For much of the Premier League era Evertonians have usually been able to count on Arsenal to underscore just how far apart these two one-time peers in England’s top flight have become. It looked, briefly, as though under Roberto Martinez the days of routine humblings by Arsene Wenger’s enterprising outfit were gone but today’s 2-0 defeat at the Londoners’ hands came as another bitter reminder of Everton’s inferiority.
In the aftermath of his side’s eighth home defeat this season Martinez described this game as “a one-off”. In terms of an inexplicably abject Everton display he might be right, but there was nothing unique about the result that the Goodison “faithful" — a label getting more and more stretched the longer this forgettable waste of league campaign wears on — had to swallow as they filed out of the Grand Old Lady at the end.
Memories of the cruel 3-2 defeat to West Ham in the last league game at Goodison and the loss to West Brom before that, results also described as flukes by Martinez, were still raw for fans before kick-off who have had their support “rewarded" with a number of painful reverses in recent weeks.
The worsening statistics, trotted out on social media by frustrated supporters become more and more damning of the manager and his team with every game. Everton under Martinez have won just four home matches since beating Manchester United in their their final win at Goodison in 2014-15. Three of those have come against the teams currently occupying the relegation places; the fourth was a potentially catalytic win over a Chelsea side that was in the middle of self destruction.
They’ve lost eight at home — Martinez's predecessor only oversaw that many Premier League losses in his last three years in charge combined. Just 16 points have been won from a total of 48 possible since they kicked off the campaign with an annoying 2-2 draw against Watford. Unless they win all three remaining home games, Everton under the Catalan will set a club record, set in 1888/89 and equalled in 1957-58, for lowest points won on home turf in a season (when adjusted for three points a win).
With every setback in front of his team’s own supporters, Martinez insists that his team is “very close to being a winning team” and yet today, despite the wind from a truly uplifting FA Cup Quarter Final win last weekend in their sails, they proved just how far off their stated goals they are under the current regime.
Arsenal came to Merseyside on the back of successive cup defeats that left them with just a faltering title chase to revive. Having had to travel back from Barcelona in midweek, they should have betrayed some fatigue or flatness in their performance following their travels but they played with a verve, quickness and vigour that Everton, with a week’s rest behind them, simply couldn’t match.
The Blues came off the blocks with high-tempo intent from the first whistle and Seamus Coleman hit the outside of the post from a corner inside the first 90 seconds but they fizzled out almost immediately, leaving the visitors to grasp the game by the scruff of the neck and effectively put it beyond their hosts by half time.
In terms of vision, guile and simple use of the ball, it was men-against-boys stuff for much of the first period and nothing illustrated the gulf in quality and attitude between the two teams more than the opening goal in the seventh minute. Drawing first Muhamed Besic and then Ramiro Funes Mori out of position, Alexis Sanchez played a one-two with Mezut Ozil to open up a yawning gap in front of the Blues’ defence before slipping in Danny Welbeck to round Joel Robles and slot home the opening goal.
It was a very “Arsenal" goal that you had to admire for it’s brilliance in carving Everton’s defence open so effectively; the kind of incisive football to which Martinez no doubt aspires but can’t generate from his own players. Indeed, the contrast couldn’t have been more stark on Everton’s next attack when Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley tried to combine towards the edge of the opposition penalty area but the move broke down when the latter’s pass went straight to a gold jersey.
Martinez’s men were clumsy, pedestrian and wasteful in possession and, as good as the Blues can be going forward when they’re on their game, they couldn’t hope to emulate — or contain — Wenger’s side who were crisp, fast and effective. And they proved it again three minutes before half time when Sanchez nipped in ahead of the mystifyingly lethargic Besic to lay the ball off to Hector Bellerin in his own half and the Spaniard spotted the electric run of Alex Iwombi with a well-placed ball down the channel. Caught too far forward, Funes Mori was always chasing his shadow and the Argentine was still behind him when the 19-year-old debutant fired through Robles’s legs to make it 2-0.
Faced with a mountain to climb at the break, Martinez had to change something and his move was to bring on Stones for Besic in an effort to shore up the back line which was made vulnerable by the fact that Everton were being overrun in midfield. The Bosnian had had the Blues’ only shot on target in the first 45 minutes, an attempted curler from the edge of the box that David Ospina initially spilled but then gathered but he was otherwise utterly dreadful and could consider himself fortunate to have made it to half time.
