Everton continue their search for a first Premier League win of the season against Mikel Arteta’s impressive Arsenal side as domestic football resumes after the international break.
The break for internationals is usually a source of frustration given the season was only just starting to pick up momentum. But in Everton’s case it was timely as it allowed time for several players to step up their recoveries from injury.
Plus, too much Everton has proven bad for your health in recent years so a bit of distance will do everyone some good.
The club’s much-publicised financial constraints led to q quiet end ot the window and squad light on numbers. The Toffees have a competitive 15 or 16 players capable of succeeding in the Premier league, but one or two injuries would leave the squad exposed. They will have to cross their fingers and hope they get some welcome luck with injuries going into the winter.
It wouldn’t be Everton without some off-field drama either with the announcement that 777 Partners had agreed a takeover deal.
There’s obvious concern from fans given their dubious record at other clubs and whether they are able to raise the funds required to complete the deal and gain regulatory approval.
Back to matters on the pitch and there were signs in the draw at Sheffield United that the team is starting to find a bit of rhythm, with Beto and Arnaut Danjuma in particular offering the kind of goal threat the Toffees have lacked for a long time.
With Jack Harrison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Dwight McNeil edging closer to full fitness the team suddenly has options going forward. Typically it is now at the back where issues may arise, with the defence yet to fully convince.
I remain hopeful though that there is enough quality in the squad to keep Everton’s heads above water – though I had similar thoughts this time last year.
Arsenal surprised everyone by pushing Manchester City for so long last season only to falter at the last. Arteta earned praise for the way he built a young dynamic side without the riches of some of his rivals. He has no such excuse this season though, with the purse strings loosened significantly as the Gunners look to build on that promising campaign last time out.
The headline arrival is of course Declan Rice, who looks to be a stellar purchase even at £100m. Their 3-1 win over Manchester United last time out means they have taken a respectable 10 points from 12 available so far, with only a late Fulham equaliser denying them a 100% start. They will also arrive at Goodison Park with a point to prove after slipping to a 1-0 defeat on Merseyside in Sean Dyche’s first game in charge last season and have not won at Goodison since 2017.
Arsenal 4-0 Everton, 1 March 2023
A horrible night n north London as the Toffees were thoroughly dismantled by the Gunners. They held out for 40 minutes but never looked like getting back into the game after Bukayo Saka opened the scoring. A double from Gabriel Martinelli and another from Martin Odegaard completed a comfortable win.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is fit and available after recovering from that nasty facial injury suffered at Aston Villa last month.
Jack Harrison is not yet ready for a return despite returning to training. Lewis Dobbin, Jarrad Branthwaite and James Tarkowski have all recovered from knocks, meaning Seamus Coleman and Dele Alli are the only other absentees.
What they said
Everton boss Sean Dyche: “We want the performance levels to stay high and the basic structure of the team has to be good, of course. The work ethic of the team has to be good against all sides, and particularly sides like Arsenal.
“Equally, finding your key moments. I think that’s probably been the biggest challenge we’ve faced so far this season. We haven’t been clinical enough to take hold of games at the key times.
“Last season [against Arsenal at Goodison Park] we were in good shape and stayed committed to cause. At that stage, it was a big game, a big moment, and every player’s nose was pointing in the right direction. They were all playing on the edge. That’s what we want. We want every player doing that all the time.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta: “I’m really excited about it obviously. Obviously our record speaks for itself. In the last six years we haven’t won there, so we’re going to have to earn it and we know that we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them there and it’s something that we haven’t managed to do, so that’s where we’re going to start.
“Obviously I have a big emotional attachment to that football club, the way they treated me and the years that I spent there. The incredible memories that I have, so I’m always grateful.
“It was a big, big part of my playing career, and now as a coach I have to play against them and obviously I want to beat them.”
Everton’s performance levels this season have been better than their points tally suggests, but this is their biggest test of the season so far. The Goodison factor will help, as will their decent recent home record against the Gunners, but it remains a formidable test.