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Arsenal at Everton, Premier League: Q&A with Royal Blue Mersey

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General Views of UK Football Stadiums Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It may be hard to process, but Arsenal, in the midst of all this managerial churn, have a game tomorrow! They head up to Liverpool to take on Everton, and in advance of that game, we chatted with Matthew Chandler of SBN’s Everton blog Royal Blue Mersey to get a sense for where Everton are, and what Arsenal can expect come tomorrow.

His answers to my questions are below, and I answer his questions over at RBM, which you can find right here. Take it away, Matthew (and me)!

TSF: Everton’s managerial drama hasn’t maybe been as...strident as Arsenal’s, but the Toffees also go into this weekend with a new manager. A two part question:

- Are you glad to see the back of Marco Silva?
- Is Carlo Ancelotti the right man for the job right now?

RBM: I was glad to see the back of Silva because, although he was a nice enough man with a lovely coat, I don’t think he was ultimately good enough to be Everton manager. His sacking in early December was quite overdue, to be honest.

It’s impossible to say for certain whether Ancelotti is the right man yet, but he’d be my choice. I do have reservations about him being the best fit for what Everton need given he has generally taken over superclubs to add finishing touches to ready-mate teams, but ultimately, look at that CV. If that in itself doesn’t command respect from what can be quite an arrogant, difficult dressing room to manage, I don’t know what does. It’s an exciting time, anyway.

TSF: Like Arsenal, Everton have gotten off to a pretty rough start this season. Is there one main reason for that, or is it a confluence of a lot of factors all joining together at once?

RBM: Lots. Silva’s inability to change a game is one - we never won a single league match under him where we went behind at any point. Injuries are another - we’ve been without at least one, if not all three of midfielders Jean Philippe Gbamin, Fabian Delph and André Gomes all season. VAR is one more; it’s an easy excuse to pull but Everton have been on the receiving end of some harsh decisions from it this term. It’s really been the perfect storm.

TSF: Speaking of new coaches, is any part of you sad that also-ex-Everton player Mikel Arteta is now managing Arsenal?

RBM: As excited as I am about Ancelotti, I’m also quite jealous of Arsenal for appointing Arteta. Having worked in such close proximity to the greatest manager on the planet in Pep Guardiola for three years, I’m sure that, in time, he’ll be a huge success. Whether it will make much of an impact on Saturday, though, I’m not sure.

TSF: Similar question to yours: with a new manager in place, what would constitute a successful rest of the season for Everton?

RBM: A top half finish. I would have said an FA Cup run, too, but given we drew Liverpool away in the third round for the second time in three years, I can’t see that - we haven’t won at Anfield for 20 years and were battered there 5-2 just two weeks ago in the Premier League.

TSF: Who has been Everton’s biggest surprise player (either good or bad) this season?

RBM: I’ll give you one of each. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a young striker whose all-round game has always been impressive, as has his work rate, but is now beginning to add more goals to his game, too.

On the other hand, considering how solid he was almost all of last season, Michael Keane has regressed massively as a central defender. He looks lost without Kurt Zouma next to him now that he has returned to Chelsea, and seems shot of confidence. Not good enough for Everton, in my opinion.

TSF: Is Everton planning on being active in the January window, or is it too soon in Ancelotti’s time at the club to know?

RBM: Too soon to know, but given our questionable record with January signings previously (Theo Walcott, Cenk Tosun, Morgan Schneiderlin, Cenk Tosun, Oumar Niasse, etc.), I wouldn’t be too bothered if we aren’t.

I’d be happy for Ancelotti to use the second half of the season to assess what he’s inherited ahead of a crucial summer, which is why I’m delighted he’s joining Everton immediately, rather than us having to wait until June to start from scratch yet again.

TSF: What’s a realistic expectation for the club in its remaining four holiday fixtures?

RBM: From Arsenal and Burnley at home and Newcastle and Manchester City away, I would expect a minimum of seven points. Given the gruelling turnaround in games, a threadbare squad stretched to its limits currently and a new manager only just beginning to implement his methods, I think that would be a decent return, all in all.

TSF: Who can we expect to see in the lineup on Saturday?

RBM: Duncan Ferguson has employed a 4-4-2 formation in his three games as caretaker boss so far, with a heavy emphasis on just running around and putting a foot in. It’s simple, but has been highly effective in the main. I would expect Saturday’s team to be:

(4-4-2) Pickford; Baines, Mina, Holgate, Coleman; Bernard, Sigurdsson, Davies, Iwobi; Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin.

TSF: Your prediction for Saturday’s game?

RBM: 2-1 Everton. Arsenal, however bad they’ve been lately, have too much quality for this to be a stroll for the Blues, but the feel-good factor surrounding Ancelotti’s impending arrival and the pride Ferguson has restored among the players and fans should see Everton through at Goodison, I would hope.

Thanks again to Matthew and RBM for taking the time to chat!