Toffees pose sticky challenge: Everton preview

New bosses go head to head

Today we entertain an Everton side rejuvenated under the managership of Carlo Ancelotti and certain to give us a tough game.

The Italian took up his post at the same time as Mikel Arteta was given the reins at Arsenal and both new men have got off to impressive starts.

Arteta has stabilised the good ship Arsenal, which had been listing badly towards the end of Unai Emery’s spell in charge. We have lost only once under him, an unlucky defeat at the hands of Chelsea, and there has been a noticeable improvement in performances.

Everton, meanwhile, have suffered only one defeat since Ancelotti took over, and that was only by the odd goal to Manchester City. Their form now is in sharp contrast to their struggles prior to Ancelotti’s arrival.

The danger men for the Toffees are Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin, who have scored nine goals in eight games between them. But I’m sure I’m not the only Gooner fearing the curse of the returning player. Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi both seem to have dropped down the favourites list at Everton but either could hurt us if selected. 

Nevertheless, I’m sure Arteta will want to focus more on what we can do to them rather than the other way round.

Injury wise we should be in relatively good shape. Torreira and Ozil are both available and while Bellerin and Sokratis are “being assessed” they also are likely to be in contention.

My predicted team is this:


Bellerin – Mustafi – Luiz – Saka


Ceballos – Ozil

Pepe – Lacazette – Aubameyang

When you think of where we were a few months ago it’s extraordinary that Mustafi is now a shoo-in at centre back. The German had become a lost cause on a par with the Charge of the Light Brigade, Rourke’s Drift and the Spartans at Thermopylae, so it’s a credit to him for sticking at it and the manager for rehabilitating him. Let’s hope he keeps this up.

David Luiz, meanwhile, is on his best run of form since joining Arsenal and seems to relish his partnership with Mustafi (with the German taking prime responsibility for dealing with aerial threats while Luiz plays a more anticipatory role).

If I was choosing the team I would probably go with Torreira and Xhaka to anchor the midfield, but I have a hunch Arteta will stick with the midfield formation that produced a four goal win against Newcastle.

In that match Ceballos played a key role in freeing up Ozil to dictate the play, which he did with aplomb. I think Ceballos will get another chance today unless Everton’s more dangerous goal threat (compared with the Barcodes) persuades El Patron to be more conservative and go for the Terrier.

Up front I don’t see us going with Eddie again. Lacazette now has two goals in two games and Arteta will hope to see that run continue. I also see Pepe keeping his place after his good performance against Newcastle, probably his best game for us since he joined.

I feel a little nervous about this one. Everton’s confidence is high and they have their eye on European football next season, so they have plenty to play for. 

Let’s hope we get the ball to Saka as much as possible. He’s on a wonderful run of goals and assists and will be raring to go. And if Pepe puts in another Newcastle performance we have a real threat from both flanks.

Meanwhile Ozil, of course, can unlock any defence when he’s on form, and there are signs he is enjoying the new regime at Arsenal.

We’re good enough to win it if we take our chances but I would not be surprised with a draw. 

A win would put us only three points behind the Spuds and allow us to start dreaming about the top five or even the top four.

Come on you Gunners!



75 Responses to Toffees pose sticky challenge: Everton preview

  1. Thank you for the post Rocky …….. off to read it now.

  2. LBG says:

    Interesting Rocky
    I think you might well be right about Mikel’s selection, and my concern would be Ancelotti selecting more meat in his midfield and over running Xhaka ( with all that means for daft fouls/off the ball incidents). For that reason, and because I dont stop about it, I would play Torreira and your clientele, less Pepe and bring him on as explosive sub on sixty. This means of course two only up front, as I want Mesut centrally and Dani doing his own thing just behind him.
    Still I think your comment about letting Everton worry about what we will be doing to them, may be prophetic
    Whatever, a close game and three points somehow, Arsenal. Hit them hard, Fury style, from the start and dont leave off until the jobs done. COYG

  3. Sue says:

    Nice one, Rocky. Looking forward to this one…work till 1… home… then down the station!
    I think your line up will be spot on. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off last Sunday. Raining goals in NL 🙂
    Not sure if Theo will make it.. but I’m sure we’ll see Iwobi (not scoring the winner!!) COYG

    Fancy Tyson Fury winning!! What a fight… and listening to him singing American Pie..😂 What a fruit cake he is 😂 Surely it’ll be Joshua next 👍

  4. VP says:

    Rockstar post as always. Thank you.
    I agree with your lineup except I think Mikel might shoehorn Martinelli into the starting lineup and drop Laca. For all his 2 goals in his last 2 games, he is still not quite there. His work rate is up but his returns are down. But either way I’m happy with whoever is chosen to start. The team is looking good at the moment allowing Mikel to keep the opposition guessing who he will play and how.

