Tag Archives: everton

Is The PL The Toughest League In The World?

They say the Premier League is the toughest domestic league in the world.

It may be hyperbole scripted by the TV Execs to justify exorbitant subscription fees, but there may be something in it.

Looking at the top European leagues, the usual suspects duke it out season after season for the top honours. In Italy, Juventus have won countless consecutive Scudettos. In Spain, if your name isn’t Barcelona or one of the Madrid’s, you aren’t welcome in the VIP section. Ditto for PSG, Ajax, PSV, Dortmund and Bayern in France, the Netherlands and Germany.

Of course, there are exceptions. FC Twente in the Netherlands, Monaco in Ligue Un, Leicester City and the odd guest appearance in the Champions League from a surprise runner means that there is indeed depth that on the surface appears to be non-existent.

But in the Premier League, the true fact is that every single one of the twenty teams that take part in the Premiership is capable of gunning down one another. Every weekend, the so-called ‘Big6’ go into their respective fixtures with a healthy degree of respect for their opposition. No matter if they are Premier League debutants or top-flight veterans, every club has the chance of ruining an accumulator.

The fact that it is now a ‘Big6’ rather than the already established ‘Top4’ shows that there is no room for error when fighting for the summit. It means that there are opportunities for those who invest wisely the ridiculous sums of money doled out for TV rights.

That brings us to a salient point for us Gooners.

Are we able to maintain the gap between us and the chasing pack?

 

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We have spent wisely in the summer and purchased players that will enable us to go the distance a little easier than last season, which saw us crawl over the finish line rather than kick on and claim our top four spot.

Then again, the peloton that is breathing down our necks have also strengthened significantly, and have owners more than willing to back their Managers to the hilt with regard to transfer activity.

Leicester City, West Ham, Wolves and Everton have been backed by their investors. They have been active and purchased players that wouldn’t look out of place in our squad, or even City’s and Liverpool’s talent pool.

The Foxes have made a strong start to this season, and the additions of Youri Tielemans, Caglar Soyuncu (from the previous season) and Dennis Praet mean that along with the likes of James Maddison and Jamie Vardy, boss Brendan Rodgers has all the pieces required to assemble a challenging squad.

West Ham have been very active, and spent heavily on Sebastian Haller up front and the highly-sought after Pablo Fornals in midfield. The Hammers now have a squad littered with top class names – enough to seriously trouble our hopes of re-entry to the Champions League.

Wolves, led by the tactical nous of Nuno Espirito Santo, went mightily close to piercing the Top 6 bubble. Up top they have the prolific Raul Jimenez who is ably assisted by Diego Jota. In midfield, Joao Moutinho rolls back the years and Connor Coady does the mucky stuff, and with Matt Doherty in defence providing a constant outlet, they have a spine that will continue to push bigger teams.

Everton have some serious wealth behind them. Their owners are not shy in their ambition, and that means Marco Silva has spent on some big name players. Moise Kean, Fabian Delph, Yerry Mina  (from the previous summer) and our Hale End product Alex Iwobi join an already dangerous squad, with Gylffi Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Adrien Gomes, Bernard, Michael Keane, Lucas Digne, Seamus Coleman and Theo Walcott showing that the Toffees are justifiably excited for this season.

While we have our eyes very much upwards, it means that points that were normally a lot easier to grab will now be a slog, and squad’s will have to rotate, but it will be difficult for manager’s who rotate heavily.

The same goes for the likes of Champions City, Liverpool and our top four rivals. No more points bagged as soon as the game is kicked off. These teams can not only hurt them, they can run for the majority of the season’s distance.

When the likes of Crystal Palace are beating United, promoted Sheffield United drawing with Chelsea and Burnley and Bournemouth doling out slip-ups on the regular, every game will need meticulous scrutiny before the game begins.

It means some trophies may have to be sacrificed, with our promising youth filling the void as our established players take a breather.

All of this makes for palpitations, and also is the perfect league to watch week in and week out.

Dipping Into Deep Pockets – Spend Some Money!

