Can Everton frustrate Arsenal’s title bid?
Experiencing the true definition of a baptism of fire, Sean Dyche takes charge of Everton for the first time in today lunchtime’s Premier League showdown with leaders, Arsenal.
Eighteen places and 35 points separate the two sides at opposite ends of the Premier League table, as the Gunners aim to extend their lead at the summit to eight points.
Apparently, weighing up whether they wanted the high-pressing, fast-paced Marcelo Bielsa style of football or the tight-knit defence that Dyche would promise to bring, the powers-that-be at Everton opted for the latter to replace the doomed Frank Lampard after last week’s 2-0 loss to West Ham United.
Jarrod Bowen put the final two nails in Lampard’s coffin with a match-winning brace at the London Stadium, and Dyche undoubtedly inherits a poisoned chalice at Goodison Park, where disgruntled fans have been making their feelings clear for some time now.
Selling starboy, Anthony Gordon, and failing to bring in a single new face in the January transfer window has hardly helped matters either, as Dyche takes over with the Toffees sitting 19th in the rankings, but a shock win over Arsenal could see the hosts rise above the dotted line if results elsewhere go their way.
While Dyche has been handed a whole list of things to fix at Everton, first on the agenda will be trying to snap a four-game losing run in all competitions, and their winless streak now stands at 10 games since a 3-0 win over London opposition in Crystal Palace in October 22.
The Toffees’ Premier League losing streak at Goodison Park also stands at four matches, but they have at least managed to find the back of the net in their last three home contests, and Arsenal fans have painful memories of the blue half of Merseyside from the past couple of years.
Finally, coming up against closest challengers Manchester City for the first time this season, Arsenal’s magical start to the season would not extend to a rare win over the reigning champions at the Etihad in last week’s fourth-round FA Cup battle.
Despite some bright moments from the Gunners – whose charge was led by the effervescent Leandro Trossard – in the first half, Mikel Arteta could not mastermind a way through his former club’s staunch defence, and a striker’s finish from Nathan Ake sealed a 1-0 win for the hosts.
With only the Premier League and Europa League to focus on for the remainder of the campaign, some Gunners have welcomed their early cup eliminations as they endeavour to steer eight points clear of Man City – who do not play until Sunday against Tottenham Hotspur – at the summit.
The 50-points Gunners, who have a game in hand on Man City, are on course to match the Citizens’ centurions of 2017-18, should they continue in the same vein, and they enter Saturday’s game unbeaten in 13 top-flight matches, having earned a slice of revenge over Manchester United at the Emirates two weeks ago following their Old Trafford defeat.
Six of Arsenal’s last seven Premier League games away from home have also ended in victory, and Arteta’s men ended the 2021- 22 season with a 5-1 thumping of the Toffees in North London, but they have lost each of their last two against Everton at Goodison Park and may be fearing a classic new manager bounce here. -— SportsMole
Chelsea v Fulham (slated for yesterday)
Everton v Arsenal
Aston Villa v Leicester City
Brentford v Southampton
Brighton v Bournemouth
Man United v Crystal Palace
Wolves v Liverpool
Newcastle v West Ham
Nottingham v Leeds United
Tottenham v Man City