After a morale-boosting victory at the Emirates against German giants Bayern Munich on Tuesday evening, it’s back to the rigours of Premier League football for Arsenal.
Despite a frustrating start to the 2015/16 campaign, it finally seems as though the Gunners are hitting the right notes – both defensively as well as on the attack.
In Arsène Wenger’s press conference, he confirmed the length of Ramsey’s hamstring injury, saying he’d be out for around three to four weeks.
As well as that, he also confirmed that Gabriel was back in full training after an illness that ruled him out of contention for the Watford game last weekend, whilst he’s unsure whether or not to rotate the starting XI itself. Former Blue Mikel Arteta suffered an ankle injury in training on Thursday, and as a result is out of contention.
Answering a question on Mesut Özil, he said he had no doubts about his ability – but was just hoping he would be able to add goals into his game as well as his impressive assist tally, which he’s gradually beginning to do. A world-class player, Wenger also said he’d be ‘more respected’ if he scored more goals too.
Despite not always getting the results we want, Wenger said the squad have an aura of ‘togetherness’ within, and there’s always a feel-good factor, emphasised by a pleasing victory over Bayern in midweek.
There was also praise for creative midfielder Ross Barkley – as Wenger said he has ‘massive potential’ and is ‘certainly one of the most promising’ players in the League.
Arsenal will be without Aaron Ramsey – following his hamstring injury during their 2-0 home win over Bayern during midweek. Apart from that David Ospina (shoulder), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tomas Rosicky and Danny Welbeck (knee) are the other first-team players sidelined at the moment as well as the aforementioned Mikel Arteta.
The starting eleven will most probably stay the same as it was in the previous match with the only certain change, a replacement for Ramsey which could come in the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who definitely needs a good run of games under his belt to assert himself as a regular starter.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; The Ox, Özil, Alexis; Walcott.
Everton travel to north London in the hope that they’ll be able to bounce back from a morale-draining defeat at the hands of Manchester United last time out. Admittedly, they’ve got plenty of talent at their disposal but defensively, they’ve been rather suspect at times this season.
With the centre-back pairing of Phil Jagielka and John Stones, they boast a refreshing mix of youth and experience between them, but that’s been overshadowed by individual mistakes, which they’ve struggled to iron out after a forgettable run in the previous campaign.
Tom Cleverley is in contention to feature for the Toffees, although it may seem unlikely that he’ll play the full ninety minutes as he builds up his fitness from the ankle injury he picked up earlier on in the season.
Leighton Baines (ankle), Tony Hibbert (knee), Steven Pienaar and Mohamed Besic (both hamstring) are all progressing well from their injuries. None of them will be in contention to feature though.
Possible XI: Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Galloway; Barry, McCarthy; Naismith, Cleverley, Barkley; Lukaku.
A point to prove
There is certainly a point to prove – for both sides.
Everton have Champions League aspirations, but lack the consistency to mount a proper challenge for Europe’s elite competition.
Occupying ninth place in the table at the moment, only four points separate them from fourth placed West Ham, which could all change if results go their way at the weekend.
Roberto Martinez will be intrigued to see how his side respond to their frustrating defeat, against an Arsenal side hoping for more success of their own.
With the Manchester derby kicking off just under twenty-four hours afterwards, the Gunners could see themselves at the top of the Premier League summit – provided they win first, and the local derby ends in a draw or narrow United win.
They may be setting themselves up for disappointment in the Champions League, but they must be winning matches against the likes of Everton if they’re to cement their credentials as a title-challenging squad.