Arsenal travel to Everton on the back of Wednesday’s win knowing that victory must be repeated with Chelsea’s contest with Sunderland, surely adding three more points to their total. The squad has frequently talked of winning to ensure they can capitalise on any slips by rivals. Manchester United almost handed them that yesterday, recovering to take a point at Villa Park but still enabling Arsenal to leapfrog them into second with victory at Goodison Park.
Ahead of this fixture, Arsene has no new injury worries but will still tinker with the winning side. Not that he has much room for manoeuvre in defence with Laurent Koscielny serving the final match of his ban. It means the continuance of the Djourou / Squillaci partnership in the centre and whilst Keiran Gibbs has recovered and is included in the squad which travels, he surely will not be in the starting line-up for this fixture.
Any changes today are most likely in midfield. Tomas Rosicky rarely plays two games in a row these days but having been influential on Wednesday has put forward a good case for that to change. On this occasion though, I believe Nasri will be restored to the starting XI. His inclusion may well come at the expense of Jack Wilshere as Wenger seeks to rotate and also protect the precocity which has seen calls for him to be given a free role in next week’s friendly for England against France. Expectations at club level but when the weight of a nation devoid of consistently skilful midfielders for several decades, begins to be heaped on his shoulders, it’s time to think about pulling him out of the spotlight for a game.
Not that such things will overly influence Wenger. He will be more concerned with form and Wilshere dropped below the standards that he has set for himself on Wednesday night. Wenger may believe that a rest is due on that basis, and that basis alone.
Others though are more concerned with the form of the captain. The petulance displayed against Newcastle and manifested in a poor challenge at Wolves, signals that the player is frustrated by his own performance, hampered by an injury which had not entirely cleared up, restricting his mobility.
This was the focus of Arsene’s comments,
Stamina-wise, Cesc is there now. He has lost his restriction in his head and the fear of injury in his hamstring. He still lacks a little bit of zip in the decision-making and his acceleration in the final third. He is at 95 per cent.
But from game to game you will see the real Cesc. Maybe in the next game on Sunday…I felt we saw a different Cesc at Wolves – focused, motivated, wanted to give everything, no restriction. He was already a completely different player. That means in the next game he should be alright.
Wenger praised Fabregas for his professionalism, acknowledging that the Spaniard was frustrated in the failure of Barcelona to secure his signature. Fabregas reciprocated, noting Wenger is as motivated as he ever has been, an Arsenal love-in.
Today’s hosts are in better form than they had been earlier in the season, unbeaten since Newcastle won by a single goal at Goodison Park in September. Even so, they have drawn half of their games beating Liverpool and Stoke at home whilst recovering a two-goal deficit against Manchester United to salvage a point.
Arsenal has the style of play to breakdown the obdurate Everton defence. United and Blackpool are the only sides to score more than once against them, both matches resulting in a draw, a key reason for Chamakh and Arshavin to play. The former has broken his duck away from home and will draw confidence from that and his manager’s praise. The latter had a good game on Wednesday, providing a spark to the attack. With Walcott on the right, there is enough supply for Chamakh to feed from.
I would expect a starting line-up of:
Fabianksi; Sagna, Djourou, Squillaci, Clichy; Fabregas, Song, Nasri; Arshavin, Chamakh, Walcott
There is nothing to suggest that this will not be a tough encounter; recent seasons have meant Goodison Park has been a happy hunting ground with two wins and a draw in the last three seasons. A win today is required to keep the gap to Chelsea to a maximum of five points. Anything less is a bonus but winning needs to happen to ensure the rewards are reaped.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.