Preview by Numbers: Everton v. Arsenal

Goodison Park, Liverpool
Wednesday, November 28
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Michael Oliver
    • Assistants: Simon Long and Darren England
    • 4th Official: Neil Swarbrick
  • This Match, Last Year: Everton 0 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 98 Arsenal wins, 58 Everton wins, 41 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-L-D-W-D
  • Everton's League Form: D-D-D-W-L-D
  • Weather Forecast: Clear, 39°F / 4°C
After Saturday's dire scoreless draw with Aston Villa, I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to approach writing this opening section of the preview.

Ultimately, I have decided to keep it simple:

Today is my birthday and I demand a win. Thank you.

Arsenal Squad News

Say it with me now: LIKE A NEW SIGNING.
Out: Santos (abdominal), Diaby (thigh), Fabianski (shoulder), Rosicky (match fitness)

The news from Arsene Wenger's press conference yesterday is fairly good: Theo Walcott will be returning to the line-up after his shoulder problem and Tomas Rosicky has returned to full training but lacks the match fitness required to feature at this point. Aside from that, there are no other injuries or returns to report.

So, the question again is down to rotation. It is starting to look like Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla are never going to get a rest, doesn't it? This, combined with having to sub off your one remaining forward with a defensive midfielder late in a 0-0 game screams of the lack of depth with this squad. But, you've already read that elsewhere, I won't bore you with it all over again. I stand by my instant reaction to claim that that substitution "will haunt my dreams."

All things considered, you can tell this team is getting tired from playing so often, and there is no fix for that until the window opens again in January. They'll just have to bite the bullet.

Everton Squad News

Out: Coleman (knock), Gibson (thigh), Mirallas (hamstring), Anichebe (hamstring), Neville (knee)

"Do you have any idea how much time I spend on my hair?"
The good news for Everton (and bad news for Arsenal) is that Marouane Fellaini returns from a one match ban he served on Saturday for yellow card accumulation.

The bad news for Everton is that the squad David Moyes has available for selection for this match is largely the same squad he had available on Saturday (with the exception of Fellaini,) so that means no returns for Darron Gibson, who has been out since September with a thigh injury, Kevin Mirallas, Victor Anichebe (both with hamstring injuries,) Phil Neville (out until January with a knee problem,) or Seamus Coleman (who has a knock, apparently.)

Current Form

Everton was doomed by this late header in the rain on
Saturday. Look at that water splash off Bassong's head.
We have now reached a point where Arsenal's most common scoreline in this season, is 0-0. 23% of Arsenal's league matches (3 out of 13) have ended scoreless. I guess that's a little better than the second most common scoreline being a 2-1 loss, which has happened twice.

Arsenal have now gone three straight road matches without a win, having lost to Manchester United and drawn at Schalke and Villa. The win preceding this stretch was the 7-5 at Reading the League Cup, so Arsenal's last league win on the road was at West Ham on October 6. That is all dreadful, when you consider the fact that Arsenal is now two matches into a stretch where they play on the road for six out of eight games leading up to Christmas. It's a crucial stretch of the season, and Arsenal has to learn to win away from the Emirates again.

Meanwhile, Everton have been dropping points left and right lately as well, having dropped from a momentary stay as high as second place after a win over Southampton in September down to fifth place, just one point clear of Arsenal and Tottenham. The Toffees have one win from their last seven league fixtures, but five of them were draws. They have won just twice since they complacently dropped their League Cup tie to Leeds in September (the Southampton win mentioned above was one of those wins, the other was over Sunderland.) They are, however, unbeaten in six at Goodison Park, and have not lost a league match at home since Arsenal won there in March. Everton are one of three teams that have not lost a home match this season; Manchester City and Stoke City are the others, sites where Arsenal have already traveled and drawn this year.

