The early kick-off on Sunday will be an interesting contest as both Everton and Arsenal need to pick up a positive result. The Gunners will take confidence from their previous success in this fixture as they have won more Premier League matches against the Toffees than any other opponent. However, they have yet to win away from home this season and their disappointing loss to Watford last weekend will be playing on the minds of the players. Ronald Koeman’s side will be lacking confidence after their worst start to a league season in nine years, but they did manage to take the three points in this fixture last season thanks to goals from Seamus Coleman and Ashley Williams.
Everton are currently in 16th position and only two points above the relegation zone. They were lucky to escape with a point last weekend against Brighton and their record of only one win in their last seven Premier League matches underlines the lack of confidence in the current squad. Ronald Koeman is the odds-on favourite to be the next manager to be sacked in the division and the next few matches suggest it will get worse before it gets better. They were talked about as Champions League contenders at the beginning of the season, but they have failed to live up to the hype. If they don’t get a win this weekend, it could spell the end for their manager.
Arsenal are once again showing an inconsistency that makes it impossible for them to challenge for the title. They are currently in 6th position and based on the evidence so far, that is their most likely finishing position. It was always going to be a huge ask for them to regain their place in the top four after making few changes during the summer. The decision to keep Arsene Wenger was a risk, while the decision not to back him with more funds was stupidity. This will be viewed as a fixture they have to win to turn around their away form. It will be fascinating to see if they can deliver.
Wayne Rooney is expected to start this weekend after sitting out of Everton’s Europa League defeat to Lyon. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Leighton Baines and Idrissa Gueye are all expected to return to the starting eleven. James McCarthy is a doubt with a knee injury, although there is hope he will return.
Alexis Sanchez is expected to return to the matchday squad, but Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey are doubts with both set to undergo fitness tests. Danny Welbeck, Calum Chambers and Francis Coquelin are others that are touch and go for this weekend.
Only in 2005-6 have Everton scored fewer than six goals in their opening nine matches of a top-flight season. They’ll be keen to avoid repeating that on Sunday.
This fixture will be Arsene Wenger’s 400th away game as a Premier League manager. He will become only the second manager to reach the landmark after Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Toffees have struggled to find the right blend in central midfield, but Idrissa Gueye has been one of their standout players and will be key to their chances at the weekend. There is a new breed of central midfielders beginning to emerge across Europe following in the footsteps of N’Golo Kante. Gueye is a similar type of player and his ability to win the ball in central areas makes him a dangerous player to go up against, especially given the lack of quality possessed by Arsenal in midfield. Gueye is once again proving his worth in the middle of the park, as he averages 2.63 successful tackles and 1.7 interceptions per ninety minutes. On Sunday, he will be asked to put the opposition midfielders under pressure and attempt to win the ball high up the pitch. If he has a good game, there is a real possibility that the home side can come away from three points.
It has been a good start for the French international in the Premier League as he has scored four times in eight matches. He is currently finding the back of the net once every 139.75 minutes, which is a good ratio for a player who has recently arrived in England. However, what makes his form even more impressive is the lack of consistency in the rest of the team. He is only attempting 2.59 shots per ninety minutes, but his shooting accuracy of 67% means that he carries a real threat even if he isn’t getting as many chances as the likes of Alvaro Morata and Sergio Aguero. Arsenal need to improve their chance creation if they want to challenge at the top of the division. In Lacazette, they have a striker that carries a real goal threat, but they need to supply him with the ammunition if they are to get the best from him. Against Everton, they will be facing a team with low confidence that has been conceding a lot of chances. They need to take advantage of that and create chances for their current top scorer.
This is going to be a nervy affair as neither side look at their best. It will be interesting to see how the Everton players approach this game and it will tell us a lot about the current feeling in the dressing room towards Ronald Koeman. The Dutchman is running out of time and he needs his players to deliver a good performance in order to consolidate his position as manager. Based on current form, that seems unlikely. Although Arsenal haven’t been playing well, they have more talent than the home side and should have enough to take the three points. It won’t be a great spectacle, but the visitors are definitely the more likely winners.