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Arsenal vs. Everton preview: Gunners ready to seize chance to go top of the table

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Arsenal will be looking to continue their sparkling recent form when they host Everton in the Premier League on Saturday (12:30pm ET kickoff, live on NBC network in the United States).

Three points for the Gunners would see them move to the summit of the Premier League table ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby and after a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in midweek, expect Arsene Wenger’s players to be bouncing into this one.

Everton will be looking to recover after a disappointing 3-0 loss to Manchester United last week. The Emirates Stadium has not been a happy hunting ground for the Toffees in recent seasons, nor was Highbury before the new venue opened; Everton’s last win on Arsenal turf came in the 1995-96 season.

Here’s how both sides are likely to start this one and a closer look at how each team is faring in the build-up to the clash.

 

Likely Line-Ups

Likely XI

 

Arsenal View – Chris Moore

Arsenal head into the match against Everton on an extremely high note, as the north London club unpredictably blanked Bayern Munich 2-0 on Tuesday.

The Gunners overall form since the start of October has been impressive. Following an immensely disappointing 3-2 Champions League defeat to Olympiacos on Sept. 29th, Arsenal has recorded three consecutive clean sheets. Along with the Bayern victory, the Gunners beat both Manchester United and Watford by a 3-0 scoreline.

Although the team is riding high at the moment, they should not overlook this Everton side. Yes, the Merseyside club are coming off of a 3-0 thrashing against Manchester United; however, this is a fairly dangerous club. With center-forward Romelu Lukaku headlining the front line, along with attacking midfielder Ross Barkley right behind the big Belgian, Everton can certainly score against any defense in the league.

The Gunners have dominated this matchup in recent years, having only lost one out of the last 16 Premier League meetings with Everton.  The only loss during this stretch was a 3-0 thumping by the Toffees in April of 2014.

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey will miss out on Saturday’s clash with a hamstring injury that he sustained during the Bayern match on Tuesday. Manager Arsene Wenger (Happy Birthday, Mr. Wenger) confirmed the news on Thursday’s press conference.  “He [Ramsey] had a scan today but he’s out,” stated the manager.  “I believe he will be out until after the next international break.”

Superstar Alexis Sanchez could also be excluded from the starting XI for the upcoming match.  The Chilean is not currently injured (breathe easy Arsenal fans), however, he is reportedly exhausted due to the amount of playing time that he has received as of late with his club and country teams.

Wenger spoke after the Bayern victory about his star forward.  “Alexis, you could see he was a bit jaded physically tonight and he still pushes himself so much but he finished exhausted,” said Wenger. “The two games with Chile, plus traveling, plus Watford, plus tonight, it is too much.”

Another predicament for Wenger is which center-forward to start up top against Everton. Theo Walcott has been the Frenchman’s first choice striker as of late, with the England international making the starting XI in six straight Premier League matches. However, Olivier Giroud has been in solid form recently, scoring three goals in his last four total appearances from the bench (in only 67 combined minutes).

 

Key Player – Mesut Ozil

Football - Arsenal v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group F - Emirates Stadium, London, England - 20/10/15 Mesut Ozil celebrates with team mates after scoring the second goal for Arsenal Reuters / Dylan Martinez Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Alexis, Giroud, Walcott, Petr Cech could have all been give the nod here; however, the German midfielder has been pure class this season.

Over his last five league matches in particular, Ozil has racked up five assists (he now co-leads the Premier League with six assists) and added one goal.  Widely regarded as one of the top “number 10’s” on the planet, Ozil can pick apart any team with his world-class vision.

 

Everton View – Matt Jones

If Arsenal were to play against Everton in the style they operated against Bayern Munich, sitting deep and counter-attacking with ferocity, then they’d fare very well.

Although the Toffees have made some steady progress this season under Roberto Martinez, some old issues crept back into their make-up against Manchester United last weekend. The Red Devils, were disciplined, tenacious off the ball and suddenly, Everton looked out of ideas in possession.

It’d be unlike Arsene Wenger to surrender the initiative at home in a Premier League game, though. And buoyed by the momentum of Tuesday night’s historic win, confidence will be soaring when the Gunners take to field. Plus, the majority of teams who head to the Emirates Stadium with intentions to shut up shop end up getting beat, such is the quality in the squad.

So Everton if have any intentions of getting something from the game, they must carry some degree of offensive threat. Worryingly, up to now, that’s not something Martinez has got quite right.

Romelu Lukaku has been excellent over the last few games, while Ross Barkley has been the standout player for the Toffees this season. But on the flanks, there’s been a distinct lack of balance.

Steven Naismith has toiled after his hat-trick against Chelsea, Gerard Deulofeu is a player who remains a danger but inconsistent, while Aaron Lennon offers more industry than incision. Therefore, it could be an ideal opportunity to bring Tom Cleverley, who returned to action for the Under-21s on Monday, and Kevin Mirallas, back from suspension, to get their opportunities.

Cleverley excelled in his early weeks of the season on the left flank and Everton haven’t plugged the hole on that side since he left. While Mirallas, although he infuriated a lot of supporters with his rash, petulant sending off at Swansea City, is a player who will be itching for a chance in the first team.

The Belgian is a goal threat too, something which Everton lacking as of late. Although Barkley has been chipping in more than usual, Lukaku is often the only player who looks capable of sticking the ball in the back of the net. Given Arsenal’s attacking prowess, it’s likely the Toffees are going to have get on the scoresheet if they are to avoid defeat.

Still, Everton have been decent away from home so far this season and remain unbeaten from their four clashes on the road. That’s primarily been down to a strong back four and although John Stones and Seamus Coleman looked jaded returning from injury during the game against United, another week of training should see them enrich rather than hinder the defensive shape.

The challenge facing the Toffees will be huge at the Emirates. Arsenal have been the best team in the league over the last three games and even though they could be without Alexis Sanchez, who Wenger claimed was “exhausted” after the Bayern game, as well as Aaron Ramsey, the quality ready to step in, whether that be Olivier Giroud or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, will worry the traveling Evertonians.

 

Key Player – Ross Barkley

Barkley

The Emirates is a venue where Barkley has excelled in the past. A wide pitch coupled with Arsenal’s enterprising style has left a lot of space for the England international to operate in during previous encounters between the two sides; the youngster is bristling with confidence at the moment too.

Francis Coquelin is a player who’ll be assigned to halting the England international, as Morgan Schneiderlin and Lucas Leiva have been detailed to do in the previous two games. The Everton midfielder getting the better of that particular battle will be vital to his team establishing a critical foothold in the contest.

 

Follow Matt (@MattJFootball) and Chris (@ChrisMoore32) on Twitter.

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