February 29, 2015 2:05 pm BST, 9:05 am EST
TV Info - Live Soccer TV
Referee - Andre Marriner
Assistant Referees - Scott Ledger and Darren Cann
Fourth Official - Robert Madley
Both Everton and Arsenal played in European competition this week with Everton moving forward in the Europa League, while Arsenal lost to AS Monaco in their Champions League match. Arsenal however, has been performing well domestically, winning five of their last six, while Everton haven’t won a match in nearly a month. Everton are in desperate need of three points and face a tough test against the Gunners at Emirates Stadium.
The Toffees will be without Christian Atsu, Bryan Ovideo, Steven Pienaar, Aiden McGeady and Tony Hibbert this week as they are all dealing with injury and illness. However, John Stones and Aaron Lennon should be well rested for the game since both were unable to play in Thursday’s Europa League clash due to suspension and ineligibility respectively.
Despite sitting in third in the table, Arsenal have had a somewhat rough season highlighted by an endless string of injuries to their star players. The Gunners are likely to be without Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy this week. Injuries or not, this squad still has Alexis Sanchez, who has been enjoying a fantastic debut season in the Premier League. Sanchez leads his team in goals (12) and assists (7) and has proved to be one of the best signings of the summer.
What to Watch For
Everton need to be at the top of their defensive game this weekend with the dangerous attack that Arsenal is capable of. Even with a hobbled squad, the Gunners still boast the likes of Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlian, all of whom are offensively gifted. Basically, Everton need to do the opposite of what they did in the second half of their last meeting with Arsenal, which saw the Toffees surrender two late goals to end the game in a draw.
The enigma that is Romelu Lukaku was subbed off around half time on Thursday, paving the way for him to either start or feature heavily as a sub in this Sunday’s match. Lukaku has been wildly inconsistent throughout the 2014/15 campaign, scoring a hat-trick one game and then being unable to hit the broad side of a barn the next. Lukaku needs to score because no one else on this team seems to be able to other than Naismith and Mirallas. There is not one player on this squad outside of Lukaku, Naismith and Mirallas that have scored more than two league goals this season. That is a massive problem that needs to be addressed moving forward.
Speaking of lack of scoring, Ross Barkley needs to show us something this game. Barkley was a revelation last season, scoring six league goals and earning a spot on the shortlist for PFA Young Player of the year. Despite Martinez’s endless positivity about the 21-year old, Barkley needs to be held accountable for his uninspiring play. It doesn’t help that Martinez seems to change his position on a weekly basis, but Barkley has looked nothing like the player that wowed supporters last season. Barkley’s play needs to improve drastically if this team is to succeed in the latter part of the season.
The Final Word
It’s hard to be optimistic about league games that come after Europa League games. Everton have looked generally dreadful in these games and it doesn’t help that they’re playing a tough squad like Arsenal. If Everton can stay organized defensively and get a goal or two on the board early, then they have a chance of pulling out a win. However, I fear that Tim Howard’s form and Arsenal’s attack could result in a draw or loss for Everton