Apr 062014


Arsenal continue to crank up the pressure and Everton attempt to take the sting out of their attack by enjoying a sustained spell of possession inside their own half. Roberto Martinez’s side know there is no need to push forward and go gung-ho for the third goal.


Arsenal work the ball well from right to left and Monreal escapes down the wing brilliantly for the first time in the game but cannot pick out a teammate with his cross into the middle. Cazorla then feels he should have a penalty when his cross hits McCarthy’s arm but the Everton midfielder’s arms were down by his side and the referee waves play on.


It’s been a slow start to the second half but it is Arsenal who are doing the early pressing. An early goal for the visitors would make for an intriguing second half.


The two sides re-emerge from the tunnel for the second half and Arsenal, unchanged, get the game back underway. Can they give their travelling supporters something to cheer about?


Roberto Martinez will be telling his Everton players to carry on with their level of spirit and performance. If Everton win today, it will be the first time in 11-and-a-half years that they have won six successive league matches and their chances of qualifying for the Champions League are looking increasingly likely by the week.


Arsenal have looked completely lopsided in the first half and the balance in their team just is not working. Cazorla has been ineffective while the double pivot of Arteta and Flamini simply cannot cope with the quick pressing and distribution of the Everton midfield. Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both warming up and I would not be surprised to see Arsene Wenger make a change here.


Lukaku is the first Everton player to score 13 Premier League goals in a season since Yakubu scored 15 in 2007/08. (BBC)


HT: Everton 2-0 Arsenal. Goals from Steven Naismith and Romelu Lukaku give Roberto Martinez’s side a deserved lead at the break. The Toffees are chasing a sixth successive league win and they have been terrific against a lacklustre and toothless Arsenal side. Everton will close the gap on Arsenal to just a solitary point with a game in hand as things stand and the Champions League momentum has shifted drastically into Everton’s favour. Big half-time team talk ahead for Arsene Wenger.

45? +2

Arsenal threaten at the end of the break when Podolski picks up the ball on the left. However, his teasing cross is just too far ahead of Giroud and Howard makes the save. That is the final action of the first half.

45? +1

It just is not clicking for Arsenal at the moment and Giroud sums up their frustrations when his poor first touch ends a sustained spell of attacking pressure. Arsene Wenger has some serious decisions to make at the break if Arsenal are going to salvage anything from this one.


Yellow Card Mathieu Flamini
Flamini is no stranger to a yellow card and the French midfielder picks up a booking for a mistimed lunge on Naismith. That will rule him out of Arsenal’s next two games, including the FA Cup semi-final tie with Wigan next week.


Arsene Wenger needs to address Arsenal’s right-hand side at the half-time interval because time and time again, Everton are finding space to exploit the defence. Naismith once again gets in behind Sagna but the France defender reacts superbly to win back possession in a dangerous area. Cazorla is simply not giving Sagna enough support down the right.


GREAT SAVE BY HOWARD! Arsenal are looking to pull one back before the half-time whistle and they nearly find it when Podolski latches onto a loose ball on the edge of the box. The Germany international powers a half volley into the ground and Howard is forced to react quickly to tip it over the bar.


LUKAKU GOES CLOSE! The Belgian striker now has 13 goals in 25 league appearances for Everton and he confidently tricks his way beyond the challenge of Flamini before thundering a shot inches past the post. Everton are looking good value for their lead here.


Arsenal can have no excuses about the result so far but they look to make immediate amends when Rosicky finds space on the edge of the Everton box. The Czech Republic midfielder looks to bend a shot into the far corner but McCarthy epitomises Everton’s battling spirit by making a superb block.


Assist Kevin Mirallas


Goal Romelu Lukaku
LUKAKU MAKES IT 2-0! It’s a shambles at the back for Arsenal as their defence is again sliced open all too easily. Mirallas takes advantage of a slip by Arteta and he feeds Lukaku on the right who bursts beyond the feeble challenges of Monreal and Vermaelen before thumping a shot beyond the helpless Szczesny. It’s a huge mountain for Arsenal to climb now.


