Tuesday 13th December 19.45
The busy Christmas period is upon us so you, our loyal readers, will be the merry recipients of many an insightful and thought-provoking football preview, our own little attempt to break through the misery of this foul year. And who knows, we may even get one or two predictions right. So in the spirit of sticking it to 2016, let’s start with what looks like a banker – Everton v Arsenal.
The home side’s miserable run continued after their weekend loss to Watford. The 3-2 score line doesn’t tell the whole of the story as Everton rarely looked like getting anything out of this game. Fans may take some comfort from the fact that Romelu Lukaku’s goals were his first (and second) in some time but in truth, they’re only crumbs.
Could have done without that
Big summer signing Yannick Bolasie has been ruled out for the rest of the season as a result of an injury to his ACL. The old Crystal Palace man’s form had dipped of late but it seems always to have been thus for the maverick forward. Having said that, his good form neatly coincided with Everton’s early season charge up the league table and his loss leaves them sorely lacking in quality in that area of the field.
Of Richs meet Embarrassment
If there’s one thing that Arsenal aren’t stuck for, it’s quality attacking midfielders. Theo Walcott scored his 100th league goal at the weekend and was joined on the score sheet by fellow offensive men, Mesut Ozil (via his head!) and Alex Iwobi in their 3-1 win over Stoke. All of which is to say nothing about arguably the league’s best player this season, Alexis Sanchez.
Street fightin’ men
The Gunners have displayed a toughness of character this season that hasn’t been evident in many a long year. They came from behind to beat Stoke at the weekend, a trait that Arsene Wenger is clearly pleased with. “It’s the sixth time that we are down in the game and come back or win since the start of the season. That’s not a coincidence”, he noted. Having so often lauded the mental strength of his teams when to most observers that was precisely the quality that they were lacking in, the French manager must be especially pleased with the self-belief they are showing now.
Another false messiah?
What Ronald Koeman wouldn’t do to transfer some of that to his own charges. With due deference to Gareth Barry, Seamus Coleman and Ashley Williams, Everton seem to be lacking leadership and clear direction in pivotal positions on the pitch, someone brave or skilled enough to demand the ball and look to shape events in their favour. Many had hoped that Ross Barkley would be the player to do so but if he is, Roanld Koeman evidently doesn’t see it. When the manager starts Tom Cleverly ahead of you, sleep mustn’t come easy at night.
On the face of it, this looks like Arsenal’s to lose. Dig a little bit deeper and the answer is roughly the same. Wenger must rejig his centre back pairing as a result of injury to Shkodran Mustafi and that offers Everton and Lukaku some hope of getting something from the game but over the 90 minutes, expect Arsenal to run out winners. Best price for an Arsenal win is 10/11 and comes by way of BetWay.