Another day, another Premier League matchup. The gift and curse of the holiday season. Arsenal made a small step forward on Wednesday when they drew to Southampton, but Gabriel seeing red, the continued lack of attack, and nearly inoperable midfield made for another tough performance. The brilliant run of Bukayo Saka and goal from Aubameyang stand out as the only two major positives on the day when it comes to the team’s play.
Now Arsenal are tasked with another tough opponent in Everton who have proved themselves capable of some breathtaking football, yet equally possible of seeming like a very different side. They started the campaign like a team destined to make a run at the title, but a draw to Burnley and a loss to Newcastle tell quite a different story. 13 matches they are on 23 points, good enough for 5th, which is by no means something to turn your nose up at, but Ancelotti will want his side to find a way to bring their best on a slightly more consistent basis.
That being said, they are coming off a win versus Chelsea and a 2-0 win over Leicester City. Going into Goodison Park and getting a result may be a tough ask for this Arsenal side. “It is always really tough to go to Goodison,” said Mikel. “I played there and know them really well. They are teams in two different moments but we are preparing the game to go there and beat them, because we need a result.”
It’s not a secret that Arteta’s history and Everton’s are intertwined in many ways. Not only was Mikel a player with Everton from 2005-2011 where he made 162 appearances, before coming to Arsenal, but it was exactly one year ago that Arteta sat in the crowd looking on at his side playing The Toffees to a soulless 0-0 draw in Ljungberg’s final match as head man on the touchline.
It makes for an even more intriguing storyline that we are fast approaching the 1-year mark for Arteta as manager, and the year has to go down as the most bonkers 365-days in Premier League history. Even beyond Premier League history, possibly only the seasons leading up to World War I and II could contend.
Mikel reflects back on it, “I think it has been one of the most challenging years in the club’s history for many, many different reasons. I think we have made a lot of progress and implemented a lot of positive things that have worked really well.”
“We have gone through structural changes right across the club that has obviously shaken the club, big time. I would say the highlights of the year is the two trophies that we have won together, and the most disappointing thing is that we haven’t had our fans with us to take us through this difficult moment. I think it could have been a really, really positive year but the recent form in the Premier League is taking the gloss off what we have done in the calendar year. But we have to accept that our Premier League form in recent weeks is not good enough for this football club.”
It’s that recent form, and those structural changes that have many fans circle Mikel and Edu like sharks, sensing blood in the water.
Arsenal sit in 15th place. A win tomorrow would potentially see them move nowhere, which should set off major alarm bells. The table is spacing out and leveling itself. Soon are the days where your placement in the table sets a real tone of what is possible to achieve. The tiers of in the race, mid-table and lower-table are forming and Arenal are on the outside, looking inward. With a -5 goal differential on the season and a vapid midfield and attack, Arsenal need a major change and they need it now.
It’s been the same story for over a month if we are being completely honest, but the patience that many people once has been severely eroded. Most were willing to give time to a new manager and incomplete side that was offering signs of growth, but those signs are long gone and attempt after attempt to find a solution has missed the mark.
Historically speaking, this may be the exact matchup that the Gunners need to get their attack going. After all, Arsenal have won more games (34) and scored more goals (110) against Everton than any other opponent in the competition. Not only that, 110 goals against is a single opponent is more than any club has scored against another in Premier League history.
Please, GOD, give us the respite we have been looking for!
There is a chance that both sides will have to change up their lineups. Arsenal have their fair share of suspensions and injuries — something we talked about in our Team News and Lineup blog — but there was some suggestion that Allan, James Rodriguez, and Fabian Delph would be out tomorrow. If that is the case, much of Everton’s midfield presence will be altered.
However, before we get too excited we should note, that of those three, only Allen played in Everton’s 2-0 win over Leicester City. Clearly, Everton are more than capable of getting results through the likes of Iwobi, Doucoure. Sigurdsson, and frontmen Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin. It’s a side that is filled with players having excellent years.
A tale of two teams. One flying high with a coach very experience in the means of getting the most out of his side, while the other is underperforming beyond many fans’ wildest nightmares. Gooners around the world are looking for a change, any change, which makes this nervy moments. A change in manager? A change in technical director? Certainly changes in playing staff during the January transfer window.
It’s all gone awry in the first third of this season, but it’s an opportunity to notch three more points and put themselves back into the mix. Everything inside me knows a single point on the day may be the most Arsenal can ask for, but given their position — three is desperately needed.