Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Everton

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, December 8
11:00 a.m. EST, 16:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Howard Webb
    • Assistants: Mike Mullarkey and Darren Cann
    • 4th Official: Anthony Taylor
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 0 - 0 Everton
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 98 Arsenal wins, 58 Everton wins, 43 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-L-W-W-W
  • Everton's League Form: W-D-D-D-W-W
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 9 C / 48 F
Who the hell is this guy?!
Well, this is a big game, innit?

Arsenal remain four points clear at the top of the table after their 2-0 win over Hull City on Wednesday night, but everyone else in the top five won as well; that includes Sunday's opponent, Everton, who won at Old Trafford for the first time in eighty billion years. Speaking of United, they're 12 points off the pace and in ninth place now. I thought you should know that.

Perhaps the biggest aspect of Arsenal's 2-0 win midweek was the fact that there was so much rotation in the side. I mean, Nicklas Bendtner scored the opener from a Carl Jenkinson cross. That's excellent! It's good to be able to win games while resting your top choices every once in a while, because things are about to get really difficult, really fast. Arsenal's next four games are against fifth place Everton, Napoli in Italy in the Champions League, third place Manchester City in a stadium where they outscore the visitors 100-0 on average, then second place Chelsea at the Emirates after a week-plus off.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Sagna (hamstring,) Flamini (groin)

Sagna was the catalyst for two long injury delays in the
first half at Cardiff (to other players,) yet he was the one
who missed Wednesday.
Considering Arsenal just played, there isn't much in the way of updated squad news. Lukas Podolski is back in full training, but we knew that was going to be the case before the Hull game. One of the only real questions will be the availability of Bacary Sagna after he was unavailable Wednesday because of a tight hamstring. I'm going to flip a coin and guess he'll be ready.

Because the posting of this preview has come before Arsene Wenger's presser, I've really got nothing else in terms of news. There are rumors Mathieu Flamini has a groin injury and faces a test; I don't see them confirmed anywhere aside from a "exclusive," so I was reluctant to even mention it. I didn't have Flamini in my predicted XI anyway, but the in-form Frenchman would be nice as an option from the bench. I could've waited a day to post this preview, but in my years of writing these, I learned that nobody reads them on Saturdays.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud.

Everton Squad News

Out: Baines (ankle,) Kone (knee,) Gibson (knee)

In the absence of Leighton Baines, Everton's deputizing
left back just went and beat United. Simple, really.
There are three big injuries in Everton's ranks, as Leighton Baines is out for the rest of this month with an ankle injury, and both Arouna Kone and Darron Gibson are out long term with knee injuries.

Of course, Leighton Baines's back-up at left back is Bryan Oviedo, whose goal gave Everton their 1-0 win at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. He's playing with an Everton back-line we've seen before, with Tim Howard between the poles, Seamus Coleman at right back, and Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin in the middle.

Gareth Barry, on loan from Manchester City, and James McCarthy, whom Roberto Martinez brought along with him from Wigan, play the holding roles behind a variety of potential attacking midfielders, including Ross Barkley, Steven Pienaar, Kevin Mirallas, Leon Osman, and Gerard Deulofeu, on loan from Barcelona. Speaking of loans, Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, starts up top, as you probably know. He's hit the net 10 times this year.

I don't expect Martinez to shake up the midfield too much, given what worked on Wednesday; Everton don't have a midweek European match to worry about. That would mean Osman and Deulofeu start on the bench.

Predicted XI: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Oviedo, McCarthy, Barry, Pienaar, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku.

Current Form

In 28 combined games between these two teams this season, Arsenal and Everton have lost just three times. Arsenal have 11 wins, one draw, and two losses this season, while Everton have seven wins, six draws, and just one loss, to Manchester City at the Etihad. The Toffees are unbeaten in seven in the league, while Arsenal have won six straight league games at home.

Everton have kept eight clean sheets in 14 games this year, that's tops in the league; Arsenal have kept a clean sheet in five of their last six league matches and their 10 goals conceded on the season is now good for best defensive record in the league. Number two is Everton, with 13 allowed.

Arsenal won 3-0 last Saturday; Everton won 4-0. Everton won 1-0 on Wednesday; Arsenal won 2-0. Really, this is just "in form" v. "in form." It's the formiest match to ever form. FOOOOOOOOOOOOORM!!!!

Match Facts

It looks like someone just told Santi that Santa's not real.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 12 against Everton, whose last win over the Gunners was on March 18, 2007 by a 1-0 scoreline. This fixture, however, has always been close over the past handful of seasons. Everton are winless in their last 17 trips to the Emirates/Highbury, dating back to January 20, 1996, though they have drawn four of the last seven meetings in North London after Arsenal had won this fixture 10 straight times between 1996/97 and 2005/06.

This corresponding fixture last season, rife with mid-April Champions League qualification importance, ended in a 0-0 draw, as Arsenal had 57% of the possession but were extremely wasteful in front of goal. The match was a bit cagey, as the referee, Neil Swarbrick, lost control of things pretty early on. Everton went into that match trying to be physical and had the better of play in the first half, but Arsenal's effort improved dramatically in the second stanza, though they could not find a winner.

The Referee

Howard Webb duck face.
The referee is South Yorkshire-based Howard Webb. Arsenal have seen Webb once so far this year, winning 3-1 at Fulham during the second week of the season. Everton have also seen Webb only once, for their impressive 1-0 win over Chelsea on September 14.

Arsenal won all four league matches in which they had Webb last season, 2-0 at Anfield, 5-2 over Spurs, 2-1 at West Brom (despite Per Mertesacker's red card,) and 1-0 (and not 1-1) at Newcastle. They also drew once, against Swansea in the FA Cup, 2-2. Arsenal have not lost a league game with Howard Webb in the middle since the 8-2 at Old Trafford. In 15 home games with Webb as referee, Arsenal have never lost, winning 10 and drawing four.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Manchester United v. Newcastle United; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Cardiff City; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. West Ham United; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Manchester City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Chelsea; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Norwich City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Sunderland v. Tottenham Hotspur; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday (early): Fulham v. Aston Villa; Craven Cottage, London
  • Monday (night): Swansea City v. Hull City; Liberty Stadium, Swansea