|Emile Smith Rowe has been Arsenal's inspiration this season, will he fire the Gunners past Everton on Monday? (Photo credit: Sky Sports)
Everton vs ArsenalGoodison Park9:00pm
As the pressure mounts on Rafael Benitez after dark days usurped the early good runs since his takeover at the blue half of Merseyside, the board of the club is firmly behind the Spaniard.
It’s always encouraging to have the club hierarchy on your
side even when things aren’t going well but how much time does Benitez have to turn
things around? If there’s any game with which he can recoup some confidence, this
Arsenal missed a glorious chance to finally gatecrash the
top four with the loss at Old Trafford, it was a game that could have been won
by either side and as always, the team that took chances when they came won.
The loss to United means Arsenal must beat Everton away to
return to 5th on the log after United beat Crystal Palace on Sunday
and right about the same time, Antonio Conte’s Tottenham beat Norwich as well
to take the 5th and 6th spot in that regard.
Truth be told, considering the kind of start Arsenal had and
the uncertainties in their play, that they’re in the mix for the top four is
laudable but with a very big history behind them, it’s expected even as the
Everton did a double over Arsenal last season, that’s a
rarity considering the fact that they’re Arsenal’s favorite opponents but a lot
has changed since last season and suddenly, the Gunners are the clear favorites
to win here.
Where did it go wrong for the Toffees? Injuries to Dominic
Calvert Lewin and a few other key players all at the same time meant the
manager had to rely on players like Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend, the duo
fired fiercely for Everton early on but have now tailed out.
Arsenal could have Granit Xhaka on the bench for this game
and that would be a big boost ahead of the packed festive period fixtures,
Bukayo Saka is back and fit for the game but Emile Smith Rowe will be assessed
ahead of the kickoff on Monday.
How will Everton approach this? Solomon Rondon upfront or
Richarlison? Gray and Townsend could start on either flank and the availability
of Abdoulai Doucoure is a big boost for the hosts, the middle is where they
need to impose themselves, they need to create chances and take them.
Arsenal’s rise to relevance has been built on defense, they
will be tested by Everton but all eyes will be on Aaron Ramsdale who
desperately wants Jordan Pickford’s spot in the 3Lions’ squad, both will be
watched by Gareth Southgate on Monday night.