Emirates encounter should prove to be entertaining fare
Arsenal and Everton attacks look better than defences
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday
Eight teams lower than the sixth-placed Gunners have played away at Arsenal this season, and all eight have been beaten.
Wednesday’s dismal defeat at Swansea and Theo Walcott’s return to Arsenal add extra spice, but this does look all over a home win.
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Sam Allardyce, who has lost on each of his previous eight league trips to the Emirates, is presiding over a team who have somehow pulled themselves away from relegation danger without looking particularly good, and it’s hard to see the Toffees chalking up a first win in 12 at Arsenal. Indeed, even a draw may be beyond them.
Eliaquim Mangala has arrived from Manchester City to notionally shore up a defence that persists in misbehaving while Walcott would love to make it a happy return to a venue where he has spent the last 12 years. An assist and two goals on his first two Everton starts suggest he’s in the mood.
The other massive bonus is the return to fitness of Seamus Coleman, hailed as “superhuman” by Allardyce following 90 top-drawer minutes in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Leicester. However, it will be tough for him to start two games in four days after a ten-month layoff.
The win against Leicester snapped a seven-game winless run. Four of those games were against top-five outfits, but two draws against West Brom and a desperate defeat at Bournemouth were awful performances and outcomes.
Arsenal are 4-5 to win in a game featuring over 2.5 goals. A better prospect, if you fancy goals, might be both teams to score in a game featuring over 2.5 goals at 7-5 with Hills.
Arsenal look certain to score even if new man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can’t shake off a bug. Alexandre Lacazette is a perfectly adequate number nine and Mesut Ozil and Henrik Mkhitaryan are high-class cogs in the supply chain.
The Gunners have found the net in each of their last 26 Premier League home games, a run going back to October 2016, and Everton haven’t kept a clean sheet in six, leaking 12 goals in the process.
And they were hanging on against Leicester, who were cutting them apart with far too much ease as the second half dragged on during the week.
They did, though, look more potent going forward. Walcott’s arrival is a major plus and he looks comfortable alongside Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney. They are crying out for a centre-forward of note with Cenk Tosun not yet looking settled.
Depressingly for Toffees’ diehards, their side are winless in their last 27 away league fixtures at the big six while Arsenal have never lost a home Premier League game in the month of February.
Both teams to score & over 2.5 goals
2pts 7-5 Hills
Jack Wilshere hopes to recover from a bug. Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is also ill and may not risked. Danny Welbeck and Santi Cazorla are out.
James McCarthy is out with a broken leg. Seamus Coleman is a doubt after returning on Wednesday following a ten-month layoff.
Arsenal have won all eight home games against sides below them in the Premier League.
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