The winter window has come and gone, and Arsenal return to their Premier League campaign three players stronger and one competition lighter, after bouncing out of the FA Cup at the hands of Manchester City. Meanwhile, Everton...hoo boy. Where to start? The Merseyside club are in the midst of a nightmarish era that makes Arsenal’s not-too-distant issues feel like a stubbed toe compared to the hemorrhaging wound up north. From on-field failures to board room calamity, things have fallen apart for the storied club.
While Arsenal have found their identity under Mikel Arteta and are flourishing, things have gone from bad to worse for Everton, who are in the midst of a crippling identity crisis that have left them second bottom of the table, extending from a miserable campaign last season when they narrowly avoided relegation under the leadership of Frank Lampard, who replaced Rafael Benitez halfway through the 21/22 season.
But the England and Chelsea legend failed to improve the state of things into this season and was mercifully relieved of his duties almost one year after his appointment, allowing for the return of one of the truly great Arsenal villains of recent history - Sean Dyche.
Now, Dyche’s appointment might not scream “new manager bounce,” but his hiring is shrewd and probably the right one for the club right now. He has the necessary experience to patch things up and sort out some of the on-field mess in the interim. There is nothing “sexy” about Dyche’s brand of football, but it is effective in all of its brutish simplicity. His Burnley sides regularly frustrated Arsenal with their low block and hardnosed style of play.
A match on the road to a reeling side facing club-wide unrest, coming out of a disastrous transfer window, and playing their first match under a new manager who has been a persistent thorn in the side of Arsenal? Show me a bigger banana peel. You can’t. This match has all of the traits of what would usually be a nailed-on trap game for Arsenal. But I am trying something new this season - giving Arsenal the benefit of the doubt.
The Gunners have not landed in their position atop the PL table by chance, and they will relish every opportunity to stay there. The complacency that used to be on full display on the pitch as recently as last season has been replaced with an obsessive desire to win and a fortitude that has been resolute, test after test. They have added depth at positions of need, and the young core of players are coming of age before our very eyes.
A win is the goal, and Arsenal have more than what it takes to secure it. Champions put these games to bed early. Let’s get after it, Gunners.
For discussions about the starting line-up and match predictions, head on over and check out Nathan’s post.
WHAT: Arsenal at Everton
WHEN: Saturday, February 4th 7:30am/4:30am PST/12:30pm BST
WHERE: Goodison Park
HOW TO WATCH: Live on The USA Network and streaming on NBCSports.com
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