Everton have a solid chance of achieving a third consecutive victory when they host a struggling Arsenal side at Goodison Park on Saturday (5.30pm, live on Sky Sports).
It has been a good week for the Toffees, who have moved up into the Premier League top five on the back of last weekend’s 1-0 win at home to Chelsea and Wednesday’s 2-0 triumph at Leicester City, a result that moved them to within a point of their fourth-placed opponents.
Everton went ahead just past the 20 minute mark after Richarlison’s effort from outside the area was fumbled in by the goalkeeper. The teams afterwards exchanged clusters of shots – three for Leicester, four for Everton, four for Leicester and so on – until Mason Holgate forced the ball home in the 70th minute after a couple of saved efforts from a corner.
Carlo Ancelotti expressed pleasure at the performance in his post-match press conference and made it clear that the intention is to remain in top-six contention for the remainder of the campaign. It is not an unrealistic aim given that Leicester and Southampton are the likely opposition and that Everton have better metrics than either of them at this stage.
Ancelotti’s side began the season with four straight victories and a flurry of goal-related activity from off-season signing James Rodriguez, who produced three goals and two assists. It is interesting to note that after a subsequent run of just one win in six with him still in the side, their pair of recent victories have been secured with him unavailable through injury.
Rodriguez could be ready to return from his calf injury this weekend. It will be interesting to see what approach Ancelotti takes with a player with whom he enjoys a good relationship following their previous time working together at both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. In fairness, Everton can probably afford to be a little more open against Saturday’s opponents – a far worse side than either Chelsea or Leicester.
Any idea that Arsenal might be capable of challenging for a top-four spot this season has swiftly been cast aside by a terrible start to the campaign that currently has them down in 15th, with just 14 points on the board from 13 matches. They were fifth favourites for a top-four spot in the pre-season betting. Now, you can get them at as long as 28/1 to finish there. Their odds to be relegated aren’t a great deal longer than that.
Mikel Arteta’s side put an end to a couple of worrying trends at home to Southampton on Wednesday, but they were still unable to come away with all three points. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half equaliser to Southampton’s early opener ended Arsenal’s near 800-minute run without an open play goal, while the point from the 1-1 draw brought a three-match losing streak to a close.
It could have been much worse given that Arsenal had to play out the final half-hour or so with 10 men following Gabriel’s dismissal for a second bookable offence in short order, but it says much for how Arsenal’s season has gone that those achievements are worthy of note.
Arteta’s position will surely soon start to come under concentrated pressure if he is unable to produce a turnaround in performances and results. Right now, he can’t even point to the underlying numbers for support. Arsenal are 15th in the league with the 15th best metrics. They’ve scored less than a goal per match and their defence isn’t exactly rock solid either. They are worse now than when he took over around this time last year.
Everton are one of those teams who always seem to find some way of messing things up when opportunities come their way, but on the back of a pair of impressive results against top-six sides they should also have enough to see off a limping Arsenal on Saturday. So the betting tip for this Everton vs Arsenal preview is:
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