PREVIEW | ARSENAL VS EVERTON
It’s been less than a month since Everton outclassed top-of-the-table Arsenal in Sean Dyche’s first match in charge and now they have to go to the Emirates and do it all over again.
That defeat seemed to send Arsenal into a downward spiral of sorts and in the subsequent matches since, they’ve seen their lead over Manchester City reduced to just two points.
Meanwhile, the Toffees managed to hoist themselves out of the relegation zone for a brief time before a rather undeserved 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa at the weekend saw them drop back down to 18th place.
It will therefore be an important contest for both sides but for completely contrasting reasons.
There have undoubtedly been marked improvements under Dyche so far for the Toffees.
The players are creating more, pressing better and look more organised at the back with individual errors and a lack of attacking initiative being the only things costing them all three points against Villa.
Everton’s biggest problem could not be clearer: there is no-one in their best available starting XI right now who is a natural goalscorer.
If the Blues are to get themselves out of danger, they are going to have cut out silly mistakes, like Idrissa Gueye giving away a needless penalty on Saturday, and find a way to nick a goal before then seeing out the game.
With Arsenal being second in the league for both goals scored and goals conceded, this will be no easy task.
One to watch – Demarai Gray
The calls could not be louder for Dyche to start including Demarai Gray from the start.
The winger is yet to start a match since the former Burnley man was appointed, coming off the bench for two of those matches.
He is almost indisputably Everton’s most dangerous player currently available with his electric pace, direct dribbling and powerful shot.
The Gunners know all about the latter when he scored a dramatic last-minute winner in the Goodison edition of this fixture last season.
Gray is someone who can create a piece of magic out of nothing and based on the team’s aforementioned biggest problem, he could be exactly what the Toffees need right now.
One to watch – Bukayo Saka
Arsenal have their own tricky winger in the form of England international, Bukayo Saka.
The 21-year-old has 10 goals and eight assists in all competitions so far this season, including two in his last three matches.
He is the Gunners’ own catalyst if they ever find themselves behind and in need of something special to tip the match back in their favour.
He also has yet to score in six previous appearances against the Toffees.
The clash against the Gunners is almost a write-off from Everton’s perspective.
They’re playing at a ground where they’ve only won since it was opened in 2006 and are up against a side who look to be rampaging towards their first league title in 19 years.
The mission for the rest of the Toffees’ season is simply to grind out as many points as possible and hope it’s enough for survival.
Just one at the Emirates would be incredible but a lot of supporters will already have one eye on the match away to Nottingham Forest at the weekend.