MX23RW : Friday, August 19 01:48:52| >> :120:17648:17648:
[monks data]
Apr 7, 2019 at 2.05pm UK at Goodison Park
Attendance: 39,400

1-0

Jagielka (10')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Everton vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Premier League clash between Everton and top-four chasing Arsenal, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

Arsenal could consolidate their position in the Champions League places when they face Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday.

The Gunners are in the driving seat to claim a top-four spot this season, but take on an improving Toffees side that has won their last two games.


Everton

A frustrated Marco Silva in charge of Everton on March 9, 2019© Reuters

The 2018-19 campaign began with hopes that Everton might push for a top-six spot under Marco Silva, but in practice they have been battling about in the mini-league below that for the entire campaign.

Seventh place - and 'best of the rest' status - is still achievable with only four points separating them from current occupants Wolverhampton Wanderers, but even that may not entirely make up for a largely disappointing season.

There are signs of improvement, though; Everton have lost just one of their last five games after four defeats in the five prior to that, and last weekend's 2-0 win at West Ham United saw them record back-to-back victories for only the second time all season.

The first of those triumphs came against Chelsea by the same scoreline, and having finally ended a 25-match winless run against the big six Everton may well go into Sunday's match with renewed confidence.

The most noticeable improvement in recent games has come at the back, where Everton have kept four clean sheets from their last five games - the same number they had managed in their 18 previous outings - and another shutout this weekend would give them three in a row for the first time under Silva.

There has been an improvement at the other end too, with Everton having already scored one more goal this season than they managed in the whole of 2017-18 and sitting three points better off than the same stage of last term.

Progress is undeniable, then, but it has not necessarily been as discernible as many fans would have hoped after the Sam Allardyce reign.

Plenty of issues still linger too, and perhaps the biggest is Everton's home form, with the Toffees having won just two of their last nine league games at Goodison Park.

Indeed, only relegated duo Fulham and Huddersfield Town have picked up fewer points in front of their own fans since the beginning of December - although it should be noted that Everton's most recent Goodison outing was that 2-0 triumph over Chelsea last month.

Title-chasing Liverpool were held to a goalless draw in the Merseyside derby before that, and those two matches should give Everton confidence going into meetings with Arsenal and Manchester United in their next two home games.

The Gunners have been a historically bad opponent for Everton, though, to the point that Silva might be delighted with anything from this game despite their recent improvement in form.

Recent Premier League form: LWDLWW


Arsenal

Unai Emery watches his Arsenal side take on Rennes in the Europa League on March 7, 2019© Reuters

There will be particular fixtures which every Arsenal fan looks out for at the start of a season: the North London derbies, other top-six clashes and the double-header against Everton - the latter being as close to guaranteed points as they have had in the Premier League era.

Indeed, Arsenal have won more games (33), points (112) and away games (12), and scored more goals (107) and away goals (43) against Everton than they have against any other club in the competition, while the overall goal tally is an outright Premier League record between any two teams.

One could not blame the Gunners for being confident heading into Sunday's match, then, and after three successive wins without conceding it represents a golden opportunity to take the top-four race by the scruff of its neck.

With Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United not in action this weekend and Chelsea playing on Monday night, Arsenal know that victory at Goodison would lift them up to third and three points clear of fifth having played the same number of games as all of their top-four rivals.

Unai Emery's side did briefly move up to third with their victory over Newcastle United on Monday night - their highest position since February 2017 - but this time they will have the chance to stay there for longer and leave Champions League qualification in their own hands.

It is exactly what Emery was charged with doing upon his appointment, and while there have been ups and downs along the way, it is impossible not to recognise the progress made by the club since the Spaniard succeeded the long-serving Arsene Wenger.

Monday night was the perfect opportunity to do so as Arsenal equalled last season's points tally of 63 with seven games of the campaign still to play, although there is still one particularly damaging aspect of the latter Wenger era which Emery has not yet been able to improve.

Arsenal's away form remains a major problem - and one which is almost certain to cost them Champions League football and the riches that go with it if it doesn't change between now and the end of the season.

The Gunners' only away wins in their last 11 outings across all competitions have come against League One Blackpool and Championship-bound Huddersfield - a run which also includes defeats at Southampton, Liverpool, West Ham, Manchester City, BATE Borisov and Rennes.

Incredibly, only three teams have picked up fewer points on the road since the beginning of December, and if only away form counted then Arsenal would sit in 10th place with a negative goal difference. Compare that to their home form, where they have amassed the same number of points as title-chasing Liverpool and have won their last 10 on the bounce - a feat neither Liverpool, Manchester City nor any other team has managed this season.

Arsenal are yet to win an away game against top-half opposition in 2018-19 and are the only team in the entire league yet to keep a clean sheet on the road this term. Should they fail to end that record on Sunday then it would be the first time since February 1985 that they have conceded in 15 consecutive top-flight away games.

The reason that record is so pertinent is that five of Arsenal's remaining seven games this season come on the road, and anything close to a continuation of that away form would surely rule out a top-four finish.

They could not have picked a historically kinder ground at which to begin that desired improvement, but anything other than victory on Sunday would be a major missed opportunity in a fiercely-contested top-four race.

Recent Premier League form: WWWDWW
Recent form (all competitions): WDLWWW


Team News

Aaron Ramsey in action for Arsenal on March 10, 2019© Reuters

Aaron Ramsey's time at Arsenal may be coming to an end, but he looks like going out in style and the Welshman - who has a career-best six goals in his last five Premier League games against Everton - has been passed fit for this match after limping off against Newcastle on Monday.

Ramsey's fitness comes as a boost to a midfield already missing the suspended Lucas Torreira - who serves the last of his three-match ban - and the doubtful Granit Xhaka.

Laurent Koscielny will join Xhaka in undergoing a late fitness test due to a bruised foot, but both could be in contention to return.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be hopeful of a recall to the starting XI, although Emery's preferred 3-4-2-1 formation favours a single centre-forward and Alexandre Lacazette appears to be first choice at the moment.

Everton, meanwhile, are without the injured Yerry Mina but otherwise have a clean bill of health and could name an unchanged side to the one which beat West Ham.

That would mean another start on the bench for Theo Walcott against his former club, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin again leads the line.

Everton possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Digne; Gueye, Gomes; Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard; Calvert-Lewin

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Koscielny, Sokratis, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Guendouzi, Kolasinac; Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette


Head To Head

As mentioned above, Arsenal have a formidable record in this fixture, and their tally of 97 wins against Everton is an English league record for one team against another.

The Gunners have won each of the last four - and seven of the last eight - whereas Everton have only beaten Arsenal twice in the last 24 meetings across all competitions, although both of those did come at Goodison Park.

September's reverse fixture at the Emirates saw Arsenal run out 2-0 winners with Lacazette and Aubameyang both scoring within three minutes of each other.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Everton 1-1 Arsenal

This is such an intriguing match as it pits two improving teams against each other, but still one with a poor home record against one with a poor away record. Everton look to have got the top-six monkey off their back with the win over Chelsea, though, and we are backing them to come away with a point at Goodison.



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Alexander Lacazette celebrates his goal against Newcastle United with Arsenal teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on April 4, 2019
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