The 2013-14 English Premier League season is underway! During the season Sports Unbiased will select our EPL Match of the Week, where we will preview, debate, and predict some of the biggest matches in the Premiership. Taking part in this series of predictions are Mike Santangelo and Kimani Gregoire.
WEEK 15: ARSENAL vs. EVERTON
PREVIEW: It has been a busy week in the Barclays Premier League. After a round of mid-week league matches, clubs will have little time to rest and recover. Our pick for this weekend’s match of the week has a meeting between two clubs currently in the top five on the standings, as league leaders Arsenal host fifth-place Everton at the Emirates Stadium in London. Arsenal maintained their four-point lead after their 2-0 win over Hull City on Wednesday. Meanwhile Everton will be coming into this match full of confidence following a historic victory at defending champions Manchester United – their first league win at Old Trafford since 1992!
MANAGERS: Coming into this season, the pressure was on Arsene Wenger to produce. There were several Gunners’ supporters who wanted him out. Now, the calls for his job have disappeared with Arsenal at the top of the table for the past several weeks. Much like Jose Mourinho (who we covered in last week’s EPL Match of the Week) Wenger is one of the top managers in football. His resume speaks for itself. Everton’s manager Roberto Martinez may not have Wenger’s resume but he has proven himself as a good football mind. After leading Wigan Athletic to a shocking FA Cup Final victory over Manchester City last season, Martinez succeeded David Moyes (who left for Manchester United) at Everton and became the first club manager to avoid defeat in his first six matches. I’m giving Arsenal the edge based on Wenger’s resume, but not a huge one.
FORWARDS: One of Arsene Wenger’s troubles the past few seasons was finding a constant threat up frony as players such as Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Nicklas Bendtner, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have either struggled with consistency, injuries, or both. This season however, Olivier Giroud have provided Arsenal with that presence. His seven league goals are second on the club (one behind Aaron Ramsey). As for Everton, I continue to be more and more impressed with Romelu Lukaku. I love the energy and physicality that he brings to matches – not to mention his eight league goals. Because Arsenal are built around their midfield and Everton seem to be have no other threat at forward, I’m calling this a draw.
MIDFIELDERS: As I said earlier, the strength of Arsenal is their midfield. It starts with Mesut Ozil. It’s no coincidence that the Gunners have been the best side in England since his arrival. He always seem to be one step ahead of the play and has a knack of delivering the ball to the right teammate at the right time – one of the best assist-men in the world. His presence has also coincided with the improved play of youngsters Aaron Ramsey (the club’s top goal scorer) and Jack Wilshere. Despite the depth at this position, the chemistry between these three players has been the key reason why Arsenal is on top of the league. Everton do some have talent at midfield, like 20-year old Ross Barkley (who’s targetted by some of the bigger clubs in January) and 23-year old Bryan Oviedo (who scored the match-winner against Manchester United on Wednesday) but collectively it is not in the same class as Arsenal.
DEFENDERS: Had Everton defender Leighton Baines not been sidelined with an injured toe, I would have given the Toffeemen the edge here. Even though Arsenal has conceded less goals (just ten – to lead the league) than Everton, it is kind of misleading. Even though I think Laurent Koscielny is very good at centre back as well as Bacary Sagna at full back, Arsenal has been so great at keeping possession that the defenders are hardly called into play.
GOALKEEPERS: Everton keeper Tim Howard showed why he is one of the top keepers in the world at Old Trafford as he kept his club in the match with several saves (though he was aided by the goal post on one occasion) during the first half. This is perhaps the biggest advantage for Everton in this match. Arsenal do have the fewest goals conceded this season and some of the credit should go to keeper Wojciech Szczesny, but he is still just 23-years old.
X-FACTORS: For Arsenal I am picking forward Nicklas Bendtner as the X-factor. I believe Roberto Martinez is going to make this an ugly match. Arsenal is a finesse team that loves to keep possession circulating with quick passes and timely runs off the ball. Arsenal may look to employ more of the long ball in this match and the 6’4″ Bendtner would be the ideal target up front. For Everton, I am going with Ross Barkley. He has to provide some offensive punch for the Toffeemen. No other player other than Lukaku has scored more than two league goals.
PREDICTION: Everton is not a club to be taken lightly! Besides sitting fifth in the league, Everton is the only club in England with just one league defeat. My concern is that there might be a letdown following that historic win at Old Trafford (even though they’re playing Arsenal and not some other London club like West Ham). Plus, I hate going with a team having to play one of the big clubs in consecutive matches. After having to put so much into the United match, how much will they have in the tank for Arsenal? Southampton had a similar two-match stretch and in the second half at Chelsea, I thought they faded down the stretch. The Gunners had an easy time with Hull City on Wednesday and should be fresh come Sunday.
Prediction: Arsenal 1 (Ramsey) – Everton 0
Who Will Win Our EPL Match of The Week?
- Arsenal (100%, 5 Votes)
- Everton (0%, 0 Votes)
- Draw (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 5