By Adam Clark
Everton's great start to the season could have something to do with arrival of Andrew Johnson. Since signing the striker from Crystal Palace in May, Manager David Moyes has been treated to some first-class performances from the England international, whose goals have propelled Everton to sixth in the Premiership.
Saturday's clash with the Toffees could be Arsenal's toughest Emirates Stadium test to date, so we spoke to Dave Prentice, Chief Sports Writer at The Liverpool Echo to get the low-down on the Merseysiders.
THE STORY SO FAR
"We had a sensational start and it was quite unexpected. The football has been enjoyable all season. We used to be aggressive, but now we play a different, passing type of football. Andrew Johnson's signing created a great deal of interest and it's delightful to have an out-and-out goalscorer. For me, the result that set the standard for the rest of the season was the win at Tottenham. Having not won there for 20 years, they gave the best all-round Everton performance for a long time. In turn that gave the team a little bit of belief and of course they followed it up with the derby win. After that the results weren't matching the performances and we weren't getting the breaks, but we've won our last two games."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"Andy Johnson. He's been wonderful. His finishing has been great, his all-round play has been great but his work-rate and attitude have been the biggest things. He chases lost causes all day long and it's an attitude that has spread through the rest of the team. He's been the catalyst for what has happen this season."
"[Defender] Joleon Lescott has been an unsung hero. He's nearly been as influential as Johnson, but in a different, less noticeable way. [Goalkeeper] Tim Howard has looked assured and confident and impressed so far. We've got a small squad though and injuries hit us hard. We'll be thread bare [at Emirates Stadium]."
ONE TO WATCH...
"Mikel Arteta. He's an old-fashioned Everton type of midfielder. I'd compare him to some of the players from the days in the late Sixties when Everton was nicknamed 'The School of Science'. Players like Alan Ball, Colin Harvey and Howard Kendall. When Arteta plays well, Everton do."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"A European place would be ideal. Realistically, that means a UEFA Cup slot. The fans aren't getting carried away but it would be a dream come true to make the Champions League. Obviously, finishing above Liverpool would be nice, too."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"The worst thing would be if Johnson picked up a serious injury and everything suddenly evaporated. That said, the squads looking good at the moment, and the spirits great, so fingers crossed that will continue."
"We'll almost certainly line up 4-5-1, flood the midfield and try to restrict Arsenal's possession. That will leave Johnson to plough a lonely furrow up front, which he's done well all season."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"Firstly, I think everyone at Everton is looking forward to playing at the new stadium. As for the team, they're the best side to watch in the Premiership without any shadow of a doubt. They play easily the most attractive football, and even when they've not been winning they've been playing the right way. I think they are many people's second favourite team because they are just great to watch."