  5. RA says:

    Hi ya, Rockety, 😜

    Another excellent Post which covers the ground, almost literally. The predicted team selection looks pretty spot on, altho I have my own variation on a theme, more of which in a moment.

    I have reported you the the Institute of Wannabe Post Writers, of whom I am the only member, for setting the Post writing bar so high that each time I think it might be better to resume my latent ambitions to renew my AA authorship, instead of annoying long suffering AAers in my comments mode, I think ‘nah couldn’t be bovered — think I’ll stick to bugging the innocent’.

    Anyhoo, might slight, but magnificently jaw dropping amendment to your predicted line up wood bee to bring in Koka Kola at right back, and move Saka-me- one-more-time to the left wing berth and drop Pepe to the bench (as LBG has suggested above) so the front row would then look like this;

    Auba — Laca — Saka

    Which sounds melodically poetic, but also could fulfil two functions.
    It would give us great pace to terrorise the Sticky Chews, and to show Theo what he could have done for us if only he had dribbled with the ball, instead of passing it backwards to midfield all the time.

  6. Rasp says:

    Thanks once again Rocky. I think you’ll have got at least 10/11 right in your team selection … but having said that, most of Mikel’s recent teams have held a surprise.

    No game is going to be easy from here onwards. As the season runs down the pressure becomes concentrated. Luckily our injury woes are easing and I doubt we will have a squad that is tiring, so we just need to give our all for every minute of every game.

    I can’t think of a game when Arteta has been out-thought tactically, si I’m backing him to have analysed the challenge and devised a mix of players and a strategy to give us the best chance of victory.

    I’d have loved to be there today. I expect our supporters to be walking away with a spring in their step and daring to dream that top 4 is not yet out of our grasp.

  7. RA says:

    I refuse to take responsibility for any spelling adjustments made by this crotchety old computer.

    “might” = my

    I blame Rasper, of course — haven’t quite worked out what for — but the accusation is a good start, as he has escaped my attention recently!!

  8. RA says:


    My singing lessons for for Mr Fury worked very well — in one swoop, he had 20,000 Brits singing;

    Bye, bye Miss American Pie
    Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
    And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
    Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
    This’ll be the day that I die

    He earned about £60m last night (this morning) but has not coughed up the 5 squid he owes me for the lessons!! 🙄

  9. RC78 says:

    I think Torreira will play today

  10. RC78 says:

    Leno – Bello, Must, Luiz, Saka – Torreira, Xhaka – Ozil – Pepe, Laca, Auba

    I think if Arteta wants to play Ceba, he ll put Pepe on the bench.

    Ancelotti will play a 442 and they have quality players to be honest and look at them this summer splashing the cash.

    Digne, Coleman need to be tamed and same with Richarlison, Lewin and Bernard. Ancelotti likes to stretch the play wide and also have the option of long balls so stretch vertically so I think Richarlison will be deployed as an anchor front man and Lewin will play right behind him.

    We hence need a strong defensive performance from our CB, DM, and wingers.

    Not overly confident but not dreading the game either. Will most likely end up in a draw but if we can win it, I ll be happy. I would say likely score 2-2 and in my ideal fan world, 2-1 for us

  11. Sue says:

    Hello RA.. I should’ve known you’d be behind that delightful (😜) singing!! What a cheap skate though – you, not him haha – I think you seriously need to hike your prices, or you’ll have me asking for some before long 😝

  12. LB says:

    I am the same as RC

    Leno – Bello, Must, Luiz, Saka – Torreira, Xhaka – Ozil – Pepe, Laca, Auba

    Thanks for the read, quality as always.

