After a satisfying home victory against Stoke on Saturday afternoon, it’s another away trip for Arsenal as they face an Everton side eager to make amends for a collectively poor defensive display in their 3-2 defeat against Watford this past weekend.
A brace from Stefano Okaka Chuka, combined with a close-range header from Sebastian Prödl helped confine the Toffees to their fifth Premier League defeat of the campaign: their poor form is reiterated by the statistic that shows they’ve only won one in their last ten matches.
With that being said, they’ll be hopeful of grabbing a positive result against an Arsenal team in good form but have a tendency to struggle at Goodison Park.
During the pre-match presser, Arsène Wenger confirmed the news we covered on the weekend – Shkodran Mustafi’s hamstring injury is sidelined for “about 21 days,” whilst Aaron Ramsey has been described as “not ready” for selection. The Welsh midfielder was not included in the weekend’s matchday squad, it seems the boss is being more cautious to avoid injury as Ramsey’s constantly had issues sidelined him for weeks and sometimes months at a time.
When questioned about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s future after another impressive display on Saturday, he reaffirmed his desire for the 23-year-old winger to remain at the club and it’s likely that they’ll open talks with him about potentially signing a new contract extension at some stage in the coming months.
“I want him to stay. I think he’s developing well: this season he is making steps, he is moving forward,” Wenger said.
It’s more than likely that Hector Bellerín will return to the starting line-up after his effective first-half introduction when Mustafi limped off. He created the assist for Theo Walcott’s goal just on the stroke of half-time, which proved pivotal in an important comeback for the Gunners after Charlie Adam netted a penalty just before the half-hour mark.
Gabriel has been a reliable figure in a make-shift role at full-back in Bellerín’s absence, and it’s likely that the Brazilian will be rewarded with a start alongside Laurent Koscielny as the centre-back pairing for the trip to Liverpool.
Rob Holding was impressive when called upon against Basel last Tuesday, and could start next to Koscielny if Wenger opts for the talented young Englishman.
Despite his excellent performances of late, it’s unlikely that Oxlade-Chamberlain will keep his place in the starting line-up, mainly for squad rotation reasons as there are a number of forward options in his place that haven’t played regular minutes. Alex Iwobi is expected to start on the left-hand side with Theo Walcott operating on the opposite flank.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerín, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Iwobi, Walcott, Özil; Alexis.
Everton have been struggling recently after an encouraging start to the season, with their defensive frailties once again appearing under Ronald Koeman this term.
Since their last clean sheet, a 2-0 home win over West Ham, they’ve conceded eleven goals in five matches – including a 5-0 thrashing away at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea in the beginning of November.
It’s likely that Koeman and his coaching staff will focus on defending set-pieces, as they’ve failed to look convincing whenever a promising ball is delivered into their area. In addition, they’ll look to start with an attack-minded approach given the home advantage so it’d be no surpise to see recalls for Ross Barkley and Aaron Lennon, who were both second-half substitutes at Vicarage Road on Saturday.
Everton are an unpredictable side with plenty of quality in their ranks, so it’s important to disregard form when it comes to matches like this: they always have a tendency to perform well against the Premier League’s stronger sides and snatch results too.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg; Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines; Barry, Gueye; Mirallas, Lennon, Barkley; Lukaku.