With pressure building on his position, Ronald Koeman could really do with a victory when his Everton side host Arsenal at Goodison Park on Sunday (13:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
In net terms, Everton spent nearly £100 million over the summer to improve a squad who finished seventh in the Premier League last season. The idea was to close the gap to the top six; instead, they find themselves fifth from bottom after eight matches of the campaign.
It is not just results that have disappointed but also the style of play. The departure of last season’s top scorer Romelu Lukaku robbed Everton of a dynamic force in the final third and their summer dealings failed to provide a suitable replacement. They are playing in the manner that is, at best, functional; slow and uninspiring would probably be more apt adjectives.
Last weekend’s 1-1 draw away to Brighton provided a neat microcosm of Everton’s season to date. It was a stodgy match of few genuine chances in which they struggled to progress the ball through midfield and were unable to get in behind the home defence regularly. They were fortunate to come away with a point after equalising through a stupidly conceded last-minute penalty, converted by Wayne Rooney.
The fixture list was unkind to Everton. They were handed matches against four of last season’s top six in their opening five fixtures and were only able to pick up a solitary point from those encounters. That was probably to be expected, but their subsequent haul of four points from matches against Bournemouth, Burnley and Brighton is more concerning. Defeat at home to Lyon in the Europa League on Thursday hardly lightened the mood.
It is not just results that have disappointed but also the style of play
Koeman will point to slightly more promising underlying statistics and the difficulty of integrating new signings as reasons for the club to continue backing him. But his current, odds-on status as the bookies’ favourites to be the next Premier League manager to depart could very well become reality if his side struggle on Sunday.
Thankfully for him, Arsenal aren’t exactly in the best of form themselves, especially away from home. The Gunners are currently sixth in the table, but of the 13 points they’ve picked up to date 12 have been accumulated at the Emirates. Away from home, they’ve drawn one and lost three, including a 1-2 defeat at Watford last weekend.
It really was a game of two halves for Arsenal. They were the better side during the first 45 minutes and went in ahead at the break thanks to Per Mertesacker’s first goal in nearly four years. Their level dropped during the second period and they failed to take advantage of some good opportunities to break. They reacted badly to an admittedly soft penalty award to concede again in stoppage time and fall to defeat.
The post-match narrative focused on Arsenal’s lack of character, with Watford Troy Deeney quick to criticise them for their lack of fight, but the truth is simpler than that: Arsenal are a team without the necessary tools to control either space or tempo when seeing games out. They have enough talent going forward to score goals but individually and collectively, they do not defend as well as the teams who will be genuine challengers for the Premier League title.
Things are, at least, going better for them in the Europa League. A wonderful, improvised overhead kick from Olivier Giroud secured the Gunners a 0-1 win away to Red Star Belgrade on Thursday and saw them establish a five-point lead at the top of their group.
Arsene Wenger has done enough over the course of his time at Arsenal to deserve the bit of loyalty he received in the form of a contract extension at the end of last season despite his team’s failure to finish in the top four. Their victory in the FA Cup final strengthened that belief. A similar failure this time around is likely to make his position untenable.
This therefore feels like a key match for both sides. Everton need a win to get their campaign moving and relieve a bit of the pressure on Koeman, while for Arsenal, it is vital to start picking up points away from home if they are to return to the top four. The end result is likely to be one that doesn’t fully suit either side: a low-scoring draw.
Our Preview’s Everton vs. Arsenal Betting Tips
With both our preview’s analysis and the best of the big UK bookies’ odds in mind, here are our betting tips for this match:
- Back the draw @ best 45/17 with Unibet.
- Bet on 2-3 goals on the exact total goals market @ a best price of 11/10 with SunBets or BetVictor.
Compare Everton v Arsenal Odds from Best Bookmakers