After a difficult period which has seen a slump in form that culminated with elimination from two knockout competitions, Arsenal will be desperate to stop the rot by winning a difficult game at Everton.
The hosts should have renewed impetus after booking their place at Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final with Romelu Lukaku firing them to victory over Chelsea. In a largely scrappy and ill-tempered clash, the Belgian was a class apart as he scored a fine individual goal before netting the second just minutes later, and having taken his tally to the season to 23 he will be confident of deepening Arsenal’s woes here. Most of the time, all he needs is one chance.
Despite that win, Everton’s home record in the Premier League this season is average to say the least and there was considerable anger among supporters following their last defeat at Goodison Park at the hands of West Ham United. Many cast doubt over manager Roberto Martinez and his decision-making, and although some of the criticism he has received may be seen by some as harsh, this is the second season in a row in which the Toffees have badly underachieved.
Realistically, there was no chance of Arsenal pulling round a two-goal deficit in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie with Barcelona, but a team contained a few interesting omissions gave a reasonable account of themselves. Youngster Alex Iwobi will have benefitted immensely from the experience of playing at the Nou Camp alongside the in-form Danny Welbeck. Currently misfiring strikers Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott clearly have a point to prove.
A run of only two wins from the last nine Premier League games has left their title challenge in severe doubt to the extent that the main priority for the remainder of the campaign is to keep hold of a top four place. Manager Arsene Wenger clearly needs results to turn around quickly and although he has been forced to take a lot of vitriol as a result of his side’s current form, he cannot legislate for top players missing a plethora of gilt-edged chances, as has been the case on many occasions in recent months.
Everton are without suspended duo Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas, but Muhamed Besic may make his first start since January.
Mathieu Flamini picked up a hamstring injury in Barcelona and misses out here for Arsenal, who are also unable to call upon Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Petr Cech and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Last Meeting: Arsenal launched a terrific comeback in the closing stages of the meeting in August 2014 in order to come away with a deserved 2-2 draw. An unmarked header from Seamus Coleman saw Everton go ahead on 19 minutes and that was doubled when Steven Naismith finished off a well-worked move. The half-time introduction of Olivier Giroud turned things around, however, with the Frenchman heading in the equaliser after Aaron Ramsey had pulled one back from close range.
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