Time for a game of ‘Spot the Difference.’

Farhad Moshiri.

David Sullivan and David Gold

The Srivaddhanaprabha family.

Stan Kroenke.

 

Any ideas?

They’re all owners of Premier League clubs.

They all enjoy an incredible bank balance.

The difference you’re looking for is that the first three have all invested plenty of their readies into their respective clubs – aside from Stan Kroenke.

In fact, Kroenke has actually taken money out of the club, as payment for consultancy fees.

The result of this lack of spending in comparison to Leicester City, Everton and West Ham is that instead of progressing with our supposed gameplan to haul Arsenal back into the big time, we could instead be battling it out with the above three teams to keep our Europa League status.

Never mind the Champions League for now. With Liverpool and Manchester City going from strength to strength, Manchester United and Chelsea not afraid to spend in the transfer window and Tottenham enjoying lucrative new incomes, Arsenal, now more than ever, have to break free from the restrictive budgets that are shackling our growth, and recognise the shifting landscape.

More clubs than ever can break the bank and land a superstar, and with West Ham signing Pablo Fornals, this is another piece of evidence to support the warning.

For just £24m, the Hammers have a Spanish international that has years ahead of him. Fornals has been a target of ours for some time, and to see him ship off to East London sticks in the craw a tad.

They also reportedly have another +£20m target in their sights from Celta Vigo, and are also after one of our other targets, Alexis Claude-Maurice from Lorient. Let’s say both of our bids are accepted – can we honestly say that we will offer more money than the Hammers?

So we will rely on our allure – the third biggest club in England, a host of domestic trophies and an attractive brand of football with a global fanbase.

Is that enough for the modern day footballer? Will it be enough to continue to snare the top talent? When they are well aware they can earn far more elsewhere – where the expectation will be lower? So they can enjoy the adulation for performing well within themselves?

How long can we continue to trade off the back of our reputation? Are we in danger of becoming a former glory – one that slumbers in the comfort of midtable as our owner cashes in and our rivals enjoy the spoils?

Kroenke 2

 

That may be an overreaction after our last season saw us miss out narrowly on both a lucrative Champions League spot and a European trophy, but you can’t deny that you’re alarmed when you see teams that don’t share our illustrious history or potential, spending shameful amounts of money that we can only dream of.

The self-sustaining model that Vinai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi are keen for us to follow keeps us on the straight and narrow and crucially – without any dependency on our owner who could give two shiny pennies whether we win trophies or not. As long as our cash udders are ripe and producing the goods, he’ll be more than happy for the status quo to continue.

Which means we stay in limbo – not quite good enough for the Champions League, but with teams all around closing the gap.

Financial Fair Play made a mockery of our frugal approach a while back, and it will continue to ignore those teams that are spending well beyond their means – which means we will not be rewarded for our mindful approach when it comes to our balance.

We were told that whatever profit we make can be reinvested into our team. Fair enough, but with us needing a big step up from our current position in order to catch up to the rest, that requires more than what we are making right now. We need to go wild in the aisles and buy the players that makes this squad Emery’s men – rather than the majority being leftovers from the Wenger era.

We don’t want Kroenke dipping in his pockets endlessly, but we do want a fighting chance to regain our standing – and we need a bit of help for that to happen.

 

 

Everton Vs Arsenal – Preview

The nature of the Premier League was surmised succinctly in one match last weekend.

Crystal Palace, slumped in last place with nary a point to their name, defeated champions Chelsea to gain their first win, their first points of the season.


It typified the unique challenge of our league, and sent out a warning to all teams that every single game must be treated with grave respect. Everyone can beat anyone, and as we face Everton, we should do well to remember it.




The Toffees are sitting just two points outside the relegation zone, with no wins in their last four games and are sitting at the bottom of their Europa League group. After being one of the biggest spenders in the summer, it is safe to say that this is falling some way below expectations.


They are languishing and this game should be one that a merciless, title-challenging team should win convincingly. The problem is though, that we too are falling some way below our expectations.


