Daily Archives: March 21, 2012

Everton vs. Arsenal Preview: Happy Homecoming, Mikel Arteta

I’ll start today’s post with great news for football as a big unified family. Fabrice Muamba’s condition continues to improve and I must give credit to the brilliant medical team of the London Crest hospital for their amazing work.

It’s fair to say that Goodison Park has been a happy hunting ground for Arsene Wenger and his men in recent seasons. Arsenal have scored more goals (80) against Everton than any team against any single opponent in Premier League history. Everton have won none and lost seven of their last nine Premier League games against Arsenal.

Last season, Cesc Fabregas and Bacary Sagna drove the nails in their coffin in a 2-1 victory but Lukasz Fabianski also played a key role to keep Everton at bay. The season before last, Arsenal ran riot as 6-1 winners with goals from Denilson, Thomas Vermaelen, Eduardo, Fabregas et al.

It’s also worth noting that Everton didn’t get a single shot on target when they played Arsenal last December. That game will be forever remembered for that van-tastic finish.

Arsenal has had an usually long (but welcome) nine day break as they didn’t take part in the weekend’s FA Cup fixtures courtesy of that embarrassing loss in that cattle grazing center called the Stadium of Light. Everton on the other hand, hosted Sunderland but the Black Cats worked their skins off to earn a replay in their putrid pitch.

Today’s set of fixtures will play a role in reshaping the destiny of the Premier League with Arsenal needing a win tonight coupled with another bad result for Tottenham (against Stoke Rugby FC) to leapfrog them into third place. There will also be an epic battle of the Shits, as Manchester Shitty hosts Chelshit.

However, Everton have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 home matches in Premier League and they have won all three matches.

The highlight of tonight’s match will undoubtedly be the return of Mikel Arteta to a place he once called home. Arteta notched up a total of 208 games for the Toffees, smashing in 33 goals. Arteta also won the Everton Player of the Season award twice (2005/06 and 2006/07).

The Spaniard has stated that he hopes for a good reception:

“I really can’t wait to go there, and I hope I’ll get a good reception because I gave Everton everything I had in my time there and I love the club.”

Everyone there was great to me and, even though I left, hopefully people understood. There’s no reason for any of us to be unhappy with each other.”

Arteta made a £10m switch to Arsenal around 11pm making him Wenger’s final signing for the summer and Fabregas’ ideal replacement at the club. As expected, he waved his goodbyes to the Evertonians and thanked them for their support in his time at Goodison Park.

It wasn’t rocket science to know that the lure of Champions League football played a vital role in the Spaniard’s move to the Emirates and Everton legend Graeme Sharp stated that Arteta can be as good as Fabregas. Arteta has become an essential piece in Arsene Wenger’s jigsaw puzzle and he has even contributed to his team with four goals and a couple of assists.

His first Arsenal goal was a highly technical finish that slammed the roof of the net in that somewhat mysterious 4-3 loss to Blackburn, he joined the party with a well-taken finish when Arsenal smashed three past West Brom, he launched a pile-driver from distance in the 4-0 thumping of Wigan and he scored his third goal against Blackburn in the 7-1 mauling.

I’m tipping Arteta to play the game of his life tonight and a goal against his former employers will be the icing on the cake for Arsenal.

However, I don’t expect him to get choruses from the “boo boys” because he didn’t leave the club under any acrimonious circumstance. He came in on the cheap from Real Sociedad, paid his dues and generated a good £10m for Everton making him a good piece of business.

To team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue between the sticks for Arsenal. Lukasz Fabianski was Arsenal’s hero in November 2010 at Goodison Park but a lot of things have changed since then.

The defense has been bolstered by the return of Andre Santos but I have a hunch that Arsene Wenger would stick to Kieran Gibbs. Bacary Sagna will man the right flank while the Verminator and Bosscielny will continue their partnership in the heart of Arsenal’s defense.

It was reported that Abou Diaby made his second annual appearance for Arsenal through a Reserve fixture and he even managed to get into the score sheet. However, he’ll still be a bit for tonight’s game so the “usual suspects” will get their deserved run out.

Alex Song will continue his role as the holding midfield enforcer while he’ll be supported by Arsenal’s box-to-box midfielder, Mikel Arteta. Aaron Ramsey has returned to full fitness but the chances of him displacing the resurgent Tomas Rosicky are slim to none.

Robin van Persie will definitely spearhead the attack and he’ll be supported by a rejuvenated Theo Walcott on the right. If Arsene Wenger places the chances of Gervinho and the Ox starting from the left on a scale, the balance will swing to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s direction.

My expected line up should be:

Szczesny

Sagna-Kos-Verm-Gibbs

Arteta-TR7-Songinho

Walcott-RVP-Ox

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Happy Homecoming, Mikel Arteta.

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