Arsenal will – at least temporarily – go top of the Premier League if they can end an excellent week by seeing off Everton, against whom they have not lost at home for nearly 20 years.
Very few people doubt now that the Gunners are serious title contenders in what looks a very open race, and they have certainly showed their class over their last three outings, during which they have scored eight times without reply. A terrific demolition of rivals Manchester United was followed after the international break by a comprehensive win at Watford and then on Tuesday by a wholly merited success over Bayern Munich to keep their Champions League hopes alive.
The entire forward line is in fine form, with Mesut Ozil putting together his best run of performances since joining the club over two years ago and continuing to keep Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out of the starting line-up. There is, however, still a debate over who should start through the middle, with Olivier Giroud doing his chances no harming by scoring in the last two games, and moreover he has a very good record against Everton.
The gameplan for visiting boss Roberto Martinez will be to soak up the pressure that will inevitably come his side’s way and hit Arsenal on the break, an approach which has earned rewards on several occasions already this season and contributed fully to an unbeaten away record. The Spaniard will also be keen for a response to what was a massively below-par display at home to Man Utd last time out, where they fell to a convincing 3-0 loss.
The Toffees just were not at it from the start on what was admittedly a poignant afternoon at Goodison Park, and they gave United far too much freedom to carve them open. If they can return to their best here, Everton clearly have the quality within their ranks to trouble Arsenal, and Steven Naismith is the kind of player who will never give the two centre-back’s a moment of peace. The Scot will play just in behind Romelu Lukaku, a partnership which can cause opponents all sorts of problems when on form.
Mikel Arteta is back on the sidelines for Arsenal, who are without goalkeeper David Ospina and Aaron Ramsey, who begins a three-week lay-off.
Everton are hoping that midfielder Tom Cleverley will be fit enough to return to the match day squad after recovering from injury.
Last Meeting: Arsenal bounced back from their awful Champions League loss at home to Monaco by comfortably seeing off Everton with a goal in either half. Olivier Giroud got the first six minutes before the break when he volleyed in from a Mesut Ozil corner, and the win was wrapped up towards the end by a deflected shot from Tomas Rosicky.
Played for both – Philippe Senderos: The Swiss defender began playing for Arsenal in 2004 and was in and out of the side throughout his six-year stay, making 84 appearances in the Premier League and scoring four goals. He played the full match as he helped them win the FA Cup in 2005. Shortly before he left in 2010 he had a loan spell with Everton, but only made three outings in all competitions.
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