Everton preview – a chance to go second

Another tough away trip ahead of us today as we face Everton at Goodison Park. It hasn’t been an unhappy ground for us in recent years, the last time we lost there was the 2005-6 season. A James Beattie goal in a game in which Cesc Fabregas got a red card stupid Andy Johnson. We’ve won three out of our last four visits there (1-0, 4-1 and 6-1) and drawn a game 1-1.

We go into this one on the back of a good win against Wolves if not exactly a great performance. I suppose you can look at it two ways. A team struggling for form and consistency managed to scrap their way to three points or Arsenal took a bit of a pounding from a team second from bottom and only won it because of their keeper. Whichever half of your glass if full or empty there’s no doubt the win against Wolves was hugely important.

It gives us a reasonable platform to go into today’s match with at least some measure of confidence. The boss has spoken about a couple of changes from the Wolves game but I only see one, Nasri coming back into the side at the expense of Rosicky, so I think we’ll line up: Fabianski – Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy – Song – Wilshere – Cesc – Arshavin – Chamakh – Nasri

Again it means we have plenty of options on the bench should we need them. Everton are unbeaten since the middle of September so they’re on a fairly decent run (even if some of those games have been draws). We’ve got to be conscious of their full backs getting forward. Both Leighton Baines and the emerging Seamus Coleman love to attack (although Coleman could play in midfield) and while Coleman is good with the ball at his feet Baines has great delivery from out wide. I’m sure close attention has been paid to Tim Cahill in the pre-match preparations, the best defences in the league struggle with his aerial ability and we’ll have to be on him like flies on shit throughout the whole game. Let him go, even for a second, and he can punish you.

As much as we have to defend these situations, there’s a real onus on the players out wide to defend quickly and stop the delivery. Cahill can’t score headers if we stop the crosses. We’ve got to be extra vigilant for corners, free kicks etc, and with Arteta’s dead ball ability they’re going to make life very tough for us. Up front they’ve got Saha or Yakubu, both more than capable, so it’s going to need a real team performance today.

From our point of view it’d be fair to say Cesc hasn’t exactly been at his best in recent games but hopefully the extra fitness and match sharpness he’s taken from the last two games will stand him in good stead. The manager seems to think so. Nasri’s ability will cause them problems and if Arshavin can build on the flashes he showed against Wolves then he can be a threat. The Russian is on the longest run without a goal since he joined the club, his last was against Partizan at the end of September and for a player of his quality to go seven games without scoring is poor form.

Chamakh will keep the centre-halves busy and should we need them we’ve got van Persie, Bendtner and Walcott all on the bench. Whatever happens though we need to see this team give everything to get the result. There are points to be made up. Both United and City could only draw yesterday so a win would put us into second place and just put a little bit of pressure on Chelsea before they play Sunderland this afternoon.

It’s going to be difficult but then so is every game in this league, we’ve found that out the hard way (and still need to be taught every now and again), but there’s enough ability and quality to go there and get three points if we dig in and do the basics right.

In other Sunday news Robert Pires has seen Marouane Chamakh in training and reckons he’s going to be a big success in England. Le Bob should know what it takes. The handsome bastard.

Samir Nasri calls William Gallas a ‘Cockerel loving knobhead’. Kind of.

And that’s about the end of the other Sunday news, so it’s time for some breakfast, some more coffee, the papers, and then the Arsenal.

Come on lads.

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