Everton-Arsenal Preview




Perhaps on the verge of turning a corner following a winning performance in Europa League play, Arsenal look to collect a vital three points Sunday when they host Everton in a mid-table showdown at the Emirates.

Despite lying 10th in the table on 34 points, Arsenal (7-13-6) are just six points out of a Champions League spot pending Manchester City's appeal of their two-year ban on European competition handed down by UEFA.

The Gunners are again toiling in the second-tier Europa League and came away with a slender 1-0 victory at Greek side Olympiakos on Thursday, with Alexander Lacazette's goal on 81 minutes separating the sides and providing a critical edge for the return encounter in London in a fortnight.

"We are really pleased, obviously we talked about turning draws into wins but it doesn't matter if it's home or away, we have to do it together," Arteta told the club's official website after arguably his biggest win since taking over the north London club in midseason, "so it is great advert for the team to believe that we can go away and get a result that we got tonight."

The victory also marked Arsenal's third consecutive clean sheet in all competitions for the first time since April when they bracketed a victory over Watford with shutouts over Napoli in the quarterfinals of the Europa League. The Gunners have not blanked four straight opponents since Sept. 20-Oct. 2, 2016.

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last nine in all competitions (5-4-0) and have gone 3-1-0 at the Emirates on the heels of a seven-match winless run that included four straight defeats before the recent uptick.

For Lacazette, it marked just the second time the striker has scored in back-to-back matches, giving him eight across all competitions --- still well off his haul of 19 last season in helping Arsenal reach the Europa League final. Still, Arteta's decision to drop him from the first XI against Newcastle last week appears to have produced the desired effect.

"That's the strikers," the manager explained. "They live moments in their careers. They need support, they need confidence. That confidence and support came from me, but most importantly it came from his team-mates. The way they reacted when he scored, that was a lift. That's not just a coincidence. It's something that happens because the energy of the team is putting energy into him as well."

Playmaker Mesut Ozil, who missed out Thursday to be with his partner following the birth of their child, is expected to return to the starting lineup. Midfielder Lucas Torreira is also expected to be available after being sidelined due to illness.

Everton (10-6-10) are two points better than Arsenal in ninth place heading into this match, and like their London counterparts, look to be gathering momentum for better things. The Toffees are seeking their first three-match winning streak of the season and went into the midseason recess on a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace on Feb. 8.

Carlo Ancelotti's team are unbeaten in their last five matches (3-2-0) since their FA Cup exit at the hands of Liverpool and have claimed 17 points from their eight league contests since he replaced Marco Silva. Crucial to that surge has been the improved play of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has scored six of his 11 goals since the managerial change.

"Dominic can continue this way, keep going and trying to improve," Ancelotti said at his Friday news conference. "He is doing well but he can do better, he knows. But him and Richarlison are doing a fantastic job, they are really dangerous."

At the other end of the pitch, Ancelotti has been keen to pump the tires on keeper Jordan Pickford, who has had some trying moments this season but also remains England's No. 1 heading into this summer's European Championships. Pickford has just six clean sheets in league play this season after finishing tied for third in 2018-19 with 14.

"To be England No 1 is a responsibility," Ancelotti said. "He deserves this because, in my opinion, he is the best English goalkeeper. "Jordan is really important for us, he is a complete goalkeeper.

"In modern football you cannot ask the goalkeeper to only save shots, they have to play with the ball. He is one of the players who has the ball at his feet most so has to be a complete player."

The teams played out a scoreless draw in the reverse fixture at Goodison Park in December as both Ancelotti and Artetas were spectators watching their new teams following their respective hirings leading up to the match.

Everton have lost six on the trot at the Emirates in all competitions and are a woeful 0-4-20 in their last 24 visits to the red side of north London since Andrei Kanchelskis' tiebreaker in the 84th minute powered the Toffees to a 2-1 victory in 1996 at Highbury.

Arsenal are 10-4-0 versus Everton at home since moving to the Emirates in 2006.

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