Premier League: Arsenal v Everton - Preview

Pre-Match Report

Premier League: Arsenal v Everton - Preview

Emirates Stadium

By Richard Clarke

On Friday, once the statues had been unveiled, the applause had died down and the fans had dispersed, Arsène Wenger put on his ‘game face' once again.

The manager is a respectful student of Arsenal's past but will not let it dictate his thoughts on Saturday.

The visit of Everton will see the Emirates Stadium club celebrate its 125th birthday. Quite rightly, a party has been planned. But the hosts must ensure the guests don't take home the best gift of all.

"The present is very important for us," admitted Wenger at Friday's press conference. "We are in the middle of a season where every point is important now.

"I am always more focused on the future than I am on the past. We would like to be at the level of the history of the Club tomorrow but history is one thing, performance on the day is another.

"We have just come back from a convincing win at Wigan and so we are in a position where we just want to collect points because the pace of the Premier League is dictated by the teams in front of us. And it is a tremendous one.

"To keep in touch with them it is important we win our games. We have come back to a decent position and want to climb high up.

"Our job is to focus to reach our targets and to make history but to leave it to other responsible people at the Club to honour those who have already made it.

"We are there to perform."

Andre Santos will be sidelined for some time with the ankle injury collected at Olympiacos in midweek. With Kieran Gibbs (stomach) and two right backs also out, Wenger's defence is likely to be comprised of four centre halves.

At his press conference, the manager confirmed Thomas Vermaelen will move to left-back but he did not concede that this would weaken them down the middle.

"Koscielny has been absolutely convincing in this position so let's hope we get away with it," he said.

"It's not ideal at the moment but that's part of the job of the team as well - to adapt to problems and get over them."

Everton are the epitome of party-poopers. They have taken the lead in each of their last three visits to Emirates Stadium, despite ending up with just one point out of nine. Late goals have saved Arsenal in the last couple of seasons.

David Moyes' men don't score a lot - top marksman Apostolos Vellios has only three goals to his name - but they don't concede a lot either. Hard-working and disciplined, they have grafted their way into the top half of the table to such an extent that last weekend's defeat to Stoke was a significant surprise.

Back-to-back wins before that suggested they had gradually regrouped after the loss of Mikel Arteta to Arsenal late on deadline day. Ahead of the game, Wenger paid tribute to the elegant midfielder who he had long admired during six successful seasons at Goodison Park.

"He has been a fantastic addition," admitted the manager. "We would have been in more trouble [without him] that is for sure.

"The deal went to the wire. We completed it at 9.45pm on August 31.

"For two days it was very uncertain. But we knew Wilshere needed surgery, Diaby was injured and so in midfield we were short. Remember Ramsey had just come back too.

"Mikel has adjusted very well and he has the mental level to be at this Club. We watched him many times before he got his cruciate injury [a few years ago]. It took him a while to get back to his normal level. Now, he is back to normal."

Arteta has helped Arsenal do likewise. Victory on Saturday would see Wenger's side end a weekend in the top four for the first time this season.

They will stay there if leaders Manchester City win at Chelsea on Monday.

Arsenal go to the Etihad Stadium next week in a game that will be billed as a ‘stress-test' for their comeback credentials.

However, in many ways, Saturday's fixture is a dress-rehearsal. Last weekend's win at Wigan is Arsenal's only victory in their last four games. There are certainly mitigating circumstances for the defeats to Manchester City in the Carling Cup and Olympiacos in Europe, but the home draw with Fulham a fortnight ago was a genuine disappointment.

To be fair, they are the only Premier League points Arsenal have dropped in their last seven games.

But you sense that Everton will be cut from the same hard-wearing cloth as Fulham.

So, on a day of celebration, only Arsenal's party best will be enough.

Ref: Howard Webb

Team news

Arsenal: Santos (ankle), Fabianski (knee), Mannone (shoulder), Wilshere (ankle), Gibbs (stomach), Jenkinson (back), Diaby (hamstring), Sagna (ankle), Ryo (ankle).

Everton: Rodwell (doubt - hamstring), Osman (doubt - hamstring), Saha (doubt - foot), Drenthe (foot)


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