A win last weekend against Watford would have put us above Chelsea and into the top4. Instead, we turned in a performance we have seen repeatedly over the years and got what we deserved, which was nothing.


If we do the same again against Everton, then we will get the same return.


Then there is the problem with our away form. Only Crystal Palace have conceded more away goals than us in 2017. We are still looking for our first away win in the league, and this simply cannot continue.


We must step on this prone Everton team as they struggle to get back on their haunches. There are certain weaknesses in our team that will leave opponents with chances. Our midfield is under power as we have Granit Xhaka underperforming and out of position, with Aaron Ramsey unable to gain a real run of games. We need someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but we have an engine room that is running out of synch with the rest of the team.


We will still be without Shkodran Mustafi and the German is expected to be out until at least November. Danny Welbeck is out after limping off against Watford, but Laurent Koscielny has a chance of playing.


Aaron Ramsey will also face a fitness test most likely, but our Europa League heroes surely deserve a chance by now. Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere have shown they are up to speed, but with Alexandre Lacazette being a rare ray of hope for us so far and Jack Wilshere seemingly unable to shift Xhaka from his role, it seems unlikely things will change.


Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will surely return to the team, as will Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac. We will need all of them to be on song, as Everton will make life difficult for us.


James McCarthy looks likely to return to the side, and with Morgan Schneiderlin doubtful, he has a place lined up. Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney will come back in after being rotated for the Europa League, but it is goals Everton need. Everton have a goal difference of -8, and after spending so much money, replacing Romelu Lukaku has been far harder than imagined.


Another game, another must win match. Another away game that gives us the opportunity to buck this awful trend.


Predicted Lineup – Cech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Lacazette

Predicted scoreline – 3-1 to The Arsenal


Arsenal Vs Everton Preview

So here we are, the final game of the Premier League season. After 37 matches, here is where things stand;

We need to win our game against Everton, and hope Liverpool drop points to already relegated Middlesbrough. Even longer odds on Manchester City losing their game at Watford and us overturning a plus three variant in goal difference.

Liverpool appear the more likely of the two to give us what we desire, the Top4 spot. They have had a season littered  with occasions when they have dropped the ball to sides they should be defeating. This is the hope we are grasping on to. Liverpool have had all week to concentrate on this game though, and chances are we will be out of the top4 placings for the first time under Arsene Wenger. Not only that, this could well be the last game Wenger oversees as Manager. Probably not though. 

We have been on a great run of form recently, but it may just have come a little too late. We have won our last four games and in our last eleven final day fixtures, we have come up trumps. We must not underestimate Everton though – even if they have not won an away game for seven matches.

In terms of team news, Laurent Koscielny is extremely doubtful with the same calf niggle as the last game. Aaron Ramsey should be fit though after coming off against Sunderland. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out of contention though, and he may miss the Cup Final next week. 

Olivier Giroud could well play this game, having scored four goals in his last three games against today’s opponents. Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott remain interesting alternatives, but Giroud may well get the nod. Will this be a precursor for the Cup Final? Giroud against the Chelsea backline has not reaped dividends in the past, so he could start today with Welbeck primed for Chelsea. 

We have good history against the Toffees. We are unbeaten against them in 20 league games, although the game at Goodison earlier this season saw Everton win 2-1, so if we have one eye on events at Anfield or Vicarage Road, we may pay heavily. 

Everton also have romelu Lukaku gunning for the Golden Boot. He is now behind Harry Kane and hasn’t scored in his last four so will be champing at the bit to hit the net – as will Alexis who is still in with a shout if he gets a few today. 

We have a glimmer of hope, and we can dream, but we can’t get carried away. In all likeliness, we will miss out on the Champions League spot. 

Worse still though, in a week’s time, the season is over. No football. Let’s just enjoy it while it lasts. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Gibbs, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud

Predicted Scoreline – 3-0 Arsenal 

Man City 2-1 Arsenal: 5 Key Points 

The cliche ‘ it’s a game of two halves’ was made for this game, as we followed the description to the letter.

