Premier League continues with the visit to Goodison Park today. To a ground where Everton have won and drawn the same of number in the league thus far this season. A run which was started by their opening day win over Manchester United. They also have a matching win-draw-lose record away from home as us. It’s not like we needed any further reminder how big and important today’s game is. Especially not when we dropped 2 points on Saturday. Many would have taken 4 points out of these 2 fixtures and we can only achieve that by winning tonight.
It won’t be easy because David Moyes’ side will be boosted by the return of Marouane Fellaini. The big Belgian has already got 6 goals and half that many assists under his in the league so far. It is not an understatement of the matter to say that if we managed to keep him quiet, we will have a good game. However, if we look further down both list, it is easy to identify to other threats to us. Nikica Jelavic is their second highest goalscorer, while Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines are behind Fellaini in the assist chart.
We need to keep a close eye on all 4 of them and including Kevin Mirallas. Baines with his bombing runs down the left hand side, Jelavic with his upper body strength and accuracy in front of goal just like Fellaini. Not forgetting Pienaar pulling the strings from a wide positions. Some of the counter measures involves players being more aware of the potential dangers. Like Per Mertesacker or Thomas Vermaelen making sure that they are not bullied by the physical presence of both Jelavic and Fellaini. Our Belgian captain can surely impart more knowledge on Mirallas to the rest of the team.
The other counter measure involve just fielding a player. For that, we can count on the return of Theo Walcott. Our own leading assist maker in the league is set for a return to the starting line-up since that big North London Derby win. His presence will surely mean that Baines will have to reign in his foraging runs up front to ensure that he doesn’t get expose. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had the role of the wide right of the attacking triumvirate but has failed to shine in those two games against Montpellier and Aston Villa. So, in a way it’s good to see that Walcott is available.
After making the changes to rest his players on Saturday, I wonder whether there will be more changes to the team for today’s game. I could certainly think of of one or two players (whispers : They are both Spanish) who might also need some time off to recharge their batteries. However, as I said earlier, we undermined this game at our peril. They will have to soldier on for at least one more game as the next match against Swansea is probably a better game to leave out some of the more vital member of the first team. That one is a home game against a side whose game is likely to be more open, as well.
We have to put our best side out today. There should be no question about that. Argumentative whether that includes Vermaelen or not (not, in my opinion) but after being rest at the weekend, the captain will surely slot straight in. In that sense, the more pertinent question is whether Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny gets to continue their run in the side. On form, it would have to be the big fast German. If we’re basing on the resting theory, then it would be Koscielny. If I’m a betting man (which I am), I would say the Frenchman loses out.
If it’s our best side then it must mean a return to the starting line-up for Jack Wilshere. You could say that we missed his drive a little against Villa and the fact that he wasn’t used even though he was on the bench is baffling. There’s a lot on his shoulders and the news about him in the verge/or in the middle or renegotiating a new contract and being earmarked as the next Arsenal captain, will only serve to increase those responsibilities. Some parties would suggest that, that is a lot to take for a young man of his age but if anyone has the capability to do it, it’s Wilshere. Today, hopefully we will get to see him wriggle his way into pockets of spaces and influencing our game. If there’s one thing he does best, it’s his ability to speed up the game with either a one-touch-pass or a drop of the shoulder.
There would be goals in this game. Neither defences are in the best of shape/form. We are only slightly better, at an average of a goal a game, conceded. The return of Kieran Gibbs on Saturday brought about another clean sheet for us but that is also down to the poor quality of the opposition. The clean sheet would be so much more valuable and acknowledged today. If we utilise our pace well in the attacking sense, this Everton defence can be get at.
It was another let down on Saturday and the only way to make it better is for the team to do well today. Everton won’t give up without a fight, so we will have to be ready to fight back as well. Games are coming thick and fast after this. Every match is a chance to move up. Which we can, over the opposition today, if we win.
Up The Arsenal!!!