Everton vs Arsenal

27/11/2012

Match Preview

In retrospect, the Blues' fixture calendar going back as far as mid-September had a fairly benign look to it and that fact doesn't ease the nagging feeling in the pit of the Evertonian stomach that the team has missed a big opportunity over the past few weeks.

Moyes's side have lost just once since their disappointing display at the Hawthorns on 1st September but they've also only won three of those 10 games from, as we all know full well by now, promising positions of attacking and territorial superiority in almost every case.

Importantly, though, they have got something from all but one of those games and while a continued glut of draws won't get the Blues anywhere near the Champions League, the points they have amassed to this point does provide a platform from which to build while the team works through its current frustrations.

The complication, of course, is that the fixture list now takes on a decidedly more treacherous look, starting with the midweek visit of Arsenal and continuing through the Etihad and Britannia Stadiums, Upton Park and home games against Tottenham and Chelsea before the end of the year. Plenty of opportunity for Everton to really make a statement of intent in their quest for fourth place but an equally daunting prospect for a side struggling to keep clean sheets and score enough goals.

Injuries to really important players have not made things any easier. Marouane Fellaini will return after serving a one-game ban for reach five bookings on the season, although it's not clear who should make way. Steven Naismith has grabbed three goals over the past month as a starter, Steven Pienaar's enterprise is well known but he is worryingly off form, and Bryan Oviedo was arguably Everton's best player on Saturday before he switched to the right flank.

Regarding the possibility of Darron Gibson or Kevin Mirallas returning to the starting line-up, Moyes was giving nothing away in his pre-match press conference.

Both were close to being ready but neither played any part in the 1-1 draw with Norwich on Saturday, perhaps because their manager was saving them for the visit of Arsenal where he could put out something close to his strongest side. Gibson, in particular, needs to be eased back into action after almost two months out and Mirallas, by the nature of hamstring injuries, could also suffer a set-back by returning too quickly.

Gibson would be an obvious replacement for Thomas Hitzlsperger who has done well since making his first start at Reading 10 days ago and should Mirallas return, again Pienaar, Naismith or Oviedo — assuming they hadn't already made way for Fellaini — are potential options to drop to the bench.

Elsewhere in the side it was assumed that Seamus Coleman missed out against Norwich through injury and though Tony Hibbert was named among the substitutes, Phil Jagielka was preferred at right back. Whether Moyes saw enough from that reshuffled back line to persist with it remains to be seen, though.

With every player that returns, of course, Moyes's options increase and the selection headaches become positive ones.

The Gunners come to Merseyside sitting sixth in the table and a point behind the Blues having battled through erratic form over the first quarter of the campaign. They have shown an ability to score goals when they're in the mood but defensive fallability has also seen them drop points of their own which has raised yet more questions in North London about the Board's willingness to invest in the squad and the future of Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal are the last team to win at Goodison Park when they escaped with a 1-0 win back in March, though, and their record against the Blues in the Premier League era will give them confidence coming into what is an important match-up as far as that race for fourth is concerned: They did the double over Everton in each of the last two seasons and haven't lost here in five seasons.

Even though he played in the same fixture in March, much of the media focus will be on the return of Mikel Arteta but perhaps the biggest threats to Everton's newly porous back line will be the pace of the likes of top scorer Theo Walcott, who should return from a shoulder problem, and the invention of Santi Cazorla.

The Blues have looked vulnerable on the break in recent weeks and that may be how Arsene Wenger sets out his stall for this one, while keeping an eye on how he can capitalise from set-pieces — another area where Moyes's men have been susceptible — through Lukas Podolski or Olivier Giroud.

For Everton, possession, that elusive ruthlessness and the power of the Goodison 12th man under the floodlights will be key. At their best this season they've looked capable of beating anyone in the division — they just need to channel that belief and attacking talent into goals.

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Reader Comments

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Anto Byrne
623 Posted 28/11/2012 at 05:48:00
Keep it tight, hit em on the break! I want to see a solid defensive performance and if we can have some players returning, all the better.
Brendan McLaughlin
643 Posted 28/11/2012 at 09:17:47
"Keep it tight" Anto... on Toffeeweb...jeez you've got balls
Patrick Murphy
647 Posted 28/11/2012 at 09:50:36
According to the Daily Telegrah "The winners and runners-up in the Europa League could be rewarded with places in the Champions League as part of a major shake-up of the competition being considered by Uefa."

They are also considering whether to totally scrap the Europa League and extend the CL to include those clubs who would have qualified for the Europa.

What they really mean is the PL is making so much cash, how can we form a European Super League.

Funny how those clubs that would normally have been a shoe-in for CL football are now being offered a huge incentive to go all out for the Europa – or some might say qualify for the CL on the cheap. May explain our neighbours policy over the last 12-18 months.

If only they had opened this particular door 5 or 6 years ago.