With precious little output in forward areas where Lukaku was again frustratingly isolated and nothing much to lose given that they were heading for a season-ending defeat, Everton needed more than just that one change at the back. That Martinez waited almost half an hour before making his one attacking substitution, the withdrawal of Barkley for Gerard Deulofeu, beggared belief.
In between, the Blues were insipid going forward. The defensive midfield partnership of James McCarthy and Tom Cleverley was functional but redundant in light of the scoreline, the former barracked for continually going backwards with the ball rather than looking forwards; the latter industrious but not a patch on the invention and guile in Arsenal’s ranks.
No surprise, then, that Everton’s best chance of the second half came from another corner which Jagielka put inches over the bar when he might have done better with a clear header at goal. Lukaku’s one and only effort would come a couple of minutes from the end of the regulation 90 but he couldn’t get more power on Funes Mori’s cross to steer it away from the ‘keeper.
At other end, where Arsenal hadn’t really needed to get out of second gear in the second period, Olivier Giroud’s hunger to alleviate his personal goal drought saw him put the ball in the net, only to have it chalked off for a foul and then slice an injury-time shot into the side-netting.
Ordinarily, as comprehensive as it was, a home defeat to a team of Arsenal’s calibre would not be so depressing. What is worrying, however, is what the result and, more importantly, the underlying performance says about Everton under Roberto Martinez. This is supposed to be the time of the season where the team reaches peak effectiveness but they were glacial in thought and deed and they looked bereft of ideas and — incredibly — fitness. (While their opponents were still pressing the ball fiendishly with a couple of minutes to go, Everton, in contrast to last weekend in the cup, looked ponderous and unfit — none more so than Besic — for the entire 90 minutes.)
Most concerning was the simple lack of fight and heart displayed by a team that had it in abundance last weekend and it will raise inevitable questions over the unity in the camp under the manager. Martinez blamed it on fear but this season suggests the problems run much deeper.
That should be as alarming to the hierarchy as it is to a growing section of the fanbase who can see no way forward under the current setup. Unfortunately for Bill Kenwright, who enthusiastically lauded Martinez in front of the cameras after the win over Chelsea that took Everton to Wembley, his manager’s ever-expanding record of under-achievement is pushing the faith of Blues fans to breaking point and it should be nudging the Chairman – or more likely his new majority shareholder – towards making a painful but necessary decision regardless of what happens in the cup.
Everton reverted to type, letting Arsenal, who have failed in the FA Cup and Champions League in the last week, slaughter them in the first half. Mo Besic, on in place of Gareth Barry, who serves the first part of his two-match suspension after getting sent off against Chelsea last weekend, was particularly poor and got hooked at the break.
For Arsenal, Alex Iwobi made his first start as a Gunner and scored. Danny Welbeck also started for Wenger's side who had only won one of their last eight games in all competitions. Brendan Galloway returned to the Everton bench as defensive cover after a long spell back with the Under-21s, while Kevin Mirallas was absent, serving the last portion of his two-match ban.
Everton kicked off and started well, Coleman getting down the left, crossing and eventually getting a corner that was very low and Coleman did well to clip the ball just outside the park-end post. At the other end, Welbeck got in close before Besic whacked it behind off the Arsenal man. Everton attacked with Lukaku crossing for Barkley who could not get his head on it. Funes Mori then had to give up a corner that Gabriel tried to volley, well over off his shin.
Sanchez got forward and crossed to Iwobi who took a fraction too long and was closed down but Welbeck was next to break the Blue line after some clinical Arsenal passing and he went around Robles to score with ease. From the restart, more slick Arsenal passing cut the Blues apart but Iwobi shot straight at Robles.
The Blues were suitably stunned and tried to batten down the hatches, but Arsenal's energy and determination had them looking second-best to every ball. Baines went on a good run but was chopped down by Bellerin. From the set piece, the delivery by Baines did not beat the first man.
Lennon tried to clip the ball forward to Lukaku but he was blindsided by Gabriel. Arsenal continued to look very fluid with the ball but the Everton defence were keen not to concede again, Baines stealing the ball well. But hesitancy when in possession was maddening for a crowd who wanted a much stronger reaction. A poor midfield giveaway saw Arsenal advance and win another corner that came to nothing.
Barkley finally took a shot that was blocked, and Besic then fired in a decent shot that Ospina parried along the byeline. A ball to Lukaku was too easily intercepted, setting up yet another Arsenal advance. Lukaku did win the next aerial clearance but it went lamely to an Arsenal player.