The problem is, it was the same description as our previous match – the midweek loss to Everton by the same score.

The first half of both matches was positive, especially versus City. Our front press divided their backline to great effect, but yet again we failed to maximise our superiority. We should have gone in to the break in both games with a two goal advantage.

Then, the second half showed the other side of Arsenal still exists; the side that is still the undoing of them. We failed to adapt to the changes movement of Sane and De Bruyne, and within two minutes of the restart, they were level. 

Our second half showing was so dire we went from being so dominant to not having a shot in anger. Our press was rudderless and Pep’s side were utterly rampant.

On these two showings, we still have some work to do before even thinking we can catch Chelsea. 
Here are 5 pointers as to where it fell apart:
Dropping too deep

Our press in the first half didn’t give Kolarov, otamendi and co any time to build, and we harried them into mistakes. The second forty-five was the exact contrast. They passed around us and the urgency from our play had gone. We also only started to close down when they entered our final third. It was to our cost. 
Fitness an issue? 

The second half was the culprit for this second loss, just as it was against Everton. The abject running, no dynamism, it appeared as if the majority of our players were running on empty. Are they tired? They are going through a fixture list just as congested as the other CL competing teams, why do we look so jaded?
Sanchez can’t do it on his own

Alexis once again showed his superhuman stamina, and he implored his team mates to follow suit time and time again. He was the spark for the goal, and about ninety percent of our goalshave involved the Chilean. It is high time someone else at least lightened the load a little. Theo and Mesut have good figures, but during the whole game, we need more.
We are giving it away

Both losses, the opponent have been on the chopping block, waiting for the blade to come down. We have had them in our grasp and it is only our weakening grip which has allowed them the wriggle room they need. What about when we face a team that is actually in form?
Cech is off the boil



No clean sheet now in eight games for Petr, the longest run he’s suffered in his career. He may not have been at fault for the first, but he was beaten at his near post by Sterling, which he should’ve kept out. He still pulls out saves that keep us in the game, but that consistent barrier which has been the bane of so many teams is flickering. He’ll get it back. 
There was more to point out from the game of course; Gabriel is doing a half-decent job but he is no Mustafi, Xhaka and Coquelin are working hard but they must try harder to link play, and Iwobi looked bright but must try to avoid switching off when it’s time to track back. 

We need to forget about Chelsea for now. We must forge a gap again between us and tottenham, City and Liverpool. We have to concentrate on closing out games.

We MUST win our next game. 

Next up – West Brom at home.

Everton 2-1 Arsenal – 5 Keypoints From The Game

Everton ended their recent woeful run with a tight 2-1 victory over Arsenal, as Chelsea and the rest of the Gunners title rivals looked on with undoubted glee.

Toffees boss Ronald Koeman has never lost to Arsenal at home with any of the sides he has managed, and he kept up this record with a win earned by way of Ashley Williams first for his new club in the 86th minute.

Arsenal meanwhile, see their run without loss ended with this lacklustre result, which was devoid of any of the spark which has been the signature of their last three games.

Too many of our stars had a rare off day for this game, with Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott in particular shackled well, but the Gunners did take the lead through Alexis and a devilishly deflected free-kick which fooled Marten Stekelenburg.

Everton though managed to level the game at a crucial time which probably changed the game, as Seamus Coleman stole in to head in Leighton Baines cross in the 44th minute.

The second half was a largely frustrating affair, with play being stilted thanks to unforced errors in passing, and not just from the home side who were low on confidence. Arsenal’s midfield were working hard but they could not inject the side with impetus as possession was regularly gifted to Everton.

In the end, Arsenal got what they were asking for, as Ashley Williams capitalised on some poor zonal marking to grab the winner, leaving minutes for the Gunners to salvage something.

Second half sub Olivier Giroud nearly performed heroics, but his effort was blocked on the goal line, and it meant that Everton maintain their unbeaten home record, Arsenal lose ground in the league, and confidence will be dented with our next fixrure at The Etihad carrying more pressure than ever.

