Everton vs Arsenal

Saturday, 21 October, 2017 0comments  |  Jump to last

Might Ashley Williams keep his place after his goalscoring intervention Thursday against Lyon?

Ronald Koeman's quest to find a morale-boosting win continues with the visit of Arsenal this Sunday.

Everton have won just twice in two months in all competitions, a timespan that includes 12 matches and it has left the manager in what you would think would be a very tenuous position, with an even more daunting task awaiting him at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup on Wednesday.

Last season, this fixture proved to be a turning point for Everton under Koeman, at least in terms of their home form — while Goodison Park would become a fortress for a few months after Ashley Williams headed home the winner over the Gunners in December, the Blues have won twice on their travels since.

In what was a foretelling of the current crisis, the Dutchman had been struggling through his first few months at the helm to mould his team into a cohesive, winning unit. Everton's form had fallen away following an unexpectedly impressive start to the 2016-17 campaign but from a particularly demoralising 3-2 defeat at Watford came a pivot in the form of a 2-1 triumph over Arsenal.

Koeman will be hoping for a repeat this weekend, although it is going to take many more victories before the majority of Evertonians will be convinced he is still the right man for the job. A lot of damage to his credibility has been done in recent weeks and privately he might wish for easier opposition than Arsenal — although as he has pointed out, Arsene Wenger's charges haven't been anything to shout about away from the Emirates.

“If you look back to last season,” he said, “we had some great games against really big teams in the Premier League and why not against Arsenal?

“Because Arsenal are not unbeatable, they're not the strongest team away from home this season.

“We know we need to improve, we need to play better but I think if we bring the fight on the pitch and the aggression in a good way then we have a good chance to win the game.”

Koeman will welcome back some of the players he rested, for better or for worse, against Lyon on Thursday evening but he may have to do without Morgan Schneiderlin who came off with a heavy knock that now seems to have looked worse than it was on the night.

The Frenchman will be assessed before Koeman makes his decision but the manager confirmed that all three of Phil Jagielka, Wayne Rooney and Leighton Baines will return. James McCarthy has a chance of being included in the squad after coming through 45 minutes' worth of action for the Under-23s last Tuesday.

Gylfi Sigurdsson, a substitute in the Europa League match, is also expected to be restored to the starting XI, although how Koeman might go about arranging his team this time.

Williams's feisty performance and goal against Lyon drew praise from the boss while Michael Keane, who had a rough night overall, was singled out as one of the players making too many mistakes in Koeman's eyes and it would not be a surprise to see him taken out of the firing line for a bit.

Up front, Dominic Calvert-Lewin might get the nod again over Oumar Niasse who was disappointing against Burnley and failed to set the world alight at Brighton while Kevin Mirallas may have to make do with the bench again despite being one of the brighter spots in the defeat to Lyon before he came off.

Arsenal, who have not been without their critics or pressure from supporters themselves this season, will welcome Alexis Sanchez back but Danny Welbeck, Calum Chambers and Francis Coquelin are doubtful. Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny will undergo late fitness assessments.

Despite being winless on the road so far, Arsenal always represent tough opposition so it goes without saying that they will pose a stern challenge for Everton. Given the way the Blues have been playing, a win seems like wishful thinking but Koeman will hope he can harness some of that fight he saw against Lyon and get a dose of luck, the lack of which he has been lamenting after every poor result lately.

Kick-off: 1.30pm, Sunday 22 October, 2017
Referee: Craig Pawson
Last Time Everton 2-1 Arsenal

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Martina, Jagielka, Williams, Baines, Gueye, Davies, Vlasic, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin