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    Arsenal vs Everton

    Everton are a shadow of the team that they were last season, failing to improve after a progressive season last term. On the other hand Arsenal are keeping form with where they have been in the last five years, showing signs of potential, with a good side but failing to deliver tangible success in the form on silverware.  

    Everton’s so far frustrating season was epitomized last week with two Jekyll and Hyde performances. Mid-week against Swiss side Young Boys in the Europa league they played with an arrogance that they have rarely shown in the premier league and dominated the game from start to finish. Star of the show was undoubtedly Romelu Lukaku whose three gaols reminded everyone why the Liverpool club paid nearly 30 million for him. However against Leicester City in the league, they performed in the complete polar opposite. They were lethargic in attacks and looked stumped for ideas against a disciplined performance from Nigel Pearson’s side.

     Roberto Martinez’s insistence in playing a short passing style of football has at times made them predictable with a seemingly inability to mix there style of play up. Their shining lights this year have been the ever reliable Steven Naismith and the soon sure to be England centre half John Stones. Naismith plays the traditional number 10 role with determination and flair, his ability to unlock defences have saved face for Everton on several occasions this year and Stones equally has shown that he has the potential to play at  the highest level and Everton will do well to keep him from the prying eyes of the top four clubs.

    In the Arsenal camp, Arsene Wenger is yet again performing his role of achieving a top four finish, getting to the quarter final of the champions league and playing attractive football admirably, as they look set to achieve all criteria set at the start of the season. The consistency shown over the last few seasons has been underwhelming for many Arsenal fans leading to an under belly of growing resentment for the French manager. Looking at his squad packed with flair and excitement, one does wonder why they aren’t doing better than they are. Luckily it doesn’t take long to work out why. The central defence issue has rolled on and on and it seems like it’s an issue that Wenger won’t address. Their defensive frailties are resulting in the north London club selling themselves short. Attacking players such as Ozil, Cazorla and Sanchez are all well and good but by failing to employ defensive reliability, they are simply banging their heads against a brick wall.

    What separates Manchester City and Chelsea from the rest of the top four challengers? A central defensive leader. All have attacking players, most of a top European club standard, but none have a Terry or Kompany.

    Regardless of this they have won eight of their last nine games and entering this game against Everton they will be looking to extend this run. The toffees will be relieved in the knowledge that they will be playing the gunners away from home, as Goodison Park has been a hard place for them to win matches this season as they are without a win there since before Christmas. They have also only won three matches there all season and drawing seven is hardly consolation.

    Where will the game be won and lost? Both sides will try to exploit each other’s defensive liabilities. Arsenal will look for caps in Everton’s 4-2-3-1 formation between defence and holding midfield two, although space will be hard to come by technical players such as Ozil and Cazorla will look to weave their way through Everton’s defensive lines. Everton’s best bet will be to play on the counter, through enticing Arsenal attacks which will inevitably leave them short at the back, allowing the likes of Mirallas and Lennon to use their pace. They will need to brave in gambling men forward at these times, but by doing so they could springboard themselves out of inconsistent from and begin to look up the table. Both sides encourage their full backs to overlap and join in attacks high up the field. This will lead to space in these areas meaning that the side opting to play with wingers high up the pitch could prevail.

    Overall it will be a close game with opportunities for both sides, but on the balance Arsenal will scrape a victory. My prediction: Arsenal 2 Everton 1.

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    Item Reviewed: Arsenal vs Everton Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Arun Gray
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