CHANCE FOR ARSENAL! The visitors have a chance to snatch the equaliser when Stones fails to clear Cazorla’s corner from the right. However, he just manages to recover in time to block Giroud’s shot.


MIRALLAS GOES CLOSE! Everton continue to turn the screw in attack and Mirallas unleashes a fierce shot from the edge of the box which is well tipped away from the bottom left-hand corner by Szczesny. The Polish goalkeeper has been busy so far.


GOOD SAVE FROM SZCZESNY! Arsenal continue to be exposed down their right-hand side and this time it is Barkley who gets in behind Sagna, testing Szczesny at his near post with a firm low drive. Arsene Wenger does not look too amused in the dugout.


Arsenal continue to build patiently from the back but they are lacking pace and ideas in the final third, with Giroud crossing a ball straight into the nearest Everton defender. I expect that we may see the introduction of Aaron Ramsey at some point if the game continues in this fashion.


Arsenal have only taken 13 points from a possible 33 in their games against the current Premier League top seven this season.


This game is really stretched at the moment and after there is no Arsenal shirt gambling in the box to meet Monreal’s inviting cross, Everton attack straight down the other end. Flamini’s sloppy pass allows Mirallas to get his shot away on goal but fortunately for Arsenal’s Frenchman, it is straight at Szczesny.


Giroud has been much-criticised by Arsenal fans in recent weeks although he does well to get in front of Distin to meet Sagna’s teasing cross on this occasion before sidefooting an effort inches past the post.


CHANCE FOR EVERTON! Roberto Martinez’s side continue to threaten down the left-hand side and Baines’ low cross picks out McCarthy at the back post, whose effort is deflected by the boot of Naismith straight into the gloves of Szczesny. A let-off for Arsenal.


Everton are working incredibly hard in the middle of the pitch, refusing to allow any of the Arsenal players time to settle on the ball in midfield. Cazorla needs to be careful of the attacking endeavour of Baines who has made several promising runs down the left for Everton.


Only Manchester United (30) have earned more points away from home than Arsenal (29) this season. Can the Gunners bounce back?


Arsenal look to respond immediately to falling behind and Cazorla exchanges some neat passes with Arteta around the Everton box before he picks out Podolski. The Germany international has looked lively in the opening stages but he is once again denied as McCarthy makes a crucial last-ditch block.


Goal Steven Naismith
NAISMITH GIVES EVERTON THE LEAD! Goodison Park erupts as Naismith scores his fourth league goal of the season. Baines is at the heart of it as his cross picks out Lukaku, who had got the wrong side of Monreal. The Belgian’s low effort is well saved by Szczesny but Naismith reacts quickest to convert the rebound.


Arsenal have settled well in the early stages and they are furious that Naismith is not cautioned after a late challenge on Arteta. The first goal is so crucial here.


GOOD EFFORT FROM FLAMINI! The French midfielder scored a rare goal in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City last weekend and he calls Howard into action for the first time with a stinging drive from the edge of the box which the American shotstopper gathers at the second attempt.


Substitution Leon Osman Ross Barkley
Roberto Martinez is forced to make an early change as Ross Barkley, who is not quite 100 percent, replaces the injured Leon Osman. The England World Cup hopeful has been terrific in both previous matches against Arsenal this season.


Yellow Card Leon Osman
Osman picks up an early booking after he cynically scythes down Sagna, injuring himself in the process. I’m not sure he will be able to continue here.


Everton are keen to push forward themselves however and Vermaelen gets a crucial toe on Naismith’s cross to take it away from Lukaku before Coleman’s shot is well blocked by Arteta. The Everton fans appeal for a penalty but the referee rightfully waves play on.


Arsenal have settled well in the early stages and they certainly do not seem to be suffering from any prematch jitters. Rosicky wins the ball well from McCarthy in the midfield but Arsenal cannot take advantage as Podolski again drags a shot wide of the post.


