Out of the FA Cup and Champions League in the last week, Arsenal are staring down the barrel of a season that was oh so promising just a few weeks ago and head to Everton on Saturday hoping to keep hopes of winning the Premier League title alive.
Beating the Toffees to go to the top of the league back in November, nobody would’ve expected the Gunners to be 11 points off the pace at this stage of the season. That’s what happens when you only win two of your last nine league games, I guess.
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That game in November ended 2-1 to the Gunners and, considering Everton have conceded the most home goals in the Premier League this season, we could see something similar once again. With 888sport another 2-1 Arsenal win is 9/1.
Facing the media on Friday morning, an optimistic Arsène Wenger insisted there were plenty of positives to take from Wednesday’s 3-1 loss at Camp Nou.
The boss is eager for the players to deliver domestically again now and knows dropping more points would be costly.
“We want to win the games, recently we have lost aa home in the Premier League against Swansea and we want to make up the points because we want to be in the fight,” said the Frenchman. “I would say we have to go step by step. Let’s come back to winning habits first, that starts tomorrow. Will we win tomorrow? We’ll see.”
Leicester City may be 11 points clear of us but this entire race has been unpredictable and we do have a game in hand. What we must do now is put ourselves in the best possible position to make the most of it.
“I think things will change until the end of the season, that’s for sure. We have to take care of our destiny and the only way to do that is by producing the performances that people expect from us and we expect from ourselves.”
A hamstring injury forced Mathieu Flamini off in midweek and this game comes too soon for him, meaning he joins the host of midfielders in the injury room.
Mohamed Elneny netted his first Arsenal goal in midweek and is 7/2 to score anytime. With Flamini injured the Egyptian will definitely start in midfield again.
Otherwise, the team is full strength, though there may be some changes due to fatigue after a difficult night in Spain. That could mean Danny Welbeck misses out, having only recently returned from a long-term injury. That could mean a start for Olivier Giroud, who is 21/4 to be the first goalscorer at Goodison Park. He came off the bench to score there last season and opened the scoring in the victory in November.
Possible XI: Ospina; Bellerín, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Elneny; Alexis, Özil, Iwobi; Giroud.
On a high after making the FA Cup semi-finals by beating Chelsea, Everton come into this game fresh and with nothing to lose. Safe in the middle of the Premier League table but unlikely to make Europe, they can just enjoy themselves.
Romelu Lukaku is in top form and the man to watch though Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu also have their moments. At the back Everton can be gotten at, often throwing caution to the wind and stocking their backline with talented but sometimes erratic defenders like Ramiro Funes Mori and Leighton Baines.
Gareth Barry is suspended after a red card last week.
Possible XI: Robles; Coleman, Funes Mori, Jagielka, Baines; Besic, McCarthy; Lennon, Barkley, Cleverley; Lukaku.
Out of two knockout competitions, Everton could end our season before we even hit April. There are nine games to go for us and a win on Saturday would put us eight points behind Leicester for the time being – still a pretty big gap.
There isn’t really much room for error now. Win on Saturday or the season’s as good as over.
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