Maybe the loss against Olympiacos was a blessing-in-disguise. If not for that loss, Arsenal might not have played the way they did against Manchester United and particularly Bayern Munich. Theo Walcott said that there was a meeting after the Olympiacos game in which the players decided that they would be winning against Manchester United just for Arsene Wenger. And boy, some effect it had.
What every Gooner has wanted over the years is the desire and conviction from the players when they play against a big team. Winning is secondary. It was a factor that went missing in many big games which frustratingly led to poor performances in such matches. But that factor was very much present in the wins against Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
The question is whether Arsenal can keep it going. Premier League is not about good form, it is about consistency throughout the season against all odds. And that is why this fixture against Everton is very crucial in determining whether Arsenal can be consistent or not. To make things tougher, key player Aaron Ramsey is out for over a month due to a hamstring injury, and skipper Mikel Arteta got injured in training yesterday, to add up to the list that already contains the likes of David Ospina, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky. Also, Alexis Sanchez might very well be dropped to the bench due to his fatigue.
Quoting Wenger, he looked jaded and exhausted when he came off against Bayern, which might result in both Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud starting. It’s clear that the attacking midfield options are pretty low. The defensive side of midfield has however been boosted by the recent return of Mathieu Flamini.
The last time this corresponding fixture took place was also after an important Champions League night, but that one was a reverse against Monaco. Olivier Giroud scored a comeback goal against Everton after a poor performance on the CL night mentioned above. It was an important victory because the game demanded character from the players, especially Giroud, so as to carry on with the league form in spite of the CL reverse.
Talking about Olivier Giroud, he might have very well made a case as far as his place in the starting XI is concerned, by scoring the important opener against the Bavarians. It is more about how he has scored his last 4 goals coming off the bench than how Walcott has been performing, because Walcott’s performances over the past few games have been good. Taking fatigue, rotation and the importance of the fixture into consideration, Wenger has a dilemma here as to whom to start against Everton, if he doesn’t opt to start with both.
Roberto Martinez has confirmed that Tom Cleverley is in contention to make the first team for the trip to North London, along with Steven Pienaar and Bryan Oviedo. Leighton Baines, Aiden McGeady, Mohamed Besic and Tony Hibbert still remain on the sidelines.
The Toffees will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United last weekend, which followed a 1-1 draw in the Merseyside Derby. They will also want to maintain their unbeaten away record this season. Arsenal have lost just once in the last 16 PL meetings vs Everton. Everton will certainly be looking to make amends to that poor record.
Arsenal:- Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud.
Everton:- Tim Howard, Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Phil Jagielka, Bryan Oviedo, James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, Aaron Lennon, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku.