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Everton v. Arsenal Preview: who has the easier run in, plus how much injury hurt Arsenal

I was listening to the Guardian Podcast yesterday when the topic of the race for fourth place came up. Barry Glendenning laid out an argument, which I think is shared by many pundits, for why he wants Everton to beat Arsenal to fourth place. Now, I like Barry, I find him delightfully cantankerous, so I say that not to pick on him, he is a pundit and they are paid to have an opinion. Rather, Glendenning is just one example of many pundits who all seem to want the same thing: Everton to beat Arsenal to 4th place. The pundits all have their different reasons but they mostly come down to wanting to see some new blood in the Champions League. As they say, familiarity breeds contempt.

But for the first time in a long time there is very little between the two teams vying for the 4th Place Cup: Arsenal are on 64 points after 32 games (2ppg), Everton are on 60 points after 31 games (1.94ppg); Arsenal have a goal difference of +19, Everton +18; Arsenal’s leading scorer (Giroud) has 13 goals and 7 assists, Everton’s leading scorer (Lukaku) has 12 goals and 6 assists; and the list goes on*. Granted Arsenal should be doing better but we aren’t and I’ll get to that in a bit. The fact remains that despite our rather large differences in transfer and salary spending, both these teams have very similar records at the moment.

If you’ve been paying attention you will note that Everton are just 4 points behind Arsenal and with a game in hand. This has the pundits (and some rather strange Arsenal supporters) thinking that if Everton can beat Arsenal tomorrow, they will be within 1 point and might could pip Arsenal to the 4th Place Cup.

Arsenal’s final 5 games of the season, though, are against some of the easiest opposition you could hope to face: the relegation fodder and middle-teams who have nothing left to play for. And before you say “yes but Norwich are in a relegation battle, they will fight!” Of course they will fight, so will West Brom, and Allardyce loves to get one over on Wenger, and Hull might even be an FA Cup final preview. But you couldn’t ask for better opposition to play for the final 5 games of the season because these are some very weak teams. For example, Arsenal beat all 5 of them last season, except Norwich who are significantly worse this year than last.

Everton, on the other hand, play Man City, Man U, and Southampton along with Sunderland, Palace and Hull to finish the season off. I feel like Everton might get 11 points from those games whilst I am expecting Arsenal to take all 15. Arsenal should finish 5 points clear of Everton, even if the Toffees win tomorrow.

I don’t think anyone would disagree if I said that Everton do have a slight advantage tomorrow and a win for the Toffees wouldn’t be a far fetched result. I’m not predicting a win, loss, or draw (draw is the most likely result I come up with) but rather just stating what I think is the obvious: If you look at Arsenal’s injury record and current form (P10 W3 D4 L3), along with Everton’s lack of injuries, current form (P10 W6 D1 L3), and home advantage wouldn’t you offer up the draw before kickoff?

And injuries have hit Arsenal hard this season. Insanely hard.

Few predicted that Aaron Ramsey would be the stud that he was at the start of the season. In the first 18 game, Ramsey scored 8 League goals and added 6 assists. That’s good enough to make him Arsenal’s third best goal scorer and playmaker, despite missing the last 14 games. It is impossible to predict how many goals he would have scored or assists he would have laid on but 3 goals and 2 assists more wouldn’t have been at all unreasonable.

More than just goals, Arsenal also missed Ramsey’s work rate: his constant movement meant he was available for the ball and the result is that he led Arsenal in total passes and was third in passing percentage. His defensive work all through the midfield is another key indicator of his work rate, he was first in tackles per game.

Perhaps even more than Ramsey, Arsenal have missed Theo Walcott. It’s common among Arsenal fans to ridicule Walcott as “Unlucky Walcott” but the truth is that it’s been “unlucky Arsenal” to not have him. Last season, Walcott scored 21 goals and had 14 assists on 111 shots, 55 of which he got on target. And this season he was already off to a start that looked set to repeat the feats of last, 6 goals, 4 assists on 53 shots, 23 of which were on target. All in just 18 appearances!

Moreover, the whole team missed Walcott. All of Wenger’s great teams have been built on pace: Overmars and Henry had it in bags and their pace won Arsenal trophies. So, it makes sense that Wenger has groomed Walcott over the years to be the next wide player burning defenders on counters. He’s progressed nicely as a finisher despite what many think and he’s also the kind of play who has grown in terms of creating his own shot, contrary to what you read other places.

2013 2012 2011
SpG 2.944444 2.581395 1.931818
SoG % 52% 45% 45%

Walcott also offered players like Özil, Ramsey, and Wilshere a target man to send through behind the opposition defenses and I literally (literally figuratively) have lost track of the number of times I have heard people say that they wished Arsene had bought a player to do exactly that.

How much have Arsenal missed these two players? You can never really know how much a player would have contributed. But I really feel like Arsenal would be challenging for the title right now had both stayed healthy all year.

It’s a big game for both teams tomorrow and I expect they are going to give everything that they have to win. Arsenal might not have as much to give owing to injury but Ramsey will be on the bench and might even get a cameo at the end depending on the score. After that, Arsenal have to stay clear headed and try to win the double: both the FA and the 4th Place cups are still up for grabs.

Qq

*Even in the top 7 mini-league, both these teams are very similar: Arsenal have a -10 GD, and have earned 1.18 PPG and Everton have a -6 GD and have earned 1 PPG. After Sunday’s match that will change but Arsenal are done with top teams and Everton will have two more left to play.

25 thoughts on “Everton v. Arsenal Preview: who has the easier run in, plus how much injury hurt Arsenal

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1Gooner

    Thanks for writing this blog. You make my day. Hopefully we will win the league next year. COYG!

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim

      Thanks. I really had high hopes for Theo this year, wrote for the dot com that I thought he would be our player of the year.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Benny M

        And while not many could have foreseen the ridiculousness that was Rambo during the first half of the season (we all knew he had it in him, just maybe didn’t expect such a momentous step up in such short period of time), Theo seemed as though he had hit the ground running after his surgery and might have been a contender for that accolade this season had it not been for his ACL. Its ironic that Aaron and Theo are also best friends (along with Kieran) off the pitch.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1Redcore

    Great article as always Tim. I like Everton as I think they are a bit like Arsenal in that they are always punching above their weight. But tomorrow I want us to win and not draw against them just to shut up these Arsenal hating ‘pundits’.

  3. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Dixie Dream

    I stopped reading after ‘Everton’s lack of injuries’!!! Are you serious? With one of the smallest squads in the league we’ve had Gibson, Kone and Alcaraz out almost the whole season; Oviedo, Pienaar, Baines, Coleman, Barkley, Jagielka, Lukaku, Osman, Hibbert, and Deulofeu all out for long periods and the replacement striker for Jelavic: Traore played one game and has been out ever since

  4. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1fourstar

    @Dixie Dream Think the implied meaning was current & comparative lack of injuries going into this particular game, versus us with 3-4 key MF out.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Nikki

    What makes me wonder is if what we miss is Walcott ability to run behind defense. Than why can’t we instruct our faster player to go play like that. I mean, surely Oxlade or Gnabry could have done that. Or is his ability that unique, i.e knowing where to run and when to run?
    I could accept that we might miss his finishing ability, but I’m still not convinced that we couldn’t train our squad to cope with Walcott loss (in terms of how we play).

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Benny M

      To a certain extent you might have a point, but here’s that thing that makes the Walcotts and Ramseys of the world as special as they are – football intelligence. Its about the timing of the run, about knowing when to stay back, defend, and when to move forward. Its about meeting your teammate’s pass, its about anticipation and about reading your marker to know how to beat them. So yes, to a point you can coach that into players, but guys like Walcott and Ramsey also have it in them to know when to make their runs and make them count. These guys are NOT a dime a dozen, so when you find them, you pull out the stops to keep them, as Arsenal has.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Söng

      You can instruct the players but if they’re used to playing a certain way, they instinctively fall back to that. At one point in the Everton game, we won the ball near the halfway line and Rosicky was carrying the ball forward. Cazorla was actually ahead of him but rather than go forward to give Thomas a forward option, Santi checked back and ended up in a supporting position behind him. Clearly, either we are practicing those movements and the players simply aren’t executing them or we’re not practicing them at all.