Barkley made something of a stuttering break and Cleverley crossed but a long way from Lukaku but winning a corner that was just abysmally delivered by Baines. Coleman did well until his cross was easily intercepted. Besic did well in defence and then tried a clever ball forward with the outside of his boot to Lukaku that went straight to Gabriel.
Robles cleared the ball long for Lukaku who was beaten again by Gabriel. Lennon went on a good run but passed straight to Koscielny. The turnover saw Arsenal attack and Sanchez going down amidst screams for a penalty after contact first from Besic, then a dive over Funes Mori, so not given. A tremendous cross from Monreal was handled well by Jagielka. Funes Mori was strong to head away.
Another laboured Everton attack won a corner that Cleverley looked to have lifted but it again was headed away by the first defender. Another cross was played toward Lukaku but Gabriel again had the Big Man in his pocket. McCarthy tried to run through but it was blocked and seconds later the long ball over the top to Iwobi was fired under Robles and into the back of the Gwladys Street net for a shocking second goal to the visitors.
Lennon tried to volley in from a corner, high, wide and horrible, underlining a shockingly poor first-half performance by the FA Cup semi-finalists, as Arsenal surged forward once more, Iwobi dancing in again and shooting wide. Everton's only response was long hoofed balls that Lukaku had to watch bounce away from him, as boos rang around Goodison at the break.
John Stones replaced Mo Besic, who had not had a very impressive half, to give Everton a back three and allow Coleman and Baines to advance. Stones was required to make a defensive clearance early on, which he did with his usual confidence.
Everton tried to get the ball forward with pace but an overhit pass saw Arsenal in possession again. Lukaku had a good run down the left and cut in but fired his cross without looking up at an Arsenal defender. Barkley played the ball behind Lennon, and poor clearance of a bouncing ball saw Stones almost let in Welbeck but he recovered well from his mistake. Coquelin tried a potshot from distance, well way from the Everton goal. Robles cleared into touch as if he was playing rugby.
As Arsenal tired, it still looked like Everton had played two games this week, not the visitors. Lennon got free, but his cross was farcical. Everton were getting more possession but doing very little with it. Baines was next to poorly overhit his cross. Lukaku again could not beat Gabriel.
Stones was very strong defending against Koscielny but another Everton attack ended in an awful cross from Baines straight to a defender. Coleman fired in a low cross that Lukaku, Gabriel and Ospina went for, Ospina coming off the worst and needing treatment.
Everton won a corner with Ospina still struggling but Jagielka unchallenged headed over when he should have scored, and Everton then failed to press off the next corner. Cleverley lashed an off-target shot straight at Gabriel. Everton had some better pressure on the Arsenal area but nothing came of it as a bearded Deulofeu replaced Barkley. Coleman and Coquelin had words after a little clash.
Another ridiculous ball lofted up to Lukaku only saw Arsenal craft another attack and win a corner as they seemed to recover some energy against a seriously lack-lustre Everton side who were offering little to nothing. More corners to Arsenal, Giroud heading in ahead of Robles but Clattenberg remarkably calling a foul on Jagielka.
Arsenal broke and were immediately into Everton's area but Iwobi's pass was poor and he was replaced by Chambers. Stones made a soft mistake in midfield and gave the ball away but it eventually came to Deulofeu, who had made no impact since he came on. Lukaku finally got his head on a cross, weakly nodded down to Ospina.
An Everton free-kick in added time led to a corner that Ospina snatched out of the air. At the other end, Giroud fired into the side netting. Deulofeu did a couple of step-overs and crossed straight to Ospina. The umpteenth ball was pumped up in the vague direction of Lukaku before the final whistle blue and more boos hopefully rang loud in the manager's ears. Not good enough by any stretch of the imagination.
A really really poor display by Everton, who seemed to feel they had done all that was required of them by beating Chelsea under the floodlights last weekend. Nobody likes the early-kick-offs but there was simply no excuse for such an uninspired Everton performance that ended all too predictably in their abject EIGHTH home defeat of the season.
Scorers: Welbeck (7'), Iwobi (42')
Everton: Robles, Baines, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Coleman, Besic (46' Stones), McCarthy, Cleverley, Barkley (74' Deulofeu), Lennon, Lukaku.
Subs: Howard, Kone, Niasse, Osman, Galloway.
Arsenal: Ospina, Gabriel, Koscielny, Ozil (75' Gibbs), Sanchez, Monreal, Welbeck (75' Giroud), Bellerin, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi (86' Chambers).
