Feature

#ARSEVE: Five things to look out for

5 things: Everton (h)

We’re looking to make it five wins in a row on Sunday against Everton, so what are the five key things you need to look out for? Read on to find out...

XHAKA'S TON

It's a milestone day for Granit Xhaka, who is in line to make his 100th appearance for us. He comes into the game on a high too. His free-kick against Newcastle last weekend was his eighth goal for the club, six of which were struck from outside the area.

It's taken just over two years for the Swiss midfielder to reach a century of games for us – becoming the 218th player in history to do so – and he's rarely missed a game since joining from Borussia Monchengladbach. Indeed no-one has featured in the our lineup more often than Xhaka since he made his debut against Liverpool on August 14, 2016.

He's on a run of 56 consecutive Premier League appearances, stretching back to February 2017, and was our only ever-present player in the competition last term.

So after Mesut Ozil marked his 200th outing with a goal last weekend at St James' Park, could Xhaka celebrate his landmark in similar fashion against Everton?


EXPECT GOALS

Hopefully that's not the kiss of death, but the stats do suggest we are in for high-scoring game. Our opening five Premier League matches have featured 19 goals, while Everton's five games have yielded 17 in total. Neither side has managed a clean sheet this season.

This fixture also has a long history of goalscoring. We have racked up more Premier League goals against Everton (105) than any side has managed against any other opponent in the history of the competition.

Those 105 goals include a 7-0 win at Highbury in 2005 and a 5-1 victory at Emirates Stadium last season, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang marked his debut with a goal and Aaron Ramsey netted a hat-trick. We also scored five against them at Goodison Park last October, with five different players on target.

Also there's been just one goalless draw between us in the past 53 meetings, and only one of the last 21 league games has ended in a draw of any type. So the goalkeepers should be busy, but so could referee Jonathan Moss. There has been a red card in this fixture in each of the last three seasons. 


RETURN OF THEO

Theo Walcott will extend his record as the only player to appear at Emirates Stadium in every season since it opened in 2006, albeit in the colours of Everton this weekend. After 11 years with us, the England man left for the Toffees in January, and his first away game for his new team was at… Emirates Stadium. 

He played an hour on his return to north London, still finding his feet with his new team mates, but he has scored twice in the first three games of this season, and tactical expert Michael Cox has identified him as the dangerman this Sunday. 

"Arsenal need little introduction to Walcott’s talents," Cox said. “And he continues to play a familiar role, stretching play before darting inside into goalscoring positions, generally looking to finish across the goalkeeper into the far corner. Walcott is now 29 but remains extremely quick, and Arsenal’s backline must be wary of his speed in behind."

The last ex-Gunner to score against us here was Robin van Persie for Manchester United in April 2013 - that was his 65th strike overall at the stadium, making him the top scorer at the venue. Walcott, with 56 in all competitions, is second on that list.


POST-EURO FATIGUE?

We now have a year's experience of playing on a Sunday after a Thursday night Europa League fixture, and this weekend is the first of at least six more such occasions this season.

Our record for Sunday games following European fixtures in 2017/18 was: P12 W6 D2 L4. A word of warning though, our record was actually worse immediately following a home Europa League tie than it was after an away game. We won just one of the six matches that came three days after a Europa League night at Emirates Stadium, losing three and drawing the other two. The only win was over Southampton in April. 

In all we played 21 times on a Sunday last season (compared to 10 on a Saturday), and this game was also rescheduled for live coverage in the UK on Sky Sports, at their now-traditional 4pm kick-off time. 

The bad news is we have lost each of our last three Sunday 4pm games, by an aggregate score of 10-2. That includes the 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on the opening day of the season, and before that our 4-2 reverse against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round.

Our last win in a Sunday 4pm game came late in 2016/17 - a 2-0 victory over Manchester United at Emirates Stadium.

 

SETTLED LINE UP

With his side in the midst of an unprecedented run of four consecutive home games in a 10-day period, Unai Emery unsurprisingly made eight changes for Thursday's win over Vorskla Poltava. 

It will be interesting to see if any of those players who were introduced did enough to keep their place on Sunday. Our head coach has favoured a settled line up in the league so far – the same 11 started the wins over Cardiff and Newcastle, but Lucas Torreira in particular impressed from the bench in both those games, and was withdrawn early during the win over the Ukrainians, perhaps with one eye on the Everton game.

Alex Iwobi was also taken off during the second half on Thursday, and will hope he did enough in an impressive performance to return to the starting lineup.

Sead Kolasinac, Laurent Koscielny, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Carl Jenkinson all remain unavailable with injury, but Thursday night's comfortable win showed that Emery still has plenty of options available to him.