  6. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Chowdhury

    I agree that we missed both Ramsey and Walcott immensely. When people want us to be compact and defend, having someone like Theo adds a different dimension.
    I know its hindsight, but with these two in our lineup, we could give Bayern a run for their money.
    Finding someone like Ramsey is not that difficult, he is about industry more than other things. Replacing someone like Theo (especially in his current form), would be difficult. One player with similar attributes would be Lucas Moura. But he is taken I reckon.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Söng

      I think you’re underestimating Ramsey quite a bit. At the time he got injured, in the BPL, he led the team team in tackles and in goals scored. Despite missing all these games, he’s still 2nd in scoring, 3rd in assists and 3rd in tackles. If Aaron can become the type of midfielder that can consistently lead us in tackles, score in double figures and get close to double figures in assists season after season, I’ll show you a player who can walk into just about any side in the world.

  7. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Söng

    Ugh, Arsenal were completely outclassed by Everton and despite our “easier” run in, given our seemingly fragile mental state and terrible run of form, Champions League relegation is a very real possibility. Our defending has supposedly improved but against the better teams away from home, it’s been shitty.

    Injuries have taken a toll and our small chance of wining a title was probably nixed the day Theo injured his ACL and every game that Ramsey missed gradually eroded the cushion we had for the Champions League places. Arsenal our investigating the possible causes of our now annual injury crisis but this article implies that some, if not perhaps all, can be laid directly upon Wenger.

    http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/apr/04/arsenal-injuries-supplements-arsene-wenger

    Forget the goddamn supplements, that’s not it. At the bottom of the article Wenger admits playing Ramsey while he was “tired” and the clear implication is that Aaron needed a rest. I’ve complained for a while that one of Wenger’s major faults as a manager is his unwillingness to rotate the squad. He’s always maintained that making too many changes to his lineup was detrimental to the way the team plays. To me, the best managers figure out a way to win when they have to put in their squad players. It seems that Wenger has learned nothing from the experience of Jack Wilshere. Jack the lad lost an entire season to an injury incurred because Wenger continued to play him while he was in the red zone and he’s continued to have injury problems since. And despite that experience, Aaron loses half a f***ing season to a thigh muscle injury when Arsene played him when he probably should have rotated him. What’s the point of having medical experts, state of the art GPS and physiological data gathering systems, and state of the art medical facilities if you ignore the data?

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Scott Von Gooner

      All true. Tee Song. It’s time to move on. Of course we can go on with Wenger in charge but is this mess really going anywhere? It was a good try on many and interesting at times but it’s not working. A good younger boss with new ideas would be refreshing. Forget January, Arsenal started this season with Giroud as our #1 striker and Bendtner as our #2. Really? Sanogo started against Bayern.? This is not a good plan.

    2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Benny M

      I’ve never been a Wenger out guy, and still not sure I am. I’m just taking it game by game these days. I will say though, that while most focused on that supplement thing, I like you took a real issue to his comments about playing Ramsey. Us laymen could see that he was being run into the ground (he started essentially every game of the season bar Napoli away and Norwich at home, and he still posted significant minutes in that game) and his slight dip in form in December shows that he was fatigued, and my gut feeling is that he was already carrying that niggling thigh issue that ultimately resulted in his injury. Now this is just from someone who watches matches, I would hope and think Wenger and his staff have access to a comprehensive set of information on Aaron’s physiological data before, during and after games. This set of data would have probably showed him in the fabled ‘red zone’. Yet they continued to risk him. This really irks me because we eventually lost him for 3 months, during which any semblance of a title challenge collapsed, after all that hard work during the first half of the season. Who knows, even if Rambo was rested that game, or the game before or after, he still might have gotten injured at some other point – but to me that’s a rather astonishing admission from an extremely intelligent and experienced manager. It hurt not only Arsenal, but the player himself, who was on track to seriously contending for PFA Player of the Season as well.

      Blargh.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1Jaymin

    We can’t rotate because the gulf in class between starters and subs is too vast. As for the injuries, that is issue number one for me. we have to find out what the issue is, and fix it. heads must roll. we’re too cushy with our failing medical staff. Losing Theo was the hammer blow, he has alwys been immense, despite what morons have prattled on about his supposed failings for years. we might have to reconcile ourselves to the possibility that, post-acl rupture, his effectiveness may falter as much as that of his idol Michael Owen’s did, and, replace his pace. Losing out on the top 4, though, would make this tough. pool wrapped up that player in Sterling.

