Everton boss Roberto Martinez will like his chances against Arsenal when the Gunners come a visit on Sunday. - AFP
IT’S not how you start but how you finish that matters.
Everton will be motivated by that axiom when they meet Arsenal at Goodison Park on Sunday.
And looking at their track record in the last five games, they have every reason to be confident of beating the Gunners for that grand prize – a ticket to Europe next season.
Their 4-1 defeat to the North London club in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup earlier last month is now a blip in memory. Since then Everton have gone on to win five successive league fixtures, including a 3-1 win against Fulham last week.
Arsenal, after their blazing start to the season, continued their downward spiral with a three-game winless run that started with a 6-0 hammering by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Their 1-1 draw with Manchester City at home on Saturday was a nice surprise, but it has not moved them out of Everton’s reach.
If Everton win tomorrow, they will narrow their gap on Arsenal to a point, with a game in hand. And looking at the cavalier way the Toffees have been going at their opponents, one can say that the possible three points – from the rescheduled game against Crystal Palace at home – are already in their pockets.
Sure, Everton have a tougher competition in the remaining fixtures compared to Arsenal, but the Merseyside club have a stronger team at this stage. Case in point: while Arsene Wenger is missing almost half of his first-team players including Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, his counterpart at Everton, Roberto Martinez, has a problem of which talented players to leave out of his starting 11 for tomorrow’s match.
Everton’s attack force is on fire from the on-form Romelu Lukaku to red hot Gerard Deulofeu, while Arsenal have Olivier Giroud who scored just three goals in his last 22 matches against the current top seven in the Premier League.
Surprise, surprise, even Everton have a more superior goal difference to Arsenal.
Critics have already warned that Wenger’s failure to sign another striker in January would cost Arsenal the title. Now it looks like it may even cost the club a top-four place.
But Arsenal showed last week that they can be organised against a good attacking team, and they will need to repeat their tight and compact formation against Everton tomorrow. If they want to get something out of the game, however, Wenger should throw in his pacier players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Serge Gnabry or Yaya Sanogo to catch the Toffees on the counter-attack.
This writer reckons Arsenal will hold Everton 1-1.