Four matches, four wins.
That’s Arsenal’s current record over the last quartet of fixtures. 3 of these came in the league, and the latest in the 4-2 win against Vorskla in the Europa League on Thursday.
After losing the opening two league games, Unai Emery and Arsenal have begun to steady the ship and show some positive signs.
Last season, this fixture may very well have been the best performance of Arsenal’s season. During a tumultuous time in the middle of the second half of the season, Arsene Wenger’s Gunners went out and earned a 5-1 mauling over the Toffees, with Aaron Ramsey bagging a hat-trick on the day.
If the same kind of result was emulated in this early-season match-up, there would be some very happy Arsenal supporters tomorrow evening.
Everton, like Arsenal, are getting accustomed to life under a new manager. For the Toffees, it is Marco Silva, who, after much fanfare upon his arrival, has had some questions asked about his position in the past few weeks following some indifferent results.
Everton have 1 win, 3 draws and 2 losses from their opening 6 matches, leaving them in 10th place on 6 points, 3 points and 4 positions behind Arsenal.
There are some statistics that favour Arsenal in this fixture. The Gunner remain unbeaten in the past 24 home games against Everton in all competitions (20 wins, 4 draws), with the Toffees last win coming all the way back in January of 1996.
Everton’s away form resembles Arsenal’s own from last season, with the Merseyside club only winning three of their last 29 games on the road – drawing 12 and losing 14.
Also, interestingly, Arsenal are on a significant drawless run – it’s been 21 games since the side was last found in a deadlock! The longest run of it’s sort since a 28-game streak in 1983.
What doesn’t bode well for Emery’s side is that the Gunners have failed to keep a clean sheet in their opening five games of a top-flight season for the first time since 1988-89. They conceded in each of their first eight games during that season.
In every game this season, bar none, defensive frailties have been exposed. At 4-0 up against Vorskla on Thursday and with 20 minutes remaining, it looked like it was plain-sailing… and it was, but there was unnecessary pressure placed upon the side by sloppiness in the defensive third of the field. This led to the Ukrainian side finding the net twice, which, if it hadn’t been for Arsenal’s strong attacking prowess, would have been an issue.
Arsenal have scored 10 goals this season in the league, and each one of them have come from a different player (including the own goal West Ham scored against them).
Silva’s side have some strong – and fast – attacking talent of their own that will be looking to get behind enemy lines and cause problems. One of these players is one that is very familiar with the Emirates – Theo Walcott.
The Englishman, who moved to Everton in January, may have stagnated at times in his career in North London, but he does still hold 2nd place in the all-time record of scorers at the stadium, with 56 goals (only Robin van Persie has more).
In terms of team news, both sides will be missing key players.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was dropped for the game against Newcastle but made his return against Vorskla, picked up an ankle knock that may keep him out of proceedings at Goodison on Sunday. Lucas Torreira, who may have been hopeful of his first league start, will also be a major doubt after picking up a knee-injury in the same tie.
These exclusions may make Emery’s team selection easier in-a-way, as he has been doing slight experimentation with line-ups over the past few league games, especially in the attacking-third.
For Everton, this match may represent world cup superstar Yerry Mina’s debut after the Columbian defender made the move from Barcelona over the Summer. Another new signing, Richarlison, is returning from a 3-match suspension after picking up a silly straight red card against Bournemouth after a very strong start to his time at Everton.
Silva will be missing the core of his defence, with Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane – who is close to returning following a hairline skull fracture, but not quite there yet – out. Also out is midfielder Andre Gomes.
Unai Emery is aware that the games his side have recently won are games that they should “on-paper” win, but that it is nonetheless progress, saying in his pre-match press conference: "We've won two matches away and that's small progress, but very important for continuing to improve our confidence. I think we are finding the balance. Now it's very important, and our objective, to improve in the defensive moments."
If Arsenal play like they have in the previous matches – with attacking flair – while building on the defence, they are in a good position here. Continued wins are essential, especially due to the strong starts from Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City. A win against Everton will either put them ahead of or keep them level with Tottenham and Manchester United in terms of points.
Emery’s tenure at Arsenal has showed signs of steadying, perhaps even a little bit under-the-radar. This spotlight-shyness is doing Arsenal no harm, and can be capitalized upon with continued good form. Every game Arsenal have looked better – hopefully they can continue this up-turn against Silva’s Toffees.
Arsenal play Everton at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday the 23rd of September with kick-off scheduled for 4PM.