Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Everton, FA Cup Sixth Round

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, March 8
7:45 a.m. EST, 12:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Gary Beswick
    • 4th Official: Phil Dowd
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 98 Arsenal wins, 58 Everton wins, 44 draws
  • All-Time in the FA Cup: 1 Arsenal win, 2 Everton wins
  • Arsenal's Path Here:
    • Third Round: Beat Tottenham Hotspur, 2-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Coventry City, 4-0
    • Fifth Round: Beat Liverpool, 2-1
  • Everton's Path Here:
    • Third Round: Beat Queens Park Rangers, 4-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Stevenage, 4-0
    • Fifth Round: Beat Swansea City, 3-1
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-L-D-W-L
  • Everton's League Form: D-L-W-L-L-W
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 12 C / 54 F
Arsenal's official site posted an article I found to be pretty odd on Wednesday: this recap of the 2007/08 season. In case you don't recall or have blocked that season out of your memory, Arsenal sat top of the league for much of fall and winter before crashing out of the FA Cup dramatically at Old Trafford. One week later, Eduardo's ankle was broken and the Gunners slipped to a 2-2 draw at St. Andrew's. That was the first of four straight draws, which was followed by losses to Chelsea and Manchester United as well. They crashed out of Europe in dramatic fashion to Liverpool, too. By the end, Arsenal finished third, without silverware once again.

It seems strange for Arsenal to remind us now of the recent past, as the current Gunners sit perched in similar circumstances. They've slipped to nominally third in the league, though fourth-place Manchester City have two matches in hand. They have one foot in their European grave, with the second leg in Munich this Tuesday. Arsenal had approximately 30% odds of winning the league title this season before their trip to Anfield last month; those odds are now 6%.

So, you can see why the FA Cup means so much to us, the fans, right now. We know this is now Arsenal's best shot at silverware this season. They've swatted aside tricky challengers in Tottenham and Liverpool so far in this bracket and now, only eight teams remain: Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City, Hull City, Sunderland, Wigan Athletic, Charlton Athletic, and Sheffield United. The magic of the cup means each of these teams are in with a shout, for example, Wigan showed what they can do against Manchester City in this competition in last year's final.

Win tomorrow and Arsenal will be guaranteed a match at Wembley, in mid-April's semi-final, their first trip there since some unpleasantness three years ago. By 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, Arsenal could either be one step closer to exorcising their trophy demons or mentions of "nine years" will be getting a lot louder.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Wilshere (foot,) Ramsey (thigh,) Walcott (knee,) Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Koscielny (hamstring)

In terms of the super-annoying international midweek friendly nonsense squad news, Laurent Koscielny was held out of action by France because of a tight hamstring, leaving the center back doubtful for Everton's visit tomorrow. On the plus side, Thomas Vermaelen is now 100% available to slot in if he is required. I have a feeling Kos will start, though. Not sure why.

Jack Wilshere was clobbered on the foot by Liverpool's Daniel Agger in the England-Denmark match and reports indicate he'll miss six weeks (likely closer to 10, given time needed to return to training) with a small fracture. Personally, I would not have played Jack in this match anyway, and think Arsene Wenger should opt for the Mikel Arteta-Mathieu Flamini combination, or Flamteta, as I believe it's called.

Considering Lukasz Fabianski started against Liverpool, I would think he'll start again here. Up front, I think Mesut Ozil has got to come back into the squad. I'd like to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and Santi Cazorla on the left. Since it's a cup tie, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Yaya Sanogo instead of Olivier Giroud leading the line.

Also, Kim Kallstrom might be available, apparently. I'll believe it when I see it...

Predicted XI: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Ozil, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo.

Everton Squad News

Out: Oviedo (leg,) Gibson (knee,) Jagielka (hamstring,) Kone (knee,) Traore (hamstring)
Doubts: Alcaraz (fatigue)

Phil Jagielka, who picked up a hamstring injury in training last week, does not appear to be available for this weekend's cup tie, according to manager Roberto Martinez. However, he did add, "with Phil, you never know." Jagielka did not participate in England's friendly with Denmark. Antolin Alcaraz might remain out at center back as well, with muscle fatigue. Youngster John Stones started in that position, with Jagielka and Alcaraz out, last weekend for a clean sheet against West Ham.

