Everton are now entering a stretch of games that will determine where they are headed for the rest of the season. It all starts at home against Arsenal in a midweek fixture. Will Everton come out on fire, or are they going to submit to the Gunners, yet again?
The inability to finish games has been getting incredibly frustrating for the fans, so one can only imagine how ticked off David Moyes and his boys must be. It might not be time for a sports psychologist yet, but it's definitely a good time for the veterans in the side to stand up and show some leadership.The games are starting to come thick and fast now that we are entering the holiday season, and this is not the time for flagging spirits and wavering motivations.
Everton always seem to give Arsenal a good game, but always seem to lose as well. In fact, Arsenal have not lost a game at Goodison Park since early 2007. Also, Arsenal sit in sixth, one place and one point behind the Toffees so there is no better time than now for Moyes to open up a buffer between his side and Arsene Wenger's. An evening game at Goodison is always a raucous affair and tomorrow should be no different with a loud crowd getting involved.
Team News -
The curious case of Darron Gibson seems to be getting more and more puzzling. After playing for the reserves over a week ago, he didn't even make the bench on Saturday, so the mystery continues with him. Moyes came out and said that the team for tomorrow should be very similar to the side over the weekend, in which case Kevin Mirallas will probably miss out yet again. Marouane Fellaini should be back from suspension and Tony Hibbert is in line to reclaim his right back spot as well.
Wenger's big concern will be Theo Walcott. He does appear to have fully recovered from his shoulder injury and could be in contention for the game. Tomas Rosicky is still in rehabilitation and will miss out, as will two other players who have been out long term Abou Diaby and Andre Santos.
Keys To The Game -
Everton's lack of depth means out of form players like Nikica Jelavić and Steven Pienaar will have to play through their slumps until they find their touch again. Fellaini's return should help as he can be an effective link-man between the two. Arsenal's backline has been caught out a few times this season in being slow to return after pushing up high, and this presents chances for Leighton Baines and Pienaar to push balls through for Jelavic, Fellaini and possibly Steven Naismith on the right wing. Speaking of Naismith, we are waiting with bated breath to see when Moyes finally realizes that he is a one-half player only and his disappearances in the second half are quickly approaching the infamous certainty of death and taxes.
Arsenal have scored goals in bunches when they have gotten going. This does not bode well for Everton who have received a couple of hidings from the Gunners in recent years. However, you can expect both teams to have spells of possession in this game, and it will come down to who takes their chances. Between Santi Cazorla and ex-Everton man Mikel Arteta, Arsenal can pass the ball to death in the middle, but as long as the Everton midfield and backline block lanes and cover their men, all that possession will be null and void. In defence, expect Wenger to use Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker to challenge Fellaini's aerial presence. The Bacary Sagna - Theo Walcott versus Baines - Pienaar will be a fascinating battle to watch all game long. Sole striker Olivier Giroud has been in a good nick and will keep Phil Jagielka busy.
Match Facts -
Everton have only lost two of their last twenty two games in the Premier League, both away.
However, they have also not beaten Arsenal in the last ten times they have played.
Moyes worst record against any team is against Arsenal: 3 wins, 4 draws, 16 losses.
Everton are top of the Premier League in shots taken with 183, excluding blocked shots.
Baines leads the League in chances created with 50. Cazorla is second, with 39.
Referee Michael Oliver has handled 5 Everton games, 3W & 2D and 4 Arsenal games, 1W and 3L.