evidence, we should take such reports with a pinch of salt. Especially reports that say we have bid a measly £10 million.
In addition, is it not true that Moyes wants Bendtner? If so, I’m sure Arsenal are exploring the option of offering Bendtner as a makeweight in such a deal for Jagielka. Everton really need strikers – Yakubu looks set to leave and Saha has recently struggled for fitness. Perhaps Bendtner will be an important factor if Wenger is serious about signing Everton’s English centre back.
Gibbs to be great
Thomas Vermaelen has praised Gibbs in an interview shown on Arsenal Player. Ever since Clichy left, Gooners have been worrying about the left back position. Wenger has been happy to suggest that Gibbs is our first choice, followed by Traore and Vermaelen himself. Our Belgian star has supported Kieran in this recent interview:
“I think Kieran is a really talented player.
“I played a few games with him in my first year and he impressed me a lot. He’s a fit player, he can run a lot, he’s a technical player as well. He has all the qualities to be a world class full back.”
Wenger’s comments indicate that potential bids for Baines, Sakho and Jose Enrique are merely media speculation. Vermaelen’s quotes will do little to ease the worry of Arsenal fans. Gibbs will have to show his worth on the pitch in order to win some support.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is fined
Arsenal target Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been fined over comments regarding his wish to play for the North London club. The comments can be seen here. According to the Daily Mail, Oxlade-Chamberlain has been fined two weeks wages for expressing his desire to leave.
Southampton’s manager wishes to keep the youngster:
“We believe it’s better for him to stay at Southampton and play his football and keep developing.
“We’ve got to try to make sure we look after a young boy who’s handled himself ever so well but has been placed in a situation with speculation. It’s speculation with big football clubs people always dream about.”
However, if Wenger does offer the reported £10 million, it will be difficult for Southampton to say no.
Transfer speculation is beginning to pick up again after a relatively quiet week or so (relatively being the key word here). But rather than absurd rumours such as Ribery or Benzema, both the BBC and Sky Sports are revealing that Arsenal have bid for English centre back Phil Jagielka.
Sources such as Gunnerblog indicate that Arsenal bid £12 million last summer, which Everton considered derisory for their esteemed defender. Since then, he has had a decent season, playing in 33 of the Toffee’s Premier League matches. He also participated in his first competitive England game last September, in a 4-0 win over Bulgaria. John Cross, of the Mirror, said of Jagielka after that game:
“[Phil] read the game brilliantly on a night when he proved his credentials.”
So naturally, one would assume that Wenger might raise the bid slightly if he is serious about bringing the defender to the Emirates. Far from it, Arsène has apparently just offered only £10 million for Jagielka (you won’t be surprised to hear that it was rejected). Last March, the centre back signed a new four year deal with the Toffees, putting them in an even stronger negotiating position (take note Arsenal, this is how to make sure your best players don’t take advantage of you!).
Phil has credentials from Division 1 to the Premier League. He has played in Europe for Everton and is now stepping up to the international scene. I certainly believe he would be a great addition to our defence, but right now I’m hoping for anything – Samba, Cahill, Jagielka, Dann, Sakho, Mertesacker, Baines, Vertonghen… the list goes on and on. We just need a defender with some experience to prevent the issues that dogged us last season and even in our pre-season draw against Hangzhou Greentown.
Of course, unlike myself, Wenger has a clear picture of precisely which defender he wants and why. However, £10 million for an established Premier League defender is rather low. It doesn’t seem plausible, I just can’t imagine Arsenal making such a bid. I know Wenger would rather get value for money, but everyone knows that English players come with a hefty price tag – look at Young, Downing, Henderson and Jones. There isn’t a single quote on the internet which indicates that we actually have made a bid. No comment from Arsenal, Everton, Jagielka, his agent or even someone ‘in the know.’
Basically, this sounds made up. I still reckon we will get Samba or Cahill. Well, I hope so anyway.