As for Everton's longer-term injuries, Lacina Traore could be back in a week or two from a hamstring problem of his own, but it'll be early May at best for Arouna Kone and Darron Gibson, both out with knee injuries. Bryan Oviedo's season is over, after suffering a double leg fracture against Stevenage in the FA Cup fourth round.

As with Fabianski, Everton back-up keeper Joel Robles has started all three previous FA Cup ties instead of usual starter Tim Howard. The Toffees, however, have not really weakened their line-ups too considerably, aside from up front, something they cannot get away with against Arsenal. As such, I would not be surprised if Roberto Martinez fielded a moderately strong squad.

Predicted XI: Robles, Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines, McCarthy, Barry, Osman, Pienaar, Mirallas, Lukaku.

Current Form

When these sides met in December, I referred to it as "the formiest match to ever form," which is total gibberish, of course. Between the two sides, through 28 league matches up to that point, Arsenal and Everton had lost just three. Arsenal had conceded only 10 goals (good for best in the league) and Everton had conceded 13 (good for second.)

Now, both sides come in with similar form as well, though both are now stumbling. Arsenal have just two wins from their last six league games, losing two and drawing two as well. Everton, meanwhile, have not won away from home (aside from a win at Stevenage in the fourth round,) since December 22 at Swansea. They've lost at Liverpool, Tottenham, and Chelsea, and have drawn at Stoke and West Brom. The Toffees have fallen to sixth in the table, at 48 points, with a game in hand on much of the competition. Still, their chances for Champions League football next season look to be fading.

Match Facts

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 13 against Everton, whose last win over the Gunners was on March 18, 2007 by a 1-0 scoreline (note that Mark Clattenburg was the referee that day.) Everton are winless in their last 19 trips to the Emirates/Highbury, dating back to January 20, 1996. They have drawn each of the last two meetings in North London in league play, however, and four of the last eight.

This fixture, played in the league in early December, was a nervy high-stakes encounter, as tomorrow should be as well. Arsenal landed the first blow late in the match, with Mesut Ozil scoring in the 80th minute, but Everton countered within minutes to equalize. The match ended 1-1. The sides will meet at Goodison Park in the league in four week's time.

Despite a long and storied history of top flight football to the tune of December's draw being the 200th match between the clubs across all competitions, this will be only the fourth time the sides have met in the FA Cup. Everton have won twice, in Liverpool, by a 5-0 scoreline in 1910 and a 2-0 scoreline in 1981. Arsenal won the only meeting in North London, 4-3, in 1928.

The Referee

The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg. Arsenal have had Clattenburg recently, for their 0-0 draw with Manchester United in mid-February. Prior to that result, the Gunners had three wins from three with Clatts this season: 2-1 over Swansea, 2-0 over Southampton, and 2-0 over Spurs in the third round of the FA Cup. Arsenal have won 20 of their 29 matches all-time with Clattenburg as the referee; they've lost seven and drawn two. In the FA Cup, Arsenal have five wins from five with Clatts.

On the other hand, Everton hate Clattenburg, after a Merseyside derby in 2007. Every critical decision went against the Toffees that day. First, Tony Hibbert was sent off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, though it appeared Clattenburg only pulled out the red card after Steven Gerrard remonstrated with him. Everton ended the match with nine men after Phil Neville was sent off for handling a goal bound shot in the 92nd minute. Liverpool won the match 2-1, through two penalties scored through the aforementioned fouls, though Everton were denied a penalty shout of their own just before the 90th minute, when Jamie Carragher wrestled Joleon Lescott to the ground. Dirk Kuyt was also shown only yellow for a "kung fu style lunge" on Neville earlier in the match.

Everton have had Clattenburg just three times since then: a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in January 2012, a 2-1 win over Southampton in late December, and a 1-0 loss at Tottenham in early February.

Around the Sixth Round
  • Sunday: Hull City v. Sunderland; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Sunday: Manchester City v. Wigan Athletic; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Sunday: Sheffield United v. Charlton Athletic; Bramall Lane, Sheffield
Around the League
  • Saturday (early): West Bromwich Albion v. Manchester United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday: Cardiff City v. Fulham; Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Southampton; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Norwich City v. Stoke City; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday (late): Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Not Playing: Aston Villa, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Swansea City, and West Ham United