Written by Aaron Crowie for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Everton vs Arsenal | Saturday 19 March | Goodison Park | 14:25
The English Premier League has been one long rollercoaster ride this season. The ups and downs have seen one of the most remarkable seasons to date. With the so-called ‘big teams’ playing below their standards, this should have been Arsenal’s campaign to lose. But the Gunners have done what many have expected – choked. Leicester and Tottenham look more likely to be crowned champions come May, but can Arsene Wenger and his wounded men turn a so far disappointing season around? They will have to start with a trip to Goodison Park. The Toffees are on a high after adding more misery to Chelsea’s woeful season, knocking the reigning Premier League champions out of the FA Cup last weekend. It’s do or die for Arsenal, but do they have the guts and firepower to see off this Everton side glowing with confidence?
To Win Match
Everton 31/20 | Draw 5/2 | Arsenal 31/20
Romelu Lukaku scored a brace last Saturday, to help Everton past his former club Chelsea with a 2-0 victory in the FA Cup quarter-finals. But it’s not in the cup where the Toffees have struggled but the league. Everton have lost back-to-back home games against West Brom, and then West Ham last time out. They have lacked consistency, and their defence has been unorganised – leaking goals from all angles.
Everton lie 12th on the log, but should they defeat the Gunners on Saturday, they will leapfrog Chelsea in 10th place at least for a few hours. Many Toffees supporters expected their team to push for the European places this term, but manager Roberto Martinez and his men have failed to deliver. This is one of Everton’s strongest team they have had in decades. They have decent goalkeepers, solid defenders, technically gifted and creative midfielders, as well as a goalscoring machine in Lukaku.
Starting with Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman – the left-back and right-back are not just good defensive players, but they give the Toffees a bit of bite going forward as well. Phil Jagielka and Ramiro Funes Mori have combined well to form a great partnership in the heart of the defence. Jagielka offers plenty of experience and leadership, while Funes Mori is quick and reads the game well. Ross Barkley plays the number 10 role and his pace, skill and creativity is invaluable to this Everton side. The 22-year old has formed a lethal combination with Lukaku, and his two assists for the big Belgian in the FA Cup win against Chelsea prove just how important the Englishman is to Everton. Last but not least, Lukaku, the Toffees striker may be big, and strong, but he is also quick, skilful (Gary Cahill should know) and offers an aerial threat for set-piece plays – he is the complete package. Everton have an extremely talented bunch of players, and are more than capable of hurting this vulnerable Arsenal team.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has used the FA Cup as a safety net for the last two seasons - final victories against Hull City and Aston Villa bringing the success that has eluded him elsewhere for so long. Now, he cannot rely on the famous old competition to protect him after Watford's shock 2-1 quarter-final win at Emirates Stadium last Sunday. So no FA Cup, as good as out of the Champions League as Arsenal attempt to overturn a 2-0 deficit against holders Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Wednesday, and 11 points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City with a game in hand.
The 66-year-old is a towering figure in Arsenal's history - but if the Gunners finish this season empty-handed it must be time for Wenger to consider relinquishing control of the club he has served with such distinction since September 1996. Since that last title, on the back of 38 games unbeaten, Wenger has only finished second once, in the following season. There have been six fourth-placed finishes and four seasons in third. Arsenal have rarely threatened to actually win the title again. And if they go out to Barcelona, it will be their sixth successive Champions League exit at the last 16 stage. Arsenal were impressive in the last league game, earning a hard-fought 2-2 draw at city-rivals Tottenham, and had it not been for Francis Coquelin’s red card, the Gunners might have taken all three points. However, after going 2-1 down, Arsenal rallied to grind out a draw. It was the kind of performance that Arsenal fans needed to see. They showed guts, determination, belief, fighting spirit and togetherness.
Arsenal’s Player of the Season Mesut Ozil has been a key component for the Gunners this season. The German playmaker leads the assist charts and will be eager to lead his team back to the summit of the table. Alexis Sanchez has been off form since his return from injury, and Arsenal need the Chilean back at his scintillating best if they are to have a shot at the Premier League. Joel Cambell has been a revelation for the Gunners this season, his hard-work, trickery and passing ability has earned him a starting birth in recent weeks. Another stand-out performer of late has been Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian has mainly featured as a box-to-box midfielder, turning defence into attack as quick as possible. His movement off the ball, passing range, technical ability and work ethic have won the Arsenal faithful over. The Gunners are lacking confidence and belief that they can go on to be crowned champions. They need to show they are up for a fight.
Verdict: Draw (5/2)
Everton have managed just four wins from 15 matches at home, while Arsenal have been inconsistent on their travels. Both teams thrive on attacking football, which should result in goals. However, the pair have lacked a cutting edge and winning mentality for the majority of the season. The draw looks a likely outcome.
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