The weekend before last, Everton was cruising, up 1-0 at relegation-threatened Reading. Then, in the second half, Adam Le Fondre scored twice, including once from the penalty spot, to give the Royals their first top flight win since 2008. This past weekend, Everton was again up 1-0 early before Sebastien Bassong's 90th minute header earned Norwich a point. The script has been similar of late: Everton have dominated the early goings in matches, they have failed to build an insurmountable lead, and then they have capitulated. Sounds kind of familiar...

Match Facts

"Hello there! I have just scored a goal! Congratulate me!"
Vermaelen has one goal since.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last ten matches against the Toffees, having won four straight, including both meetings in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons. Last year, Arsenal won both matches 1-0. The year before that, they won both 2-1. Arsenal won the meeting at the Emirates last year thanks to a second half volleyed goal scored by a certain former captain. Last year's meeting at Goodison was decided by an early Thomas Vermaelen header, though Everton later had an equalizing goal incorrectly ruled offside.

Arsenal have handed Everton some of their heaviest defeats under David Moyes, including a 7-0 victory and a 6-1 win at Goodison Park in the season opening game in August of 2009. Everton's last win over Arsenal was on March 18, 2007 by a 1-0 scoreline. 17th President of the United States Andrew Johnson had the only goal in injury time.

The Referee

Oh my God, referee glamour shot! I enjoy that he's got the
whistle in there, just so you don't confuse him for a
player or anything like that.
The referee is Northumberland-based Michael Oliver. Oliver took charge of two Arsenal matches last year: the 3-0 win over West Brom at the Emirates last November and the 3-2 loss at Swansea in Wales in January. I can't think of much to say about Oliver's performance in either of those matches: the former was a comprehensive victory, the latter was a match where Swansea was the better side on the day. Odd about those two matches combined is that there were no bookings from Oliver whatsoever.

Since I couldn't think of anything to say about him, I went to my own preview for that Swansea match (the last time Arsenal saw Oliver) to see what I knew about him them and found "Oliver appeared out of his depth in the two Arsenal matches he worked last season (2010/11), both losses for the Gunners." Well, that was then, and Oliver has come a long way since then, so I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt, in spite of (practically ancient) history.

Oliver has taken charge of one Everton match this season, a 3-1 win at Aston Villa in which Villa's Ciaran Clark was sent off after the score was already 3-0 in favor of the Toffees.

Around the League

"I forget how to celebrate goals!"
On Tuesday, Aston Villa put an 80th minute winner past Reading at Villa Park, possibly because Reading didn't switch a striker for a holding midfielder off the bench, or something. Christian Benteke's goal moved Villa up to 17th place, two points clear of the drop zone. Meanwhile, on-the-hot-seat Martin O'Neill and Sunderland hosted Harry Redknapp for his first match in charge of Queens Park Rangers and, predictably, it ended scoreless. QPR continue to bolt themselves to the foot of the table.

Would you be surprised if I told you that there are actually four teams that have scored fewer goals than Sunderland this year? Would it also surprise you that among those four teams (and, I suppose you could include Sunderland too,) Arsenal have beaten only one of them, despite conceding only one goal in those five matches? Sunderland have scored 12, Stoke and Aston Villa have scored 11, while Norwich and QPR have only 10.

Back to the matter at hand, there are eight matches scheduled for tonight. Six of them, including Everton v. Arsenal, kick off at a quarter to eight in the U.K.; the other two, Manchester United v. West Ham at Old Trafford and Wigan v. Manchester City at the DW, kick off at eight.

As for those earlier six, there's a few good marquee match-ups thrown into the mix, including Tottenham hosting Liverpool at the Lane (good might not be the right word for it...), Chelsea hosts Fulham in a West London derby at the Bridge, Swansea hosts third place West Bromwich Albion in Wales, Southampton (who started yesterday a point clear of the drop zone, but fell back into it thanks to Villa's win) hosts Norwich at St. Mary's, and Stoke hosts struggling Newcastle at the Britannia.

The reverse of these fixtures will be played the weekend of March 9-10, unless a team is still playing in the sixth round of the FA Cup scheduled that same weekend. Incidentally, that happened with this very fixture last year.