It’s now Arsenal’s turn to come forward and with Everton defenders backing off, Podolski needs no second invitation to shoot and his low drive flashes wide of the target. In fact, Podolski has scored with 33% of his attempts on goal in the last two seasons – the best record of any player with 10 or more goals.


OSMAN GOES CLOSE! It’s almost the perfect start for Everton as Osman controls a throw-in before striking a speculative dipping shot towards the Arsenal goal. However, fortunately for Szczesny it bounces inches wide of the far post.


Arsenal will be hoping for a better start than when they last came to Merseyside. Arsene Wenger’s side found themselves 4-0 behind against Liverpool after just 20 minutes two months ago.


Referee Martin Atkinson blows his whistle and Everton, in their traditional blue jerseys, get the ball rolling. Can they boost their Champions League chances with a sixth successive league win? Let’s find out…


You can sense both the excitement and the tension in the stands as captains Leighton Baines and Thomas Vermaelen lead out the respective sides at Goodison Park. Everton’s biggest game of the season is just minutes away.


STAT: Arsene Wenger has won 23 of his 35 Premier League matches against Everton, at least four more than he has won against any other Premier League team.


If Everton win today, it will mark the first time that they have recorded six consecutive league wins in 11-and-a-half years. Everton’s last league triumph against the Gunners came courtesy of Andy Johnson’s stoppage-time winner in a 1-0 home victory back in March 2007.


Arsene Wenger has steered Arsenal to Champions League football in each of his 16 full seasons in charge and it seems almost unthinkable for Arsenal fans that the record will not continue. Arsenal have a good recent history against the Toffees, losing just once in their last 15 league meetings. The two sides drew 1-1 at the Emirates Stadium in the reverse fixture earlier this season before Arsenal dumped Everton out of the FA Cup a month ago with a 4-1 triumph.


Arsenal subs: Viviano, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Sanogo, Jenkinson, Kallstrom, Bellerin.


ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal; Arteta, Flamini; Cazorla, Rosicky, Podolski; Giroud.


Everton subs: Robles, Hibbert, McGeady, Deulofeu, Barkley, Garbutt, Alcaraz.


EVERTON (4-3-3): Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry, Osman; Mirallas, Naismith, Lukaku.


ARSENAL TEAM NEWS: The big news for Arsenal fans is that Aaron Ramsey returns to the squad for the first time since picking up an injury against West Ham on Boxing Day. The Welshman starts on the bench as Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta – against his former club – retain their spots in midfield after last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City. There is a change at the back for Arsenal however as Nacho Monreal replaces the injured Kieran Gibbs while Lukas Podolski is again preferred to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.


EVERTON TEAM NEWS: Roberto Martinez makes two changes to the team which earned a fifth successive league win at Fulham last weekend. Ross Barkley has not recovered from the knock which forced him off at half-time and he is replaced by Kevin Mirallas, who scored from the bench. Steven Naismith, who also scored as a substitute against Fulham, replaces on-loan Barcelona youngster Gerard Deulofeu. Phil Jagielka remains sidelined with a hamstring problem so John Stones makes his sixth successive start alongside Sylvain Distin in the heart of defence.


Roberto Martinez’s side are just four points adrift of Arsenal in the table but they do have a game in hand. The Gunners inflicted relegation on the Spaniard’s Wigan last season and victory today – which would put Everton’s Champions League destiny in their own hands – would act as the perfect revenge. The Toffees have lost only once at home in the league all season (a 1-0 Boxing Day defeat to Sunderland) and there is a real belief on Merseyside that they can beat anyone at Goodison Park.


At the beginning of March, Arsenal were just one point off the Premier League summit and harnessed realistic ambitions of lifting the title for the first time in a decade. However, fast forward just one month and it is déjà vu for Arsenal fans as their side again face a scrap for the final Champions League spot after winning just one of their five league games in March. And the problems do not end there for Arsene Wenger’s side as today they face an in-form Everton outfit, hoping to steal away that invaluable fourth-place finish. The race is on!

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