The usual five talking points ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League game away at Everton.
On the road woes have to end
The stats don’t look good. Arsenal are yet to win an away game against top-half opposition in 2018-19 and are the only team in the entire league yet to keep a clean sheet on the road this term. If there is no clean sheet on Sunday it would be the first time since February 1985 that they have conceded in 15 consecutive top-flight away games. Ouch. These numbers wouldn’t be out of place in an online casino Australia at the more number heavy end of a roulette table. They have won just one of their last eight Premier League away matches – at Huddersfield – and their away matches in Europe in 2019 have both ended in defeat. There’s no debate that failure to improve will cost the Gunners any chance of a top four finish. However, their performance against Spurs at Wembley showed that they have it in them to turn up away from the Emirates.
More reason for hope
Playing Everton has generally been a decent experience for Arsenal fans, with only the odd aberration. The Toffees have lost their last four meetings with the Gunners, conceding 15 goals in the process – although three of those matches came at the Emirates. The victory at Goodison Park last season was one of only four away wins last season, as Arsenal proved as reliable as an unlucky player on casinosnz. Everton did beat Arsenal at home in 2014 and 2016, but these were their only wins in the last 12 years (there have also been six draws). So history, at least, leans towards Unai Emery’s side.
Form to Marco Silva’s rescue?
Before you relax too much Everton have just won consecutive Premier League fixtures for only the second time this season. And significantly, their last match at home saw them beat Chelsea, although that was their first win after a 25-match winless run against the ‘big six’. They have also tightened up a bit at the back, keeping a clean sheet in four of their last five games. One hopes that this purely a blip from a side known for their inconsistency. They have only won two of their last home league games after all.
Arsenal Injury Doubts
Aside from the obvious long-term absentees, there are doubts about Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka. The club captain has an ankle problem, so one suspects he will only be playing one game a week if he is deemed fit enough to risk. How often he turns out could be highly significant in Arsenal’s hopes for the remainder of the campaign, given the form he has been in. Mustafi used to play for Everton, and may get another start if Koscielny is not selected. Worried, me? You bet. Additionally, Lucas Torreira’s ban continues after his red card v Spurs, although at least it means he is rested ahead of the game against Napoli on Thursday.
It looks like the former Arsenal speed merchant has fallen out of favour with Everton boss Marco Silva. He has started 23 of the club’s league games this season, making an additional eight substitute appearances. However, three of those have come since he last started v Liverpool on March 3rd and totaled 16 minutes. Theo was Sam Allardyce’s signing, although he has certainly been given plenty of chances by his replacement. He is Everton’s highest earning player on £110,000-a-week plus bonuses and still has over two years remaining on his contract. The fact that he has only scored three goals this season is one of the reasons the club would almost certainly let him go in the summer if the right offer came in. It simply hasn’t worked out. Will the ‘law of the ex’ be a factor on Sunday? If it is, it will probably be in the dying minutes of the game, as Silva is unlikely to make unnecessary changes to a winning team.
I’m not going to deliberately predict an Arsenal draw or defeat for superstitious reasons. I’ve had enough of that. However, I won’t put the mockers on it by starting any belief Emery’s side will win. It is a genuinely difficult one to call, but one thing is undeniable. The Gunners need to improve on the road, but have every incentive. If we forget the performance in Rennes after Sokratis’ red card, they have been playing some good football of late – not least against Newcastle on Monday evening. So there is reason for optimism. A win would certainly make their task of getting into the top four that much easier. They won’t need to win every away game, but in reality, they will probably need to win three of the five that remain.