Subs: Macey, Mertesacker, Walcott, Campbell.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
From My Seat: Arsenal (H)
After the euphoria of the Chelsea win and the recovery from a night's singing and dancing down Walton Road and County Road – not to mention the odd glass of the inebriating liquid – we gathered again in the Room of Nonsense looking forward to the continuation of our cup form. And with Besic for Barry being the only change we were confident that we could muster another home win.
The walk up was on the quiet side but the numbers making that journey seemed to suggest a full house from fans full of confidence and taking in the magic that is matchday down Goodison Way. We had Lukaku and Barkley starting and Stones and Deulofeu in reserve so what could go wrong?
Z Cars rang out. The handshake was completed and off we went. Now, for all the fine words from last week whether from Chairman, new owner, manager, fans or players we proceeded to produce a performance that was, quite frankly, second best. Arsenal were the better team from first to last and for the first time ever our present manager could offer no words other than to entirely agree.
As early as the first couple of minutes saw us gain a corner that was fired in low and Coleman got part of his foot to it and the ball clipped the outside of the post. A positive start that well interested the crowd but, alas, it was a touch downhill from there. Arsenal went up the other end and put a good joined-up one together that saw Welbeck come along the by-line and a desperate effort from Besic saw the ball fly from his foot, hit Welbeck and divert on to the outside of our post for a goal-kick so we are even in the hard luck stakes.
However Arsenal kicked on where we didn’t. They were sharp and incisive while we were hesitant and unsure. Just five minutes after us hitting their post they proved the point when an incisive move that jetted the ball across the green sward ended with Welbeck looking in an offside position (yet he wasn’t due to the speed of the move) leaving him with the simple task of rounding our keeper and slotting. It looked easy but I wished we could show that methodology and awareness and understanding from time to time. Wenger has been getting some stick of late which must show how high he has raised expectations down North London way.
This was to be the way of the first half where we had one shot on target from, I believe, Besic who along with Barkley and McCarthy had become the butt of the crowd’s ire yet I believed they were trying their best but today the function of the team helped no player.
Meanwhile Arsenal were playing a patient passing game that gave little away yet maintained a dangerous presence up front. We were looking a little desperate at times and were our own worst enemies by giving the ball away cheaply after playing it out. Just a few minutes to half time and with me praying to go in just one down to allow changes that were surely necessary disaster struck. A back-to-front move was constructed from our attack at pace and the debutant Iwobi was put in down our right and he outpaced Mori, drew Robles and slotted past him with ease. Not yet halftime but somehow even a diehard Blue just knew we lacked the wherewithal today to rescue even a point.
The half time chat was not for publication but we did have a live pop group that royally entertained us. It was a reincarnation of ‘The Drifters’, a quartet that topped our pop charts in 1960 with ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ followed by ‘Stand by Me’. While they were singing and harmonising the junior ‘Drifters’ quartet danced to the songs in some style. It’s a bit of a bugger when you come to follow your beloved team and a pop group steals the show.
The second half got under way and our present manager replaced Besic with Stones and changed our shape to three at the back with fullbacks roaring on. Trouble was not much changed except for the fuses of many a speccy, to such an extent that you can forget ‘get behind your team’ as individual players and manager were fair game as balls went astray.
Arsenal were comfortable now and were showing being more than capable of seeing the game out. Attacks for us are hard to find to report on. 30 minutes left and Jags headed just over from a corner. It was sad to hear fans yell for Barkley to be taken off. Yes, I agree he had not been at his best but to me he did look our only player who just might create something, but with fifteen to go the manager relented and swopped Ross for Deulofeu who never looked like creating anything.
John Stones was looking like he was not too bothered and produced a couple of fancy flicks in our defensive third which looked to me like no more than two fingers to the Park End. I really, really hope I am totally wrong with that observation.
The clock ticking down and if anything it was Arsenal having a last hurrah as a speedy counter set up their sub Giroud who netted, only to be called back for a foul on Jags. With the ground emptying like a giant sieve ,Giroud set a mighty roar from the travelling Gunners who thought he had scored but his shot had rippled the wrong side of the net. Such had been our performance todays ref one Clattenberg was able to leave the pitch with no verbal assault with all the boos being directed to our own.
MotM – Jags
Overall that was disappointing but if anything it shows how much we rely on a 35-year-old and that is just not good enough. Many a pundit ridicules us fans for having a go at our present manager but it needs bearing in mind that after many of us shelling out for a season ticket and to date be walking off the ground after our EIGHTH DEFEAT and just FOUR wins to celebrate, is it any wonder considering the same pundits tell us what great players we have? Something is wrong. Will the new owner notice we are going backwards with such talent and perhaps determine to find out why?
