Pre-Match Report

Premier League: Arsenal v Everton - Preview

Emirates Stadium

By Richard Clarke

Arsenal’s real title bid starts at precisely 3pm on Saturday.

The Premier League maybe already two months or seven games old but during that time there have been a couple of breaks for international games.

While these have been great for Fabio Capello’s England they can be frustrating for those who focus more on the club game. In the past they have also hit Arsenal three ways - points, momentum and players.

However there will be no more breaks now until February, by which time we will have a strong idea of Arsenal’s potential this season. That is why Wenger will ask his team to put their foot to floor in their ‘season’s opener’.

“I believe that this is a new start,” he said. “In fact it is the real start of the season because there is now no interruptions anymore. It looks like to me there is a new championship starting.”

It would be too strong to say that Arsenal would like to begin this particular championship again. But two defeats is two too many at this stage – especially as they came against clubs expected to battle against the drop.

Last term, Arsenal were defeated just three times in total and two of those came at Chelsea and Manchester United – arguably their toughest fixtures.

Wenger’s men are hardly struggling right now. They sit fourth with 13 points out of 21. But consistency is the key. This season, to coin a phrase, when Arsenal are good they are very, very good and when they are bad they are... well... pretty horrid.

Only a last-gasp Cesc Fabregas goal at Sunderland last time out saved them from a third defeat. Wenger knows another reverse could leave them playing a long, drawn-out game of catch-up.
“I think if you ask me how many games I think we can lose I would say zero,” said the Frenchman. “I always start a season thinking you cannot lose a game, but we have lost two already and we are in a position where we have given ourselves a handicap.
“I still think it is manageable to get back to the top. I know that there is not a lot of margin of error left but I still think we can do that.”

International duty has cost Arsenal the services of William Gallas (hamstring), Bacary Sagna (knee), Nicklas Bendtner (ankle) and Johan Djourou (concussion).

Cesc Fabregas will play with a broken nose and Robin van Persie is OK despite suffering a muscle problem in the early stages of international duty.

You could presume Wenger will withdraw Emmanuel Eboue into the right back berth with Mikael Silvestre making his Arsenal debut in the centre. The return of Abou Diaby means the manager has plenty of personnel in midfield but, if Theo Walcott is rested, there is the possibility of Denilson moving out to the flank to accommodate Alex Song in the middle.

“We have one piece of good news which is that Diaby is back,” said Wenger. “He was out for a long time.

“And I hope that the good news is that Gallas, Sagna and Bendtner are not long injuries, the only long term ones are Eduardo and Rosicky.

“I am not frustrated at all because I know that is part of the game when they go on international duty.”

Everton have not started the season well but they did tie-up a much-anticipated new deal with manager David Moyes earlier this week. His opposite number on Saturday believes the Toffees are punching below their weight right now.

“They have a good side,” he said. “But they have missed a few players through injury like Arteta and Pienaar plus Cahill is suspended. Still, they have Yakubu and Saha up front who are coming together now.

"So, when you look at the names they have, you always expect a problem game.”

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