Welcome back. With the two Manchester clubs not playing until they face each other on Sunday, Arsenal can go top of the Premier League table for the first time this season if we beat Everton in the early evening kick-off tomorrow.
A win against Roberto Martinez’s ninth-placed side would be a landmark 100th against them in the all-time, head-to-head record, and we go into the match unbeaten in 21 home games against The Toffees in all competitions.
Yet despite the fact we can climb to the summit of the standings, Arsene Wenger says it’s too early to be getting carried away in terms of our title chances. Speaking at his pre-match press conference earlier today, he said:
It’s too early. It’s very early. We lost our first game at home against West Ham. After, we went to Crystal Palace and you think it could be a repetition of last year, where after 10 games we were basically out of the race. At a big club, that is always very difficult to handle. At least we are up there with a good number of points and we have made the ground up. Let’s show that we can be in the fight.
Of course, he’s right. We’re nearing the end of October and the fact we’re within touching distance of the leaders represents a big improvement from this time last year, but there’s still an awfully long way to go. It’s a bit of a cliche but we just need to take one game at a time, ensure our preparation and focus is spot on for every game and see where it takes us.
We used up a lot of energy on Tuesday night in beating Bayern Munich but will have had almost four full days to recover by the time we kick-off tomorrow and Arsene revealed fatigue doesn’t appear to be an issue. When he was asked if there was a new-found, feel-good factor around the club after the win over the Germans, he said:
We always have a feel-good factor in our club unless the results are not there. We have always a togetherness but not always the results that we want. Overall we are in a good run and that can help the level of confidence and belief going into the next game. We have a big game in front of us against Everton and we can extend our run. Our focus is on our next game. You know that if you want to play at the top of the Premier League you want to do well in the big games at home. Everton is another big game so the target is for us to take advantage of that. We play in front of everybody so let’s take advantage of it. You gain credibility through consistency and when people think this could be a game where people think we could slip a bit and you respond in a positive way. I believe that [at the] top level, you come out of a big game and show you can focus again and produce the same performance again.
In terms of team news, the boss says Mikel Arteta is out of contention for tomorrow’s game and joins Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and David Ospina on the sidelines, but Gabriel in available again after missing out during the week.
So in terms of how we’ll line up tomorrow, I think we’ll see just one change from Tuesday night starting XI, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replacing the injured Ramsey. I suppose one or both of the fullbacks could be rotated, Gabriel might come in to give Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny a breather and Olivier Giroud stands a chance of replacing Theo Walcott up top, but I can’t see Arsene making any changes unless he’s forced to.
The team are on a bit of a roll and we have Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup coming up on Wednesday, which would obviously be a far better time to rotate the squad and rest numerous first-choice players.
As for Everton, they’ll be looking to make amends for last Saturday’s home drubbing by Manchester United and have had a whole week to prepare so will no doubt be fresh. Our recent games against them at Emirates stadium have been tight affairs and I’m guessing tomorrow will be no different. That said, if we can get an early goal, who knows? It might be another Man United-style slaying.
If we hadn’t just played such a draining game in the Champions League I’d be very confident of getting the win tomorrow, as it is, I’m just confident. But any hangover from Tuesday should be tempered by the thought of becoming league leaders for the players so let’s hope that extra little incentive helps secure us the win.
Back post-match tomorrow.