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Everton head to Arsenal with a role to play in final day drama

Arsenal have to beat the Toffees and hope other results go their way to make the top four

Everton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

So here we are. After nine months of passion, frustration, drama and intrigue, we have reached the end of the season. We made it to the other side, people.

We have much more to say about the campaign in the coming weeks but the overall impression is one of solid progress. You only have to compare the situation we found ourselves in 12 months ago to glean considerable satisfaction from what has been achieved in a relatively short space of time.

This was always going to be a season of transition, but an improvement of 14 points and four places is a considerable first step.

The form since the turn of the year has been particularly impressive and makes you wonder what could have been achieved had we not endured that miserable autumn run of form.

That winless run meant we were always playing catch up to the top six, something we ultimately failed to do.

Seventh place is pleasing don’t get me wrong, but the fact we’ve had it sewn up for weeks means some of the fizz disappeared from the final few games of the season.


There may well be one final twist before the players all disappear off on their holidays, with Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool competing for the final two Champions League spots.

Should Liverpool fail to win at home to Middlesbrough then Arsenal will leapfrog them into fourth with a win against the mighty Toffees, leaving the supporters in a bit of a conundrum.

We all want Everton to win, of course, but the prospect of directly helping our neighbours into the Champions League is a tough one to swallow.

Evertonians found themselves in a similar predicament in 2014 when Liverpool were going for the title. Everton could have helped the Reds by beating title-rivals Man City at Goodison Park, leaving the fans similarly conflicted.

We all know the result, Man City won 3-2, Liverpool bottled it at Palace and the Premier League went to the Etihad Stadium.

Given their form I doubt Liverpool will choke against an already-relegated and lets face it pretty wretched Middlesbrough side.

If Jurgen Klopp’s side go two or three goals up early then Everton’s game will become irrelevant, meaning we can all focus on going out on a high without any unpleasant side-effects.

Andrei Kanchelskis scored the winner the last time Everton won at Arsenal in 1996

Everton have never won at the Emirates Stadium while their last win at the old Highbury was way back in 1996.

A victory on Sunday would represent a notable double for Koeman’s side and go at least some way to addressing their poor points total against the big six.

I’m not going to lie though, if Liverpool are level or even losing to Middlesbrough going into the closing stages then I’d part of me would accept a narrow defeat. Plenty will disagree, but I know lots of fans who feel the same way.

The opposition

There’s some very odd things going on with Arsenal at the moment. Their bitterly divided fanbase appears at odds with the side’s increasing momentum.

The Gunners have won seven out of their last eight games in all competitions to reach the FA Cup final and push for a top four place that for so long looked beyond them.

Yet off the pitch we see protests, planes and angry fan TV stations, demanding Arsene Wenger leave at the end of the season.

Arsenal FC v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

If you ask the fans why they will give a simple reason - they’ve seen it all before.

You can almost set your clock by Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. They will often start well and raise hopes that this year things will be different, only to collapse in early spring before finishing with a flourish to end in the top four.

Rinse and repeat.

The same is happening now, though as explained above their hopes of reaching the Champions League have never been as perilous.

Wenger has consistently deferred talk of a new deal, insisting that a board meeting after the FA Cup final will decide his future.

After 21 years in charge many fans feel it is time for change. Though my gut feeling is that Wenger is ready to cling on for a few more years yet.

Team news

Ronald Koeman has no fresh injury concerns meaning he goes with the same squad that beat Watford last Friday.

Sunday’s game could be the final Everton appearance for several players, most notably Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and loanee Enner Valencia.

Arsenal will be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain due to a hamstring injury while Laurent Koscielny will have a calf problem assessed.

Aaron Ramsey is fit despite being forced off against Sunderland in midweek with a thigh strain.

Final word

Last day games are always difficult to call, especially when at least one side has nothing to play for. Much will be dependent on what happens at Anfield, with a flurry of early Liverpool goals likely to kill off any Arsenal momentum.

I still fancy the Gunners to come out on top, though, given our woeful record in north London.

I suspect it will all be in vain however, with Liverpool surely good enough to get the three points they need against Boro.

Predicted starting XI: Robles, Baines, Williams, Jagielka, Holgate, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Davies, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku.