Arsenal to continue the slow rebuild at Goodison Park
Everton vs Arsenal: Premier League (Saturday 19th December 2020, 5.30pm)
by Mark Rowntree
A lack of discipline was cited by Mikel Arteta as the primary reason for Arsenal’s failings at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, and while the excuses are beginning to wear thin for some Gunners supporters Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s second-half equaliser stopped the ‘rot’ and offered a basic building block for the trip to Merseyside.
Duncan Ferguson and Freddie Ljungberg were in the respective dug-outs when this pair last clashed at Goodison Park almost exactly 12 months ago, with the incoming managers Carlo Ancelloti and Mikel Arteta mere spectators. Despite FA Cup Final success for Arteta in the interim, there’s no doubting that the veteran Italian has been more successful in the Premier League than his youthful Spanish counterpart.
Inspired by James Rodriguez and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton flew out of the traps in the opening weeks of the season - visually impressive in high-scoring wins against West Brom (5-2) and Brighton (4-2). However, a rocky spell of form coincided with the changing of the seasons and a less impactful Columbian talisman.
Some analysts will point to back-to-back victories against Chelsea and Leicester as a sign that the Toffees are back on the right track, although we shouldn’t necessarily be fooled by the gloss of six points. Everton were dogged in defeating Chelsea in their last home game with a mere 28% of the possession.
Over the years, Arsenal haven’t fared too badly at Goodison Park (W4, D3, L3 since 2010/11) and that offers much needed hope for a positive result. Arteta elected to shuffle the pack in midweek with Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe replacing Alex Lacazette and Willian respectively, while the suspended Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin were replaced by Dani Ceballos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Bellerin is eligible to return to the squad, but unfortunately the otherwise solid Gabriel joins the once more disgraced Xhaka on the side-lines.
Everton have been without the services of James Rodriguez in recent weeks and he is reportedly being monitored on a daily basis with a pivotal EFL Cup Quarter Final against Manchester United looming on the horizon. Meanwhile influential skipper and right back Seamus Coleman is expected to return to the fray for the visit of the Gunners.
Hot on the heels of the Burnley reverse, another home defeat against Southampton would’ve been catastrophic for Arteta and his staff and although two points from six games simply isn’t good enough for the Arsenal, there’s little to fear from an Everton side who could still mutate one way or the other after their promising start to the season.
It’s worth remembering that as recently as early October all seemed broadly well for Arteta and Arsenal. The Christmas period will provide a better indication of what lies in store for followers of Arsenal but we certainly shouldn’t be seeking to throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet. In these current testing times, a point gained on Saturday shouldn’t be viewed as two points dropped.
Draw (13-5; SBK)