With their top-four hopes starting to recede, Arsenal could do with all three points when they host Everton at the Emirates on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Arsenal dropped further off the pace with a 1-3 loss away to Swansea on Tuesday. They took a first-half lead through Nacho Monreal but that was swiftly equalised before two goals in the final half-hour consigned them to a second consecutive away defeat.
It was not even a result that they had reason to contest. Swansea’s go-ahead goal did come after an error from goalkeeper Petr Cech, but while Arsenal did make some decent progress into opposition territory, it was Swansea who created the more clear-cut chances. Arsene Wenger admitted afterwards that his side hadn’t convinced at either end of the pitch.
The result, allied to others in midweek, means that Arsenal now stand eight points shy of the top four with 13 matches to play. Even though the Gunners are traditionally strong finishers when fighting for a top-four finish (rather than when challenging for the title) and have added the firepower of former Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to their attack, it still seems too much ground to make up in what remains of the campaign.
If they are to have any hope of doing so then their away form has to improve, and drastically. Arsenal have won just one of their last six on the road and just three from 13 all season. They have taken seven less points on their travels than any of the other sides in the top-four hunt. It is only their league-joint-second-best home record that is propping up their campaign.
Arsenal have a very good record at home to Saturday’s opponents Everton. They have won each of the last four meetings between the sides at the Emirates and it is necessary to go all the way back to 1996, at Highbury, to find the last time Everton defeated them on home soil. They also triumphed 5-2 when the sides met at Goodison Park earlier this season.
There has, though, been a change in the Everton dugout since that encounter. Indeed, it was that defeat that precipitated the departure of the previous occupant, Ronald Koeman. The new man at the helm is Sam Allardyce. He has a reputation for making things difficult for Wenger’s sides, primarily cultivated during his time at Bolton Wanderers, but that hasn’t carried over to the majority of recent meetings between the two coaches.
Allardyce did triumph the last time they crossed paths, in a 3-0 home win for his Crystal Palace side in April of last year, but that represented his first win over Wenger since 2010. He has never won away to a Wenger side and last picked up a point in such a fixture back in 2006.
His Everton side do, at least, come into Saturday’s match on the back of ending a seven-match winless streak with victory at home to Leicester City on Wednesday. Two first-half goals from January signing and ex-Arsenal forward Theo Walcott gave them an advantage they were able to hold onto despite the away side cutting it in half with a converted second-half penalty.
The win pushed Everton further into upper mid-table safety, in ninth, but they still remain closer on points to the bottom three than the top six. Significant investment in the summer and again during the January transfer window has not yielded an improvement on last season’s seventh-place finish and it remains to be seen if future plans and ambitions will be recalibrated with Allardyce now in charge.
This Everton side are, arguably, the strongest he has coached since his time with Bolton, but they are still pretty one-paced and it is still difficult to see them pulling off a result on Saturday against an Arsenal side who certainly have their flaws but have nevertheless been excellent on home soil so far this season. The Gunners should be expected to record a fairly comfortable victory.
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