Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Saturday December 7 2013
8th December, 2013
With all of their rivals dropping points, Arsenal know a win against Everton will see them go seven points clear at the top of the table. However, Everton will be no pushovers, as Wednesday night's victory at Old Trafford proved.
Martinez has made Everton a more expansive and varied outfit. With clean sheets in each of their last three away games, they've maintained the solidity which Moyes was renowned for instilling. Their average tackles are even up by one a game.
Whereas the used to rely heavily on the partnership of Pienaar and Baines down the left, with Baines delivering wicked crosses for the likes of Cahill and Fellaini, now Everton are more balanced.
The introduction of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy has seen their average possession stats rise by 4% and their passing accuracy rise by an impressive 4% too according to whoscored.com.
In Romelu Lukaku, Everton also have one of the league's form strikers. It's no surprise that Everton's shooting accuracy has risen by some 6%. Moyes struggled to find Everton a prolific lone striker, with the likes of Beattie, Johnson, Bent, Yakubu, Saha and Jelavic never fully convincing.
Arsenal have built their season from the back, with Per Mertesacker having not conceded a goal in over 10 hours of football for club and country. The big German will deal with a slightly different threat tomorrow in the strong and pacey Belgian.
Arsenal offer a varied threat of their own. If you are occupied battling the physical presence of Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey can sneak into your area unnoticed.
You want to put two men on Ozil? That leaves Santi Cazorla free. Overcommitted to attack? Theo Walcott is sprinting into open space. I suspect this game will rest on the first goal. Everton haven't conceded for three consecutive away games. However, Arsenal have opened the scoring 12 times this season, winning 11 of those games overall.
Arsene Wenger knows Everton will provide a stern examination for his league leaders, ' 'We are lucky as we have been given a big warning by their win at Manchester United.
'That win will give them confidence for sure. It keeps us on our toes and for us it's a big game.
'We are hungry, we want to win and put together a run of results that will make us more ambitious.
'It is a big week in front of us.'
Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez thinks this game will provide the acid test for his team's top 4 credentials, 'I don't think we've played with fear at all this season,' said the former Wigan boss.
'We beat Chelsea at home and to beat Manchester United away showed an incredible improvement to our performance from Manchester City [Everton's only defeat of the season back in October].
'I felt when we went to City, we didn't have the right belief in our performance but I think we showed that at Old Trafford.
'Arsenal deserve a lot of respect because if you win 11 of your first 14 games, you are the outstanding team in the competition.
'We are looking at ourselves to try to use this as a terrific test to see how quickly we can improve and challenge these sides.
'The Emirates Stadium is one of the hardest places to go and be yourself.
'Arsenal as an attacking team are as good as it gets and their movement and forward play requires maximum concentration in everything you do.
'From our point of view, we are ready for that test. We are excited about challenging the best team in the league so far.'
Arsenal are still without Bacary Sagna with a hamstring strain, whilst Lukas Podolski has returned to full training, but is unlikely to be included.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain (knee), Yaya Sanogo (back) and Abou Diaby (knee) are long term absentees.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Rosicky, Arteta, Wilshere, Ozil, Giroud, Walcott, Ramsey, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Flamini, Fabianski, Bendtner, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Gnabry.
An early season injury, pre season exertions in the Confederations Cup and a technical shift in Arsenal's midfield have meant a slow start to the season by Cazorla's exalted standards. However, signs of the Spaniard's best form were apparent on Wednesday night against Hull City.
90 of his 99 passes came off against Hull, 47 of them in the attacking third. Nobody has used the ball that prolifically in the attacking third all season in the Premier League. His short bursts of one twos around City's box caused havoc all night.
Everton continue to be without Leighton Baines, after a broken toe. As well as Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone, both out for the season with knee injuries.
Everton (from): Robles, Hibbert, Heitinga, Jagielka (c), Jelavic, Oviedo, Deulofeu, Mirallas, Diston, Naysmith, McCarthy, Lukaku, Barry, Gueye, Barkley, Osman, Pienaar, Coleman, Howard, Alcaraz.
Tempting as it is to opt for Lukaku, Gareth Barry has become a vital component in this new, comfortable in possession, Everton model.
Barry wins the ball back for his team with the minimum of fuss before looking for more creative teammates such as Deulefu, Barkley and Pienaar.
In this sense, he performs a similar role to that which Arteta does for Arsenal. In fact, Barry revealed in the press this weekend that Arsenal had contacted him about a loan deal this summer before Flamini came on the radar.
Arsenal have conceded the fewest goals in the league and Everton have scored more than once on only 1 occasion in the last 21 meetings.
The Gunners have had under 2.5 goals in 9 of their 10 previous home encounters with top-six sides.
9 of Arsenal's 11 wins this season have been by two goals or more.
Mikel Arteta plays against his former club.
Arsenal have won eight and lost none of their last 12 Barclays Premier League games against Everton.
Arsenal are unbeaten at home in the Premier League with Howard Webb as referee (W10 D4 L0).
The Gunners have kept six clean sheets in their last seven games in all competitions, conceding just one goal in the other match (0-1 at Man Utd).
The referee will be Howard Webb.
I think Arsenal will pinch this with a narrow 2-1 victory. Lukaku to score for Everton, but goals from Cazorla and Giroud to win it for Arsenal in a tense, tight affair.
Arsenal are away at Napoli on Wednesday evening. Everton play at home to Fulham next Saturday.
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Date:Saturday December 7 2013
Injury Update: Defender In, Defender Out (Friday April 18 2014)
Match Discussion - Hull City (a) (Friday April 18 2014)
So it's OK to dive sometimes? (Wednesday April 16 2014)
UNCONFIRMED - Arsenal vs West Ham Team News (Tuesday April 15 2014)
Injury News: Possibly Four Out, Maybe Two In (Tuesday April 15 2014)
Arsenal v West Ham United Match Preview (Monday April 14 2014)
Podolski Unhappy With His Role At Arsenal (Monday April 14 2014)
Match Discussion - West Ham (h) (Monday April 14 2014)
Why Aren`t Arsenal Allowed To Celebrate? (Sunday April 13 2014)
It's Hull City In The Final (Sunday April 13 2014)
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|7. Man Utd||33||17||6||10||18||57|
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