  9. Vote -1 Vote +1caribkid

    Five years ago I wrote an article on the YAMA blog where I predicted that Wenger would never take us to a major championship honor again during his tenure and the amount of “hate” responses I got was incredible.

    Wenger and company has slowly sucked the passion out of me for my beloved club and the same reasons I presented then are still the same reasons we are seeing today. Which other top team in Europe or the rest of the world goes into a new season with one striker, no DM, 3 CB’s and 100 + Millions cash in their bank account.

    I get very tired writing about the obvious weaknesses of our squad and the tactical naivety of our team every year and although I do watch every game I’m just becoming numb. Maybe, just maybe, I will have something to rejoice about in the next few years.

    From a disillusioned.fan of Arsenal, not Arsene Wenger..

    1. Vote -1 Vote +11NiltotheArsenal

      “Arsenal have no confidence, no charisma and no belief, admits Arsene Wenger after Everton defeat”,
      \
      http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/arsenal-no-confidence-no-charisma-3383153#ixzz2yARYfMEo
      Follow us: @DailyMirror on Twitter | DailyMirror on Facebook

      Cheers, Carib Kid…

      You have articulated some of the reasons why I stopped commenting here. This was a sad occasion, but I ask you to keep the faith BECAUSE we are shit right now. We are shittier than shit. If Arsenal were renamed “SHIT” and were actually made from shit we’d still be shittier than that, at least right now.

      It’s easy to be a fair weather fan, it’s so hard when your club is…you guessed it…shit. I broke my vow of silence to ask all to keep the faith. To those of you travelling to Wemberly at the weekend, I ask of you what I’d do if I had the werewithal to be there: to scream my lungs out in support of the club. They need us right now. Because they are truly shit.

      1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Benny M

        Oh man please don’t quote the Mirror. I know what Wenger said and of course the tabloid blows it way out of proportion.

        But I feel your pain. I find that a bit of detachment helps. I still watch every match and follow every development at the club, but since the 6-0 I’ve been a bit emotionally distant. It helps.

        And I totally echo your sentiments re: supporting the club during times of crisis. You can’t enjoy the highs of the first half of the season if you can’t stick by these same guys during the absolute low of the second half.

        Come on lads, let’s see a reaction…and soon. Real soon. Otherwise its Thursday nights for us, and that will be a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.

  10. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Shard

    A team short of confidence and half its starters out, playing against a team in good form, playing well, at home, with every bounce of the ball favouring them.

    Honestly, that was very disappointing. Arteta and Flamini were, for me, particularly culpable. We left gaps in defense far too easily. Let Everton overrun us in midfield. And our attack really looks disjointed.

    Anyway. The only thing to do now is to win every singly moment of every single game. We need the FA Cup, and we need the results in the league. Once the season is over, it can be properly assessed. It’s been weird. A season of undeniable progress, and yet seeming decline all at the same time. It’s hard to make sense of right now. I expected a title challenge this year and got it. Many expected relegation from Cl spots. Are they going to get that too? That would be proper Arsenal wouldn’t it?

    I still believe in this team though. We are better than what we’ve seen recently. Lack of confidence seems the biggest issue to me. The only way to restore confidence is to fight and get results. We need to show much more fight than we did yesterday.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +12ajugo

    do not blame arsenal coach, you have to blame the owner because he dose not want to spend big money on good player and do pay them good.

  12. Vote -1 Vote +12ajugo

    let the owner go and give break for arsenal fans and good player to joint the team .every big club are pay player with good money and to make them play good

  13. Vote -1 Vote +1Okoronkwo Iheanyi Okolosi

    Too many injuries to he 1st team players actually doomed our season. Change of manager wouldn’t sto the injuries but depth in squad players can get us over the line when injuries hit the starting 11. So if Wenger can have 2 starting 11s, i am not sure this will will reapt itself. I believe in Arsenal and forever will support them even in crisis like this. I kinda like the everton score because it has awakened us all that the squad players we have are not good enough. We have been lucky for a while with the players when playing smallers teams. But the character is not there against big teams. More players (quality and squad) players will do.

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