Preview by Numbers: Everton v. Arsenal

Goodison Park, Liverpool
Saturday, August 23
12:30 p.m. EDT, 17:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Kevin Friend
    • Assistants: Andy Garratt and Mick McDonough
    • 4th Official: Michael Oliver
  • This Match, Last Year: Everton 3 - 0 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 99 Arsenal wins, 59 Everton wins, 44 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-W-W // W
  • Everton's League Form: L-W-L-L-W // D
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 15 C / 59 F
It's hard to see his abs from this angle.
Arsenal always manage to get one tricky fixture thrown into their August slate while they are still trying to keep their squad together with duct tape. Last year, it was the North London derby, a satisfying 1-0 win. In 2012, it was a trip to Anfield and a 2-0 win. Before that, it was a trip to Old Trafford and a lopsided defeat.

This year, sandwiched between Champions League playoff matches, is a trip to Goodison Park, the site of one of Arsenal's four road capitulations last season. The season is a week old and Arsenal are already entering a critical phase. They need a result on Wednesday against Besiktas to progress in Europe. It would be a good idea to get the momentum rolling now with a good result against a tricky Everton side that will be no easier an opponent than they were last year, when the Toffees dominated both league encounters.

It's Arsenal's first crack this year at retaking the test they failed so many times last year. Let's hope the result is much different now.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Arteta (ankle,) Gibbs (hamstring,) Ospina (thigh,) Walcott (knee,) Gnabry (knee,) Miyaichi (hamstring)
Doubts: Sanogo (hamstring,) Koscielny (Achilles)

Oh, so we're doing THIS again with all the injuries...
Well, this list is getting pretty long. Just like old times.

Mikel Arteta is the latest to join the list; his sprained ankle is going to keep him out of at least the next three matches, right into the international break. I wouldn't expect Kieran Gibbs back until after the Interlull, either.

The good news is the Germans should be close to available again. Per Mertesacker's availability means that Laurent Koscielny and his sore Achilles might be given a rest. On the other hand, this would really be considered throwing Per into the deep end. Then again, he is pretty tall...

As for the other Germans, well, we'll see if either are handed a start. I would, for the sake of being conservative in guesswork, bet against it. Arteta's injury should mean a start for Mathieu Flamini in the holding role. Having been ripped apart on the road for being too open last year, I would sincerely hope that Arsene Wenger stays conservative with his tactics. The onus will fall on Flamini, Jack Wilshere, and Aaron Ramsey to work hard in the midfield.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Chambers, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Alexis, Giroud.

Everton Squad News

Out: Barkley (knee,) Oviedo (leg,) Kone (knee)
Doubts: Mirallas (match fitness)

Everton will be without this face for six weeks.
Ross Barkley is facing about six weeks out of the lineup, after suffering a knee injury in training; Steven Naismith starts in midfield in his place. Bryan Oviedo remains out after breaking his leg in the FA Cup last January. Arouna Kone has not played for the Toffees since October with knee ligament damage; he is still about three weeks away. Everton's lack of depth up front (without Kone) has led to rumors swirling about Roberto Martinez considering buying another striker; Samuel Eto'o is the latest on that list.

Everton's summer business largely consisted of making some of their loan-ins permanent, in the case of Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry. Gerard Deulofeu, however, returned to Barcelona only to be loaned to Sevilla this season.

Tactically, nothing has changed for Everton this season; their starting XI hasn't really changed either. Seamus Coleman came off the bench last week after John Stones was handed a start. Kevin Mirallas is still on the road back from his World Cup with Belgium; he also came off the bench last week at Leicester and if he doesn't start tomorrow, Martinez will continue with Aiden McGeady on the wing.

Predicted XI: Howard, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Naismith, McGeady, Pienaar, Lukaku.

Current Form

Chris Wood's equalizer for the Foxes came in the 86th.
A 0-0 draw in the first leg of a Champions League playoff might not have been the best of results for Arsenal, but it wasn't the worst either. Arsenal have not lost a competitive fixture since their last trip to Goodison Park in April. They responded to that loss with six league wins spanning both seasons, three wins at Wembley to take the FA Cup and Community Shield, and Tuesday's draw in Istanbul.

Everton opened the season with what they would have to consider two points dropped; Leicester City came from behind twice to grab a season opening draw from the Toffees. Since that aforementioned win over Arsenal in April, Everton have won two league games (over Manchester United and Hull City,) drawn one (to Leicester City,) and lost three (to Crystal Palace, Southampton, and Manchester City.) While it's hard to compare one season to the next, especially in a World Cup year, it's clear that Everton had a true opportunity to condemn Arsenal to Europa League football last spring and they did not take it. To be fair, Besiktas still has that chance.

Match Facts

Everton looked like a good bet for fourth after this
fixture last season, but they stumbled in the run-in.
Arsenal took just one of a possible six points from Everton in the league last season, though the Gunners did boot the Toffees from the FA Cup one round before Wembley. This fixture last season was one of Arsenal's four disastrous road losses against each of the other sides finishing in the top five. Like in the others, Arsenal conceded early with Steven Naismith opening the scoring before a quarter of an hour had passed. Romelu Lukaku doubled the lead in the 34th and an Mikel Arteta own goal made it 3-0 just after the hour mark. The loss snapped Arsenal's 14-match unbeaten streak against Everton across all competitions.

In the league match at the Emirates, Arsenal led 1-0 through Mesut Ozil but conceded an equalizer just four minutes later and were resigned to a 1-1 draw. In the FA Cup, Arsenal won 4-1 with goals from Mesut Ozil, Mikel Arteta from a penalty he had to retake, and two from Olivier Giroud off the bench. 

The Referee

"This is my hairline."
The referee is Leicestershire-based Kevin Friend. This is Friend's first Premier League appointment of the season; he worked two matches in the Championship earlier this month, while also handling fourth official duties for QPR v. Hull last week.

Arsenal had Friend as their referee only once last season, for the 3-1 come-from-behind win over West Ham United in April. Arsenal have a record of four wins, two draws, and no losses all-time with Friend in the middle. Friend took charge of three matches at Goodison Park last season: Everton's 0-0 draw with Tottenham in November, their 2-0 win over Norwich in January, and 3-1 win over Swansea in the FA Cup in February.

Around the League

  • Saturday (early): Aston Villa v. Newcastle United; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. Leicester City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. West Ham United; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Southampton v. West Bromwich Albion; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Burnley; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Sunday (early): Hull City v. Stoke City; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Sunday (early): Tottenham Hotspur v. Queens Park Rangers; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (late): Sunderland v. Manchester United; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Monday (night): Manchester City v. Liverpool; Etihad Stadium, Manchester