Arsenal vs Everton

Saturday, 3 February, 2018 0comments  |  Jump to last
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Will new loan signing Eliaquim Mangala go straight into the team?

Everton return to London for another difficult Saturday evening kick-off as they face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium where they can hopefully build on the midweek win over Leicester.

Certainly, the Blues should travel in a far more positive frame of mind than had Wednesday's match gone the other way. Now, they have the platform to go the Capital with a measure of self belief and, potentially — given Everton's history in this fixture and Arsenal's recent frailties — an attitude that they may as well just go out and have a go.

With just one Premier League victory since the turn of the year and defeats away from home to Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest and Swansea, Arsene Wenger's position at the North London club is back under heavy scrutiny.

It's a sequence that has left them sitting in sixth place coming into this weekend and eight points off the top four places that were almost their divine right before last season. The Gunners remain very strong at the Emirates, however, having only lost once there and they would be third in the league if only home games counted.

They have also moved to replace the departed Alexis Sanchez with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but the pacy striker is doubtful because of illness which could prevent him from making his debut this weekend.

That would be music to Sam Allardyce's ears as he prepares for what promises to be as difficult an assignment as last month's trip to Wembley to face Tottenham. Everton were hammered 4-0 that day but the hope is that enough was learned that day to avoid another drubbing of that magnitude.

For one thing, the back line is expected to be different, with Phil Jagielka unlikely to be asked to play a second game in the space of four days. Ashley Williams or Mason Holgate — the younger centre half played against Spurs and didn't come out that game too well — could come back into the team or Allardyce may decide to hand an immediate debut to new loan signing, Eliaqium Mangala.

The Frenchman could also end up replacing Cuco Martina at left back instead but the manager's recent rhetoric suggests he is more than happy with the Curacao international's performances. On the other side of defence, Seamus Coleman will need to be managed but, in light of his “almost superhuman” (to use his manager's words) efforts in midweek, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him start.

In midfield, while Wayne Rooney fulfilled his brief as a deeper-lying midfielder in mostly impressive fashion against Leicester, it remains to be seen whether Allardyce opts for the more defensive posture of two holding midfielders instead given the calibre of the opposition.

With James McCarthy injured, that could mean a recall for Morgan Schneiderlin alongside Idrissa Gueye and Rooney or Gylfi Sigurdsson possibly dropping back to the bench.

Further forward, Allardyce's comments to the media hint at Oumar Niasse continuing as the main striker, with Theo Walcott in line to play against his former club just two weeks after leaving the Emirates in a £20m deal.

22 years without a win and some awfully one-sided games decided in Arsenal's favour in between mean that it's been a while since an Everton team went to the Emirates and gave the home side a scare.

It would be nice for the Blues to be one of those teams that can give Wenger's men an early bloody nose and put them off their stride to such a degree that they can be beaten. Bournemouth certainly showed the way against Chelsea on Wednesday but there has been little evidence of Allardyce the spoiler so far; hopefully he can rediscover that side this weekend.

Kick-off: 5:30pm, Saturday 3 February, 2018
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Last Time: Arsenal 3 - 1 Everton

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mangala, Martina, Gueye, Davies, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Niasse


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