UP THE BLUES
Wenger masterclass outfoxes clueless Martinez
I was dreaming with my idea to set off at 11.15am for the early kick off game. Picking up Ste in Prenton before heading through the tunnel. Once on the other side we were met with bustling traffic as we edged towards Goodison Park. We just about found a space before heading on to The Brick where we met a somewhat smug Gary and Sue who had thought ahead and arrived a lot sooner, so much sooner in fact that they managed to find a table in the busy boozer.
With just enough time to sling a beer or two down our necks we got the team news and Muhammed Besic replacing the suspended Gareth Barry being the only change was welcomed by all. Not that we'd have noticed mind you as all talk was about next month's trip to Wembley. To say everyone is excited is quite the understatement!
If we are to be successful when we get to Wembley we will, of course, have to play incrementally better than today's appalling display against an Arsenal side who simply wanted it a lot more than we did.
I suppose we did OK for about two minutes and Seamus Coleman almost got us ahead straight away when an early Leighton Baines corner, which was rubbish, somehow found it's way to Coleman at the near post who had to snatch at it quickly and could only prod the ball onto the outside of the post and away. Less than a minute later Danny Welbeck hinted at the problems he was to cause us throughout the half when he managed to wriggle himself into the penalty area and also struck the outside of the post.
This was sadly all we saw from Everton. Arsenal on the other hand really seized the initiative, Arsene Wenger getting his tactics absolutely spot on, especially in the first half. He knew Martinez will have wanted to play it out from the back, so he just didn't let us, instead putting three forwards on the pitch and pushing up and suffocating our half. We didn't have a clue what to do and it was no shock when a rampant Arsenal scored when Danny Welbeck was played in, bat the offside, rounded Joel Robles and slotted in. Arsenal ahead early on and thoroughly deserved.
With only seven minute on the clock you hoped a fightback would be on the cards but this just didn't happen. We really couldn't string a couple of passes together and just couldn't get out of our own half. A bit of pragmatism from Roberto Martinez would have helped, as on the few occasions in the first half that we did manage to penetrate the Arsenal half, we didn't do too bad. We surely should have gone more direct, even if temporarily but this is crazy talk for Martinez, and Wenger knew this, his team playing their game plan to perfection. Ours? Totally lost at sea, and we were punished on the counter attack by Alex Iwobi who slotted through the legs of the hesitant Joel Robles to put Arsenal two goals ahead just before the break.
The chat at half time was, as you would expect, all about who should be changed. At 0-2 down we had to go for it and felt the introduction of Niasse would be a bit of a no brainer and that a bit of Gerard Deulofeu magic might just unpick Arsenal. We were therefore staggered, flummoxed and disappointed to see John Stones on for Muhammed Besic as the only substitution at the break. Yes, that's right, 0-2 down so we bring off a midfielder and put on another defender. I guess the purpose of this was to stretch Arsenal more and get forward with the full back. This worked in that they got forward, but it meant that in doing so only an isolated Romelu Lukaku remained in the penalty area whilst Arsenal, with job done at one end, packed their team with defenders to nullify our attack.
The game ticked on and we were crying out, literally crying out, for a striker to come on (we had two of them on the bench) but neither of them were even instructed to do as much as warm up. When Martinez did eventually make his magic 70th minute substitution he brought on Gerard Deulofeu for Ross Barkley. I genuinely haven't a clue what system we were playing in that final 20 minutes and I'm not sure the players did either. Martinez didn't even bother using his third substitution. I just give up. I wish he would too.
Shuffling away at full time Ste and I bemoaned yet another home defeat. Goodison Park has been a fortress time and again over the years and to win only four at Goodison Park this season, with an abysmal EIGHT defeats is just woeful, especially with the players we have.
You assume that Farhad Moshiri won't allow another season like this next term.
