With the season drawing to a close the games are coming thick and fast as the chase for Champions League football hots up. Everton travel to Arsenal on Tuesday night, looking to turn up the heat on the teams above them and a win for the Blues would close the gap to 1 point between the 4 clubs fighting out the two remaining spots.
In the recent history of Everton (The Premier League years) there hasn’t been many games of this magnitude. A win, would propel Everton into genuine Champions League challengers, where as a defeat would surely end any realistic hopes of competing in Europe’s premier competition next season.
The odds would appear to be against the Blues. Everton have only won once at Arsenal since the formation of the Premier League in 1992. That was a 2-1 win in 1995-96, under the tutelage of Joe Royle. However, it must be remembered that the Gunners have been one of the dominant forces in English football over the last 20 years, but they are a team on the wain, and are no longer feared by opposition teams. Everton will travel in confidence, on the back of 4 wins from their last 5 Premier League matches and the biggest hurdle may well be our inability to win the “big games” rather than the opposition standing in our way.
A number of leading commentators, both in the written and televised media have been quick to pick up on Everton’s susceptibility in games that really matter. It is hard to ignore the facts. Defeat to Villarreal, Fiorentina, Chelsea in both the League Cup Semi Final and FA Cup Final, Liverpool in last seasons FA Cup Semi Final and more recently the capitulation against Wigan in the Quarter Finals of the Cup, all point towards a block of some sort. Just when the team appear set to make the step-up towards glory, the Blues disappear. Maybe, this factor, more than any other, is the reason behind David Moyes’ reluctance to sign a new Everton contract.
Today presents the perfect opportunity to correct that long list of wrongs. Arsenal’s defence is far from secure. Victor Anichebe, in his current form, possesses the key attributes to unsettle the fragile centre back pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny. Arsenal have always struggled to deal with Power and Strength, and Wenger’s pre-match comments, claiming his boys are ready for a fight, suggests he knows what is coming.
Everton are again at full strength, with Moyes and his medical team nursing a few knocks and bruises, but nothing serious. We are expecting the same team which took to the field at the weekend, with Jelavic ready to come off the bench in the latter stages if goals are required.
Expected XI: Howard; Coleman, Baines, Jagielka, Distin; Gibson, Osman, Mirallas, Pienaar; Fellaini, Anichebe.