There were a lot of talking points in the game, but here are five that seem the most pertinent:



We let Everton back in

The first 20 or so minutes, Everton were as bad as their run suggested. They were ripe for plucking, but we seemed reluctant to press them into errors. Instead, we slowly loosened our grip and it seemed as if we invited them to attack. They were still awful, but we tried to match them for mistakes. Our midfield misplaced SO many passes. If we had cut out at least 40-50% of our misdirected passes, we would have had at least a point.



Where was the rest of the injury time?

Leighton Baines, Stekelenburg and Olviier Giroud all had to recieve treatment, and injury time should have been racked up. Instead, we got the regulation four minutes. What about the lengthy stoppages? Did Clattenburg forget to put on his casio digital and had to use his Transformers talking watch instead? In injury time we almost scored, what could we have done with the extra three minutes we should have had?



Defence is better, but it needs to improve
















We have a world class keeper in Cech, and Mustafi has indeed boosted our backline, but no clean sheets in eleven games tells its own story. Whether it be zonal marking or simply a lack of concentration, it needs to improve if we are to truly break our duck this season.



It was a matter of time, but the manner was disappointing

With our run, it had to end at some point. The manner in which we allowed it to happen is very frustrating though. We loaded the gun and gave it to Everton. We did not click and our opponent was punch drunk for the first part of the game! Ruthlessness would have seen the points bagged.




We must not let negativity take over 

We have lost, and the performance was wanting, but we are still in contention and our record is still impressive. While we hope this doesn’t snowball and we bounce back against City, we should have full confidence they will as their performances on the pitch have earned our trust. We have been burned so many times, but let’s try to be optimistic even if the ninety minutes we just watched felt rather downcast.
There was a lot more to write about, such as Monreal being exposed again, and our widemen really flattering to deceive, but I really don’t fancy going into any more detail about a game that will be consigned to the recycling bin of most of our minds. Like a dog turd in long grass, the lawnmower in our brain will quickly dispatch the offending article and leave no trace. 

Everton Vs Arsenal – The Warm-Up

Since our opening day loss to Liverpool, Arsenal have gone on to record 14 Premier League games without a loss. To continue that run, they must overcome Everton at Goodison Park.

There has only been one other defeat since Liverpool sneaked a 4-3 win at The Emirates – the quarter-final loss to Southampton in the EFL Cup – and Arsene Wenger will have to shuffle his pack as the Gunners face five games in 22 days.

Shkodran Mustafi tweaked his hamstring in our 3-1 win over Stoke three days ago and faces at least three weeks out. This means the flurry of games Arsenal are now heading into, Mustafi will miss all of them. Thankfully, the footballing gods have shined upon us a little, as Hector Bellerin has returned at the exact moment Mustafi was ruled out. This means that Gabriel can stand in for the German as opposed to filling in on the right of defence.

Arsenal will still be without their longer term injured. Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck are all at varying stages of recovery but will not be able to be called upon until the New Year at best.

It isn’t only injuries that see Wenger potentially rotating his eleven. With so many games on the horizon, it is the squad strength that will see dropped points kept to a minimum. The next game is a crucial trip to The Etihad, so the midfield and attack will invariably see some changes.

The midfield combo of Coquelin and Xhaka worked well against Stoke, and the Xhaka/Ramsey collective also worked wonders in the win over Basel, so who gets the nod for today’s game? With the test of a wounded City coming up, will one get a rest so they can be fresh for Sunday? Mohamed Elneny will surely get some minutes in midfield with so many games coming up.

It is in attack that Arsenal really have a great opportunity to maintain form and still rotate. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has failed to live up to his talent on thw hole since his move to Arsenal, has finally started to show consistency in his game, and it is between him and Alex Iwobi for the left hand spot of the forward line. Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez seem nailed on for starts, and their numbers show why. 