Robles: Seemed a bit hesitant with the second goal and I can't even imagine the flak Tim Howard would have gotten for conceding them goals. Occasionally he distributed well but otherwise it was poor. He really isn't convincing me at all. 5
Baines: One of few players to really leave the field with any credit. Kept going and was full of effort. 7
Jagielka: Struggled with the pace and strength of Wellbeck and couldn't do anything to influence the game in the second half. 5
Funes Mori: Made a few good tackles but his distribution was awful at times. 5
Coleman: My man of the match. Along with Leighton Baines and perhaps Aaron Lennon, he was one of few that didn't deserve to be on the losing team today. 8
Besic: Really poor, didn't contribute and was hauled off at half time. 4
McCarthy: With Gareth Barry suspended more responsibility was required from McCarthy though we didn't get it. He ran around a lot and tried to make a few tackles but we needed more going forward from him and it didn't happen. 5
Cleverley: Worked quite hard with little end product. 6
Barkley: A bit in and out of the game but really shouldn't have been substituted...not for a winger at least. 6
Lennon: Worked hard second half but couldn't turn the game around. 7
Lukaku: Was so isolated it was ridiculous. 6
Stones: Perhaps the pick of the centre backs as he at least tried to make a positive impact in the second half. 6
Deulofeu: Couldn't work his magic. Difficult when there's nobody in the penalty area mind. 6
With teetering Arsenal the visitors to Goodison Park this weekend, Everton head into the final phase of 2016-17, the final 10-game stretch that Roberto Martinez’s rhetoric has historically highlighted as the period when his teams reach their peak. Not for the first time this term, though, the question on Evertonian lips is can the Blues translate an impressive victory in the FA Cup into a consistent run of victories in the Premier League?
The win over Manchester City at Goodison in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals was followed by two decent results away from home (a goalless draw back at the Etihad and the 3-3 at Stamford Bridge) but any momentum from those games was checked by a 2-1 home defeat by Swansea City.
Amends were made at Bournemouth in the FA Cup Fifth Round for another farcical 3-3 draw back in November which also helped ease the frustration of the loss to West Brom the week before, but while Martinez's men won at Aston Villa when they resumed Premier League duties, they then threw away a 2-0 lead to West Ham, losing in the worst way possible to a last minute winner.
With the possible exception of when they faced Leicester City, faced with the assignment of facing one of the strongest teams in the top flight at home, Everton have found a level of determination, discipline and organisation that has been elusive against the so-called lesser sides where they have remained too cavalier and open when they should instead have been protecting a lead.
Despite Arsenal's recent faltering form, the hope is that the visit of Arsene Wenger's side this weekend will elicit the same kind of performance from the Blues as the one that eventually prevailed against Chelsea last Saturday.
Certainly, the Gunners will be as vulnerable psychologically than at any other stage of the campaign. Just one victory (the cup replay at Championship side Hull City) in all competitions since they beat leaders Leicester in the League on Valentine's Day has seen the one-time title favourites exit the FA Cup, the Champions League and slip 11 points off the top of the table, albeit with a game in hand.
That has ratcheted up the pressure on Wenger whose failings this term have coincided with the 20th anniversary of his assumption of the Arsenal hot-seat, leading many to wonder if it was time the North London giants seek fresh blood and new ideas.
Already without the likes of Petr Cech (hamstring), Santi Cazorla (Achilles), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Wenger won't relish having to make the trip to Merseyside for the lunchtime kick-off so soon after travelling back to Barcelona, and that will hopefully play into the hands of Martinez who has an almost fully-fit squad from which to choose.
Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas will be suspended following their respective red cards but there are ready-made replacements in the form of Muhamed Besic and Tom Cleverley, the latter having played in midfield in the Belgian's absence in the cup win last weekend.
Gerard Deulofeu, a potential alternative to Mirallas, will be champing at the bit to play having not started a game since the end of January but the strength of the opponents will almost certainly see the manager opt for as few changes as possible. That, combined with Bryan Oviedo being a a slight doubt because of his recent chest infection, should see Leighton Baines and Ramiro Funes Mori continue in defence and Aaron Lennon retain the wide-right berth in which he has been so effective for the past six weeks.
Traditionally a fixture to be dreaded under his predecessor, Everton have done well when hosting Arsenal under Roberto Martinez. The rampant 3-0 victory over them in his first season ever so briefly opened up the possibility of pipping the Gunners to fourth place 2013-14 and it was a result that they were on course to repeat at the beginning of last season but they let slip a 2-0 lead late in the game and had to be content with a draw.
Even at the Emirates, the Blues under Martinez have been well-matched with Wenger’s passing and possession-biased side so the conditions could be right for them to pile on the misery in North London if they can keep it tight at the back, exploit the uncertainty in Arsenal’s back line and, most importantly, get the ball to Romelu Lukaku in dangerous areas.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Predicted line-up: Robles, Coleman, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Baines, McCarthy, Besic, Cleverley, Lennon, Barkley, Lukaku