Nick Entwistle
653 Posted 28/11/2012 at 10:22:42
Arsenal have had 5 midweek games in the last 6 weeks, plus the international nonsence. Surely they'll be flagging, right?
Kevin Day
660 Posted 28/11/2012 at 10:48:02
Here's hoping, Nick.
Sam Hoare
662 Posted 28/11/2012 at 11:02:41
Hmm... wonder if Gibson or Mirallas will be in the mix. Subs bench at best, I would wager. Think Hibbert might be back though.

I predict:

Howard
Hibbert Jagielka Distin Baines
Naismith Osman Hitzlsperger Pienaar
Fellaini
Jelavic


Alan Newton
669 Posted 28/11/2012 at 11:31:01
This really could go either way tonight. I think it's too close to call. It depends on whether either team turns up on the night on both sides.

Assuming those on the peripheral of fitness return, I would go with:

Howard (because we don't have any other viable options!)
Hibbert, Jags, Distin, Baines
Mirallas, Fellaini, Gibson, Oviedo
Barkley
Jelavic

Attacking and creative. Although, I don't think Moyes will drop Pienaar, and let's face it, young Barkley is – as yet – untested, so as this isn't Championship Manager, Osman in the middle with Fellaini behind Jelly. However, I see a future for young Ross in that role.

Kevin Tully
671 Posted 28/11/2012 at 11:47:12
A tough game for sure. Arsenal will be desperate not to lose any more ground in the race for 4th. I think I read somewhere they have qualified for the Champions League 13 years on the bounce – an incredible record. He even has a less net spend than us!

We are called moaners on here, what does that make Arsenal fans who want Wenger gone?

We will need good games from our out-of-form players to get a win – Jelavic, Pienaar & Howard all need to pick up their performances. I hope we will have Hibbert back in defence, and Gibson can hopefully keep the ball moving by playing in that defensive midfield role.

We will need to go at them from the off, get the crowd going, and let them think about our attacking options.

The next three fixtures can possibly take the gloss off our good start, I would gladly take 5 or 6 points right now.

James Martin
675 Posted 28/11/2012 at 12:36:21
Patrick, I am as sceptical as you, we should potentially be pleased at that news as it may open a way into the Champions League for us, but knowing Everton and football in this country, I would not be surprised at all to see it just adapting to a new Sky Six rather than the big 4 and having whatever rules it takes to allow Tottenham and Liverpool to join Man City, Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea, rather than the unfashionable clubs like us who actually take the Europa League seriously.
Minik Hansen
676 Posted 28/11/2012 at 12:41:39
Kevin, I think Arsenal is always desperate, though they've dropped points same as us. Close call, they've had more fixtures than us, and if we can keep it up all the way, we've got a pretty darn good chance. Our squad usually step up against toughest opponents.

Never witnessed a win over Arsenal in my time supporting Everton, so here's a good wish for the lads.

Dan McKie
690 Posted 28/11/2012 at 15:23:27
Moyes said there would be a similar side to the Norwich game, just Fellaini in and someone making way, which I hope would be Hitzlsperger. Weird how Darron 'back next game' Gibson and Mirallas had a good chance of coming back for the Norwich game, but no chance 4 days on for tonight's game. Gibson was supposed to be back for QPR when his injury first hit!
Tom Bowers
699 Posted 28/11/2012 at 16:07:04
Midfield has to step up and play 90 minutes with solid tackling and passing otherwise it will be another disappointing result.

Other teams are very close in the table and we will slide if other results are against us...

Come on, Moyes, pick the right team and make the right substitutions, if necessary, at the right time for once.
Andy Meighan
707 Posted 28/11/2012 at 17:00:11
Shit home record against them on par with that crowd from over there not holding my breath for anything special. Hope Arteta gets a great reception. He gave us 6 years' magnificent service. COYB
Jon Ferguson
714 Posted 28/11/2012 at 17:27:13
Howard
Coleman Jags Distin Baines
Hitz Osman
Pienaar Felli Oveido
Jelavic

Naismith pushing for a place.
Gibson and Mirallas in if available.
Barkely on the bench.

Shane Corcoran
729 Posted 28/11/2012 at 18:55:26
Heitinga out and Hibbert in. Fellaini and Gibson in for Oviedo and Hitzelsperger. No Miralles
Ged Simpson
730 Posted 28/11/2012 at 18:58:09
Live forum http://www.toffeeweb.com/comment/live/
Tom Bowers
733 Posted 28/11/2012 at 19:03:58
Gibbo is in so I hope he is 100% and gets in the groove right away. Pity about Kev. He adds spark to the offence which Naismith doesn't. Why was he kept on the field when he got nobbled against RS? He might have been back by now. Pleased about Jags. Moving back to central.

Osman going to have a big game to show upstart Wilshere how it's done?

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