Everton vs. Arsenal Preview
Mar 2012 21

After a crazy week which saw David Moyes pretty much throw the Anfield derby before watching his team struggle to breakdown a stubborn Sunderland side, Everton will be looking to restore the positive atmosphere created by wins over Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham when they host Arsenal tonight.

The Gunners are enjoying arguably their best form of the season so far, having recorded four consecutive league wins while somewhat atoning for their sorry showing in the first leg of their Champions League tie against Milan by almost levelling the aggregate score at the Emirates. Still, they’ve lost as many as they’ve won on the road and remain a very beatable team.

The biggest threat to Everton’s chances is obviously striker Robin van Persie, who has scored and incredible 26 goals in 26 league games during this campaign. The Dutchman appears to have passed on his customary season-ruining injury and has only gone and proven himself as one of the world’s best forwards. Hopefully John Heitinga, who should retain his place at centre back for the foreseeable future after the derby debacle, will be able to keep his international teammate quiet.

While van Persie is far and away Arsenal’s best player, there are still others for the Blues to be concerned with. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a massive talent, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and the resurgent Tomas Rosicky move the ball around well in midfield, and Alex Song is as good a centre midfielder as any around at the moment. Arteta will probably get a great reception on his first appearance at Goodison since his £10m summer transfer (and rightfully so), but expect the mood to change after he’s played dead to get Marouane Fellaini a booking.

Arsene Wenger will likely name a first choice back five which has yet to lose a game when played together, so it’s important that Everton don’t leave Nikica Jelavic isolated up front as van Persie’s form means it’ll probably take two or more goals to win this one.

Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and Darron Gibson are all expected to miss the game through injury, so I imagine Phil Neville will shift into midfield to partner Fellaini, with either Leon Osman or Tim Cahill supporting Jelavic in attack. Moyes will also have to make a decision on who will replace Coleman on the right of midfield; Royston Drenthe is the obvious choice but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Osman moved out wide instead.

I hope Drenthe does play as Everton are unlikely to dominate possession and will need to make the most of opportunities to counter-attack. Wenger has handed Moyes some of his most depressing defeats as Everton manager, but the players have shown they can beat any English team at home and should believe they can collect three points that could move them into eighth.

Likely starting XI: Howard; Hibbert, Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Osman, Fellaini, Neville, Pienaar, Cahill; Jelavic

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