07 December 2013

Match Preview: Arsenal v. Everton, The Emirates, December 8 (11 am EST)

Another game, another win.

Nicklas Bendtner
The Great Dane had a successful return
(Photo courtesy wonker)
This one was a little different, though, as it featured a goal from the rarest of sources: Nicklas Bendtner. The Great Dane headed Carl Jenkinson's superb cross in to the back of the net after just 93 seconds to score his first Arsenal goal since March 2011 in his first Premier League start for the Gunners in 1005 days. The early goal was followed by a period of dominance, in which it seemed that Hull couldn't keep the ball more than 30 yards from their goal; despite not scoring again during this spell, it looked like the Gunners were going to run away with it. Eventually, though, Arsenal won 2-0, Aaron Ramsey finding Mesut Özil with a delightful reverse through-ball early in the second half to complete the win. Bendtner himself had a decent match, apart from missing a sitter (to be fair, he was probably surprised the ball even came to his feet off the keeper), and his performance has encouraged Arsene Wenger as well as NB's fellow players; if this signals a full return to form for Bendtner, it can only be good for Arsenal's title challenge.

Attention will now turn to a tough run of 3 games in 6 days, beginning with the visit of Everton on Sunday. There were no injuries against Hull, so the match-day squad should stay the same; there is likely to be some rotation Sunday as Arsène Wenger is aiming to keep the key players fit and fresh over the hectic Christmas period, with one eye in particular on the trip to Naples on Wednesday. Bacary Sagna remains out, so Jenkinson will continue at right back, while Lukas Podolski only returned to training on Friday and remains short of match fitness.

Everton make the trip to North London on a high, having beaten ex-boss David Moyes' Manchester United at Old Trafford midweek - something Moyes never achieved himself while at Everton. New manager Roberto Martinez has his team playing some good football and has lead the Toffees to 5th in the table (before Saturday's games), inspired by a host of young players. Loanees Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu always look dangerous (and are probably my favorite duo outside of the Emirates), while Ross Barkley's form could lead to a place in England's World Cup squad. New signings James McCarthy and Gareth Barry have fit in nicely in the Everton midfield.

For the game on Sunday, Everton too have no fresh injury concerns; Leighton Baines remains injured but Bryan Oviedo has proved a capable replacement, and the Toffees are likely to start the same side that beat ManUre. Defender Antolin Alcaraz is fit again and may feature in the match-day sqaud. Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone also miss out through injury.

This will be the 200th meeting of the two sides, and after 14 games of the Premier League season, there are lots of questions surrounding the game. Can Arsenal keep their form going through December and start the new year at, or near, the top of the table? Can Everton finish in the top four? Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 12 games against the Toffees (8-4-0) and have the best form in the league (5-0-1); Everton themselves are unbeaten in their last 7 PL games (4-3-0). It should be a great clash of two footballing sides. Match prediction: Arsenal 2  - Everton 1.

No comments:

Post a Comment