Arsenal control their top four destiny. If they win out, they finish third and return to the Champions League. Simple, right?
Not so fast. Given the Gunners’ tricky match at Everton on Sunday and that 5 of the remaining 7 Premier League matches are away from the Emirates, that might be easier said than done. Arsenal have managed a paltry 19 away points out of 42 on offer so far this season. But as PDB recently pointed out, that record makes Arsenal the 7th best team in the PL away from home, so who knows. Winning away is tough.
Discussions about away record aside, the Gunners seem to have found their form at the right time. Since losing to Manchester City in early February, they’ve won five and drawn one in the league, scoring 14 while conceding only 3. Arsenal’s recent run coincides, not surprisingly, with Unai Emery’s “rediscovery” of Aaron Ramsey and the return of Mesut Özil to Emery’s good graces. Turns out that playing your two best, most creative attacking players at the same time is a Good Thing that helps you win football games. Whodathunkit?
Arsenal will need to contain the Blues’ midfield duo of Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurðsson, who have each notched 12 goals on the season. That might be a little more difficult than normal with Lucas Torreira serving the last game of his three-match suspension, Granit Xhaka unlikely to be fit due to a groin injury, and Shkodran Mustafi starting in place of the injured Laurent Koscielny.
Richarlison running at Sead Kolašinac is particularly concerning for the Gunners. The Bosnian is quite good going forward but has struggled defensively at times and will have his hands full with the Brazilian. I think the match turns on that particular battle. If Arsenal can limit Richarlison’s opportunities, they should be able to stymie Everton’s attack.
Another key for Arsenal will be to pressure and disrupt Idrissa Gueye at the base of Everton’s midfield. He is the engine that makes the Blues go. He covers a lot of ground, wins the ball back, and links up their play. Even though he has only received five yellow cards on the season, I’ve observed him to be a bit erratic in his challenges. If the Gunners can get him on a yellow, they will create time and space for their attack. Even if they can’t, they should be able to get a few good set-piece looks off him.
For more on the matchup and a view from the other side, check out our Q & A with Royal Blue Mersey.
WHAT: Arsenal at Everton
WHERE: Goodison Park
WHEN: Sunday, April 7th 6:05 AM PT | 9:05 AM ET | 2:05 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN. Stream here.
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