These two teams head into this game in search of a place in the semi-final of the FA Cup and a prestigious trip to Wembley. Both have enjoyed prosperous seasons so far and both sides play football the “right way” with an emphasis on passing and moving. Despite this positivity, both teams face a crucial segment of the season, with the next few weeks deciding if this season is good or great. Everton are currently fading from the race for the top four whilst Arsenal stand on the brink of a European exit. If either club is to get their season back into gear, this might be the place to do it with a semi-final date surely being the catalyst for a positive end to the term.
Centre back Laurent Koscielny and left back Nacho Monreal should both be passed fit for this game after hamstring and ankle injuries respectively. Both Kim Källström and Aaron Ramsey have been back in training this week so both could be fit for the trip to Munich next week but neither should be fit for this encounter. Wilshere was injured during the England friendly after taking a knock to his ankle from Liverpool centre back Daniel Agger, so he misses out, whilst Theo Walcott and About Diaby remain long term absentees with ACL injuries keeping them out until the end of the season.
Everton are only marginally better off than Arsenal when it comes to injuries with no less than six players either doubtful or ruled out. Positive news for Roberto Martinez comes from Alcaraz’s imminent return from a muscle fatigue induced break, whilst the biggest slice of bad news comes from Lacina Traore’s injured hamstring which could take 6-8 weeks to heal. That injury leaves Martinez with only one fit striker after the sale of Jelavic and Arouna Koné’s long-term knee injury. Jagielka should be fit for next weekend but this game will come too soon for the England centre back after his hamstring injury left him unfit for national team duty. Everton’s two worst injuries come in the form of Bryan Oviedo (double leg break) and Darron Gibson (ACL) – both of whom should be out until the end of the season.
Arsenal have kept two clean sheets in this season’s FA Cup and have conceded just once in their three games – that was last time out to Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal have done well to get this far in the competition after facing both Liverpool and Tottenham en route to the quarter-final. The Gunners have scored eight goals so far – including four at home to Coventry City in the fourth round.
In the Premier League, Arsenal have completed a staggering 13,680 open play passes since the start of the season. Compared to just 10,813 for Everton.
These two clubs have won the FA Cup 15 times between them. With 10 of those wins coming for Arsenal.
Arsenal have been almost twice as productive as Everton in terms of creating clear-cut chances in the league. The Gunners have created 49 CCC’s compared to Everton’s 25.
Arsenal and Everton have only met three times in FA Cup competition with the Blues winning two of those meetings: in 1910 and 1981. Arsenal’s only win came in 1928.
Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn’t played anywhere near as much as he would have liked this season but he’s performed well when he’s played and at the moment the young Arsenal man seems certain to travel to the World Cup with Roy Hodgson’s England side. The adaptable Englishman has played in numerous positions this season including the wide areas and as a deep-lying playmaker. The former Southampton man has averaged an 84% pass completion rate in the league this season and he even managed to complete 100% of his passes in the home game against Fulham in January (although he didn’t play the full 90 minutes). He could improve his goalscoring though, having only scored two league goals so far this season – both against Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium. However, at least he’s clinical – Chamberlain has converted 100% of clear-cut chances this season. Despite only scoring two league goals, Chamberlain appears to be confident in front of goal after his close range finish against Liverpool in the last round set Arsenal on their way to a solid victory over a title rival. His creativity remains a strong aspect of his game with the midfielder creating two clear-cut chances in just eight Premier League games – that’s one CCC every 142.5 minutes, which is much stronger than Everton’s key man, Kevin Mirallas, who only creates a CCC every 471.8 minutes.
Kevin Mirallas is having a fine year for Everton and the guidance of Roberto Martinez seems to have taken the Belgian winger to the next level after some stunning displays for the Toffees this season. Mirallas seems at ease with Roberto Martinez’s passing game, with the pacey wideman’s final third passing accuracy remaining at a very high 79% – higher than Oxlade-Chamberlain’s in fact (74%). Mirallas could do with shooting less or shooting from better locations on the pitch, as his chance conversion rate is a lowly 12% – too low for a player of his ability. One of Mirallas’ strengths is his crossing and he’s shown that by hitting 32% of his crosses to a teammate – a very competitive percentage. He’s also a hard working player as is proved when you look at how many times he’s won possession in the opposition’s defensive third – Mirallas has secured the ball on eight separate occasions this season, showing he has skill as well as a high work ethic.
The Gunners have a very strong home record this season so many would expect a home win this time despite Everton’s excellent display when the two sides drew 1-1 here earlier in the season. I think I’ll go for a 2-1 Arsenal victory – although it could go either way with Wenger surely tempted to rest players with Bayern Munich on the horizon.