Arsenal’s title credentials will face an early test when they face Everton at Goodison Park this evening (Saturday) at 5:30pm (Nigerian time).
The signing of Chile and Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez sent the Gunners into the new Premier League season with aspirations of finally competing for the league’s top honour. However, they needed an injury time goal from Aaron Ramsey to see off managerless Crystal Palace last weekend, and were held to a 1-1 draw by Besiktas in their Champions League play-off in midweek – with Ramsey being sent off.
Despite Arsenal not hitting full-stride yet, Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes the Gunners’ early European involvement will give them an advantage.
“I’m looking at Arsenal with the experience and know-how they have and don’t think playing on Tuesday is going to affect them negatively,” said Martinez. “If anything it could be a positive because you can get rid of that rustiness and can get you into a real competitive frame of mind straight away.
“We need to replicate the level of performance from when we faced them at Goodison last season.”
The Toffees tore through Arsenal in this fixture in the last campaign, with Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku scoring first-half goals in a 3-0 win in April. Everton also managed a draw when these teams met at the Emirates in December, but Arsene Wenger believes that his Arsenal team have evolved into a better side over the summer.
“First of all a team is life and life is movement,” said Wenger, in a bizarrely cryptic pre-match press conference.
“That means the team doesn’t stand still, we move forward and improve. We have young players, which means that every year they can be better. Also the team improves with success, which we had a reasonable amount of last year.
“We have a good opportunity on Saturday to show that we have moved forward and that we are stronger than last year.”
Arsenal are likely to be without Yaya Sanogo, Mikel Arteta and Kieran Gibbs for the clash with Everton, while Theo Walcott remains out. The big decisions for Wenger will be whether or not to reintroduce German World Cup winners Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski, and in what position to play Sanchez as the summer signing finds his feet at the club. The physical condition of Jack Wilshere will be a concern, but with Arteta ruled out it would appear likely that Wilshere will play his third game in a week.
Everton broke from their usual safe and steady transfer strategy in the summer with a big bid for Chelsea forward Lukaku. The striker’s addition, plus a new contract for Ross Barkley, suggests that Everton would be a threat for the top four this season, but Barkley injured his knee on the opening weekend and could be out for months, and the Toffees were unimpressive in a 2-2 draw with newly-promoted Leicester City on the opening weekend.
Before last season’s thumping 3-0 win, Everton hadn’t beaten Arsenal in 14 attempts – losing nine and drawing five of their meetings since March 2007.
Source: ScoreMobile FC