Arsenal must not let Everton’s struggles fool them into thinking it’ll be an easy three points.
The form guide suggests that Arsenal should have little trouble defeating Everton on Sunday, but as we’re well aware, it’s not often that straightforward.
Our hosts on Sunday began the season with genuine optimism following a £140m splurge in the summer transfer market. Nine players arrived, their transfer record was broken and it seemed the club were serious about challenging for a top four place.
Reality has bitten hard. Several of the new signings have failed to settle, while Ronald Koeman has yet to pull his players together into a coherent team. Two wins from eight Premier League games represents a poor initial return on their investment, and has left the manager on the brink of losing his job.
You feel that Everton are certainly there for the taking. Their team isn’t settled or playing well, while the Goodison Park crowd will be quick to turn should their performances not improve. The 2-1 defeat to Lyon on Thursday night was greeted with boos, with an unshaven and put-upon Koeman certainly looking the part of manager-under-pressure.
Arsenal, though, will need to be wary of an Everton resurgence. The game at Goodison last season turned when the home side found a burst of energy in the second half and put the Gunners under relentless pressure. It was a similar story against Watford last Saturday. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Koeman had taken note of Deeney’s “cojones” comments and set his team up to test Arsenal physically with direct play and set-pieces.
Of the four games Arsenal have played on the road so far in the Premier League, they only performed in one: the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge last month. Defeats at Stoke, Liverpool and Watford saw several issues at both ends of the pitch. While fans and pundits will be looking for an improved defensive effort, Arsene Wenger will surely be more concerned with his team’s quality up front. One goal from four away games and precious few opportunities is far below the standard his side usually set.
To that end, this could be the game that sees the trio of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette line-up for the first time. Whether it be for tactical or fitness reasons, Arsenal have been unable to see the three link-up. Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck have done able jobs in the meantime, but Arsenal are in desperate need for some quality up front on the road.
On the whole, Arsenal will hopefully be keen to prove that accusations about their lack of character are misplaced. A win against a struggling Everton team wouldn’t be definitive proof of anything, but would give the club a much needed shot in the arm ahead of some tough fixtures in November. Anything less may see another “accident” occur and even more pressure on the team and manager.