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Arsenal at Everton Preview: Something’s got to give

The Gunners head to Goodson Park in hopes of busting their Merseyside slump

Arsenal FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Cursed. Jinxed. Confounded. Hexed. Just plain unlucky. No matter how you frame it, Goodison Park has become an uninviting ground for the Gunners in recent years, and Everton a perpetual thorn in Arsenal’s side. As Mikel Arteta’s squad prepares to take a trip north to face off with the Gaffer’s former club, they do so in hopes of breaking a vicious cycle that has seen the Gunners winless at Everton since the days of Arsene Wenger.

There is no sugar coating it. Everton are not a good Premier League team. They have not been one in some time. They toyed with relegation for most of last season, narrowly surviving the drop on the final match day. The club has been in steady decline since their last top half finish in the 18/19 season, finishing 16th in 21/22, then 17th last season, while currently occupying the 18th spot heading into Sunday’s tie.

Arsenal, on the other hand, are a very good team. Elite, even. If there was a club that you could look as the antithesis of Everton, it would be the Gunners under Mikel Arteta. But despite increasingly successful campaigns, a talented young roster, and one of the game’s top young managerial minds, last season’s runners-up have found Goodson Park to be an impenetrable fortress under Arteta. Anomalous as it may be, it is a painful truth.

Thanks to Arsenal Twitter’s favorite stat-man-cum-jinx-merchant Orbinho, we know the following about this fixture:

  • Arsenal have scored 121 goals against Everton, the most goals scored by any PL team against any PL opponent.
  • Arsenal have won just two of their last 11 Premier League visits to Goodison Park (W2 D3 L6) and none of the last five (W0 D1 L4).
  • Everton have won just one and lost five of their last seven Premier League games at Goodison Park.

The stats paint a frustrating picture. On paper, Arsenal should crush Everton, but, as the saying goes, there’s a reason matches aren’t played on paper. But this visit, Arsenal will have something that may swing fortune in their favor, something they have not had in any of their recent visits to Everton - Gabriel Jesus.

Every team has that player that they just absolutely hate facing because they always find a way to end up on the scoresheet. Gabriel Jesus’ track record against Everton is one that should have the Toffees feeling unsettled as Sunday approaches. According to Orbinho, the Brazilian has scored 8 times against Everton, more than any other side he has faced. He has also registered a goal or assist in each of the last seven matches against Everton.

The Brazilian striker was unavailable for both ties against Everton last season after undergoing surgery to repair a knee injury sustained during the World Cup. But he is back, healthy, and coming off of a scintillating cameo against Manchester United which saw him send Diogo Dalot to the shadow realm before cooly scoring a stoppage time dagger to ice the match. His confidence should be riding high as he works himself back into the starting lineup after another minor surgery lay-off.

On Sunday, the Gunners will put their poor patch against Everton to the test with Jesus almost assured to play, if not start. Unstoppable force, meet immovable object.

Speaking of immovable objects, Sean Dyche’s brutish brand of orc ball presents particularly frustrating challenges, especially the physicality they will bring into the match. But Arsenal have continued to grow into a side that can push back against the teams that want to kick them off the pitch, especially with the inclusion of Declan Rice in the midfield. Knowing how Everton likes to play will give Arteta considerable food for thought when it comes to managing the minutes of players like Saka who always find themselves on the receiving end of a clumsy tackle, dangled leg, or late challenge.

But all of this comes back to the central point that Everton are a downright putrid side, one whose creative quality has diminished with the departure of former Arsenal man Alex Iwobi to Fulham. They are going to sit back, absorb pressure, and hoof it up for a counter where they can. That, or hope for a set piece to land on the meaty forehead of James Tarkowski. Either way, Arsenal have to show that they are better than a team that is very likely going to be playing in the Championship next season. Of Arteta’s minimal faults, letting teams in the drop zone give Arsenal trouble is among them.

This fixture has long-since been a tricky one. Arsenal need the win to maintain momentum coming out of the break if they want to stay within punching distance of Manchester City. “Must win” is not a term you want to throw around this early in the season, but even if for the simple sake of breaking the Goodison hoodoo, a win would be massive.

WHAT: Arsenal at Everton
WHEN: Sunday, September 17th, 11:30am EST/7:30am PST/4:30pm GMT
WHERE: Goodison Park, Everton
HOW TO WATCH: Broadcast live on the USA Network and Telemundo.

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