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Everton vs Arsenal: Match Preview

The Scot is expected to take caretaker charge for the final time at Goodison Park on Saturday

Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Emma Simpson/Everton FC via Getty Images

Duncan Ferguson’s brief but eventful tenure in charge is set to come to an end against Arsenal on Saturday, with Carlo Ancelotti waiting in the wings.

Big Dunc’s raw passion and clear love for the club was just what we needed after the traumatic final few weeks of the Marco Silva era. The squad has clearly responded to the Scot and those battling qualities should give us optimism that this bunch of players can be moulded into something resembling a successful football team.

He has remained unbeaten over 90 minutes against teams currently second, fourth and sixth in the Premier League, all while dealing with an injury crisis that has left him without eight first-team players including most of his midfield.

Everton FC v Leicester FC - Carabao Cup: Quarter Final Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Another result on Saturday would be the perfect way to go out, allowing Ancelotti to step in with arguably the toughest part of Everton’s schedule behind them.

Much has been said about the 60-year-old’s appointment in recent days, with plenty in the media questioning whether a manager used to dealing with the world’s best players will suddenly be able to succeed with an under-performing squad in desperate need of rebuilding.

Most of the concerns surrounding his appointment are valid, but if you look at the managerial options seemingly available to Farhad Moshiri, Ancelotti is by far the best option and credit needs to go to the club for pulling it off.

It will be fascinating to see what happens in the coming months, with this appointment having the potential to be a real game-changer. Of course, things could still go horribly wrong and I think most Evertonians are hard-wired into fearing that. But it ain’t gonna be boring that’s for sure.

The opposition

Oxford United v Manchester City - Carabao Cup: Quarter Final Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti is unlikely to be the only incumbent manager in the Goodison stands this weekend, with Mikel Arteta today announced as the new Arsenal boss, taking over after this game

The former Everton midfielder and current Manchester City coach was also linked with the Toffees job but will instead be heading back south to succeed Unai Emery at Emirates Stadium.

The fact caretaker boss Freddie Ljungberg has more senior managerial experience than the man he is being replaced by highlights the risk Arsenal are taking.

Arteta is clearly highly rated as a coach and has spent the past few years working under Pep Guardiola. But the leap from assistant to manager is a significant one, especially at a club the size of Arsenal.

Arsenal FC v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

Unlike Ferguson, Ljungberg has struggled to revive Arsenal’s form during his caretaker spell in charge, winning just one of his five matches in the dugout. Taking in the final few weeks of Emery’s reign, the north London club have won just once in 12 matches stretching back to the end of October.

That patchy form has seen the Gunners drop to 10th in the table, four points off fifth. But in this truncated Premier League table Everton, currently in 16th, can move to within a point of Arsenal with a win on Saturday.

Previous meeting

Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Everton 1-0 Arsenal April 7, 2019 (match report)

Everton’s end-of-season revival under Marco Silva continued with a third successive Premier League victory courtesy of Phil Jagielka’s 10th minute strike at Goodison Park, his final goal for the Toffees.

Recent form

Everton

Leicester City (H - Carabao Cup) Drew 2-2 (lost 4-2 on penalties)

Manchester United (A) Drew 1-1

Chelsea (H) Won 3-1

Liverpool (A) Lost 5-2

Leicester City (A) Lost 2-1

Arsenal

Manchester City (H) Lost 3-0

Standard Liege (A - Europa League) Drew 2-2

West Ham United (A) Won 3-1

Brighton & Hove Albion (H) Lost 2-1

Norwich City (A) Drew 2-2

Team news

Manchester United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Everton are hopeful that Gylfi Sigurdsson and Djibril Sidibe will be fit again after missing the last two matches through illness. Fabian Delph is still struggling with a hamstring injury while Lucas Digne has a groin problem. Morgan Schneiderlin will be out for another week at least while Theo Walcott isn’t expected to return until the start of next month.

The Gunners are starting to feel the injury bite that has ravaged the Blues, with on-loan Dani Ceballos, Kieran Tierney, and Sead Kolasinac all out injured, and defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos suspended. Ganit Xhaka has recovered from a concussion but Hector Bellerín, Rob Holding and Mesut Özil will all need late fitness tests.

What they said

Everton caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson:

“I think we’ve got a little bit of our club back. We’ve brought it back to the fans and we’ve all been a part of it together. That’s the big thing for me. We all seem to have pulled together as a club.

“The fans’ reaction and the atmosphere in the ground has been superb. The players have responded [to the fans’ backing]. They have realised the fans have got behind the players.

“The team and fans have reacted fantastically. The players have been brilliant, incredible. They have been on it right the way through. Hopefully they’ll be bang on it again tomorrow [against Arsenal].

Arsenal caretaker boss Freddie Ljungberg:

“The message from me is still the same, get behind us and support the team! It’s been an honour to have helped the club I love for the last few weeks and I am excited to work with [Arteta] and his staff moving forwards.”

Final word

Duncan Ferguson has done everything asked of him and more over the past two weeks, reinvigorating the players and reconnecting the club with the supporters. Another win on Saturday will lift the Toffees back into mid-table and fully banish the gloom that has been hanging over the club in recent months. It would also be fitting way to end his short spell in charge ahead of the start of what has the potential to be an exciting new era.