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Can Everton end their top-six hoodoo at the Emirates?

The Toffees head south looking to secure their first win at Arsenal this century

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton travel to Arsenal with a spring in their step after a welcome win over Leicester eased some of the pressure that had been building since the turn of the year.

Wednesday’s win was one of Everton’s better performances of the season (not much competition, granted) even if they did need a bit of luck when Leicester hit the bar twice late on.

Theo Walcott stole the headlines with his two goals, but it was the return of Seamus Coleman that galvanised the supporters.

The Irishman’s attitude is so refreshing in an era where Premier League footballers are generally preening, millionaire man-babies.

His return gave everyone a lift, while his link-up play with Walcott suggests a promising right-flank partnership is in the offing.

The win lifts Everton on to 31 points and gives them some welcome breathing space from those scrapping for their lives near the bottom.

Some fans insist on looking upwards, with just four points separating them from seventh-placed Burnley.

That may be being presumptuous given the inconsistent nature of the side, but the fact we are even talking about it shows how tight the division is beyond the top six.

To be honest I wouldn’t be too disappointed if the team does miss out on another seventh-place finish. What’s more important is planning for next season and establishing some sort of structure and identity after a chaotic campaign to date.

At least four wins are needed to banish the threat of relegation once and for all. The sooner we get those, the sooner we can try and salvage something positive from this wreck of a season.

The opposition

It says a lot about the long-term decline of Arsenal that no one was surprised when they crumbled to a calamitous 3-1 defeat at Swansea in midweek.

The Gunners have stagnated under Arsene Wenger for some time now, with the team having the same old weaknesses and making the same old mistakes.

Wenger is probably to long in the tooth to change, he remains a principled manager who will not deviate from his footballing vision.

That was demonstrated by his late transfer activity, adding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for £56m from Borussia Dortmund and securing Mesut Ozil down to a new contract.

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

The result is a fearsome forward line of Aubameyang, Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but a defence that wasn’t added to in January and still looks to have a soft centre.

The reverse meeting at Goodison Park proved to be the death knell for Ronald Koeman’s tenure as Toffees boss.

Despite taking the lead, Everton succumbed 5-2 with Koeman sacked less than 24 hours later.

And if you needed another reason to be fearful, Everton haven’t won at Arsenal - be it the Emirates or Highbury - since 1996. The Toffees are also without a win in 27 league away games at the top six, stretching back to Bryan Oviedo’s famous winner at Old Trafford in December 2013.

The optimism generated by Wednesday’s win will be severely tested on Saturday evening.

Everton’s record against the top six, over the last seven seasons

Team news

Sam Allardyce says he will treat Seamus Coleman carefully as he continues his recovery from a broken leg, meaning the defender may sit out Saturday’s game at the Emirates.

Deadline day signing Eliaquim Mangala could make his debut, possibly in place of Phil Jagielka.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will make his first Arsenal start but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jack Wilshere are doubtful through illness.

Final word

Everton’s dreadful record at Arsenal - indeed at any of the top six - means we cannot go into this game with much optimism.

Allardyce is likely to resort to type and defend deep, looking to hit on the counter using the pace of Walcott.

We are certainly due a win at the Emirates, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.