Olivier Giroud has bided his time whilst Alexis fires goals left, right and centre, but this month will see the bearded Frenchman come into the equation more than ever this season. Giroud has been effective coming from the bench, but he could come in to start this game, especially as Alexis was stamped on brutally by the thuggish actions of Charlie Adam. Wenger did not intimate any injury to the Chilean, but preserving Arsenal’s main man this season must be high on the agenda. Alexis has had a hand in more goals than ANYONE this season – 11 goals, five assists – so his wellbeing is on the mind of every Gooner!

What of the opponents? The Toffees have suffered after a bright start to Ronald Koeman’s tenure, and two points from their last five games has seen them slump to ninth in the table. This does highlight a strange parallel which Le King, Thierry Henry, highlighted on Sky Sports yesterday, which was that this run of form matches Koeman’s at Southampton last season before they faced Arsenal –  a game they won in emphatic fashion 4-0.

They still remain in touching sitance of the Europa League places, and with hitman Romelu Lukaku bagging a brace in their last game – a 3-2 loss to Watford – they will pose a very real threat. Yannick Bolasie has been ruled out for the rest of the season, so Gerard Deulofeu will get the chance to nail down a starting spot. With Kevin Mirallas also in their forward line, they will be a real test for Gabriel, Koscielny and co, and if Arsenal are to leave Goodison with maximum points they must be switched on for the full 90.

The last time the Gunners played at Everton was in March, and we were victorious in a 2-0 win. Another scoreline similar to this would leave the travelling support in a merry mood as Christmas festivities start to heat up, but despite Everton’s recent woes, they still remain unbeaten at home. So a win would really send a message to all our rivals.

With Liverpool dropping points to West Ham, City losing and tottenham also tasting defeat, it left a gap between us and the rest. Chelsea maintained their push with a 1-0 win over West Brom, and all the runners and riders are at different points in their season. Tottenham need to instill some confidence after successive losses, City look to be at breaking point with John Stones being the only recognised centreback on the field during their loss to Leicester, and Liverpool still have a goalkeeper and defender headache, not to mention missing Phillippe Coutinho.

With no end to the fixture congestion in sight, these problems will only be exacerbated. All the teams will drop points, as the top of the league becomes a competition to see who can run through the gauntlet with less scars than the rest. With every team holding the potential to beat one another, every game will test the strength of the men who comprise the squads.

Arsenal have depth, and seem to be motoring along nicely. As Gooners, we take nothing for granted though. Long may our run continue.

Predicted lineup: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Xhaka, Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis

Predicted Score – 2-1 Arsenal. 

Everton 0-2 Arsenal – Basics, Pockets, Form and Iwobi – Match Review

The midweek loss to Barca was far more than yet another Last16 exit in the Champions League.

It represented Arsenal finally turning a corner in their arduous search for a semblance of form. Making the ball do the work rather than the man, movement and innovation – the Gunners may have lost the game but they at least put in a performance that showed that they may just have trudged through the mire and were able to clean off their boots.

This 2-0 win, away from home against a dangerous Everton side, means that the next eight games can be looked upon with a little optimism, rather than trepidation.

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Continue reading Everton 0-2 Arsenal – Basics, Pockets, Form and Iwobi – Match Review

Everton Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

No more troublesome Champions League fixtures, no more worrisome FA Cup ties.

All that is left is nine Premier League games that will decide our fate.

Next up, a tricky game at Goodison Park against a confident Everton.

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Continue reading Everton Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Arsenal 2-1 Everton – Match Review

Geeing up a squad after one of the most heroic European performances in our recent history for a return to league action could have proved to be a difficult task.

Maintaining that a title tilt is the club’s main focus, would suggest that Arsene Wenger pressed upon his squad the importance of this tie. Everton are more than capable of upsetting odds and with players of the ilk of Deulofeu, Lukaku, Coleman and Barkley, it is safe to assume they turned up at The Emirates looking to rectify their last result and reassert their own European ambitions.

The Toffees certainly appeared an entirely different side to the one that was mauled 3-0 last weekend by Manchester United. They harried and gave it everything in an effort to disrupt Arsenal’s passing but thanks to the Gunner’s first half display especially, it was all in vain.

Continue reading Arsenal 2-1 Everton – Match Review