  13. Rasp says:

    Starting lineup:

    David Luiz

  14. Rasp says:



  15. RockyLives says:

    Morning all (I can say that as it’s 11.20 here in Canada).
    Seems I was right about Ceballos/Torreira but very wrong about Laka/Eddie and Saka at LB…

  16. VP says:

    surprised at dropping Saka and guessed right on Laca.
    lets see how Eddie goes

  17. VP says:

    3:30 am here Rocky

  18. VP says:

    shit, 3:31am and a goal down

  19. RC78 says:

    Oh Luiz – he better come up with a goal now 🙂

  20. RC78 says:

    Bellerin! Hit the target my friend…good play by the team and lay off by Pepe

  21. RC78 says:

    Cebba-Xhaka not providing a good enough shield and Kola playing too high

  22. RC78 says:

    Kola whacked by Sidibe, a bad fall and the shoulder and the head get hurt. He is off for Saka.

  23. RC78 says:

    And Saka with his 10th assist and Nketiah with his first Emirates goal

  24. VP says:

    Xhaka to Saka to Eddie to goal

  25. Aaron says:

    Ok. Xhaka with line perfect pass, Saka with a lovely left footed curler and Eddie finally slotting a tough one home.

  26. fred1266 says:

    Morgan is such a nasty player

  27. RC78 says:

    Luiz with the assist to Auba 🙂

  28. RC78 says:

    and Auba scoring Henry style

  29. Aaron says:

    Luiz with a super ball and you knew Auba was going to finish that!

  30. VP says:

    I didnt realise that it was Ancelotti that sold Ozil
    He made some comments at the time that Ozil didnt have the character to remain at Real Madrid
    Later he said he regretted the sale
    Lets hope he regrets it even more today and Ozil rips them apart

  31. RC78 says:

    well…2 soft goals given away and we are at 2-2

  32. Aaron says:

    2 garbage goals, darn, darn, darn. Leno has no air space control, none!

    Thought the Arsenal play was keeping Everton out of our danger zones, but 2 set piece mistakes.

    Arteta get them fired up at halftime and get some momentum going again.

  33. fatgingergooner says:

    What are these goals that we concede!? 🤦🏼‍♂️ Absolutely dreadful.

    Let’s hope we have enough attacking force to make up for the lapses at the back. I’m worried we will tire though so we could really do with a lead going into the last 20.

  34. Aaron says:

    That was some half time talk.

    Perfect pass by Mesut, placement, spin and speed, and Pepe with another very fine cross. Auba does what he needs too.

    Go Arsenal.

  35. fatgingergooner says:

    Ceballos has turned into Roy Keane! Enforcer.

  36. fatgingergooner says:

    I actually enjoy watching this Arsenal team passing the ball. Seems a purpose to it.

  37. RC78 says:

    why did our team start playing deeper?

  38. Aaron says:

    Saka needs to come off now.

    Kid is tired to the maximum..

    Leno with a big time save.

  39. Aaron says:

    LENO with command of his area!

  40. VP says:

    whoop whoop whoop

  41. fred1266 says:

    Sue I hope that wasn’t you trying to run onto the field to meet Eddie

  42. fatgingergooner says:

    Some people still claim that playing twice or 3 times in a week makes no difference, but i think we’ve just seen proof that it does. Even more so when that game in midweek is late on a Thursday away in Europe. We looked dead on our feet after an hour. Fantastic result and a big 3 points. Fair play to Leno who didn’t let his head drop and was fabulous second half. The players fought hard and showed great spirit with the fans right behind them. We still look miles away from what Arteta wants us to be, but we are getting most of the basics right now and the effort is definitely there which is a good place to start. We might not see Arteta’s Arsenal until next season, but I like what he’s doing with the players.

  43. RC78 says:

    I forgot Ozil – 6.5. Full of running and efforts. Could have had an assist but could also have been more in command of our attacking third.

  44. RC78 says:

    Auba – 17 goals
    Pepe and Saka with another assist each.

    Do you think Pepe can reach 10 assists in the EPL?

  45. LBG says:

    Three points, three good goals ( as against two spawny deflected ones). Joint Men of Match for me, Dani Ceballos and Mustafi ( see that idiot Piss mOrgan on twitter). Very good/good performances from Mesut, Saka and Aubang.
    Disappointing weak link for me is Hector – positioning poor, no confidence going forward and lost all his speed anyway since injury.

  46. RockyLives says:

    Mustafi MOTM? Or Auba?

  47. Mustafi was fab today

  48. RockyLives says:

    I just read your comments about the CBs.

    It’s strange how differently different people see things! I thought Mustafi was outstanding. Luiz was pretty good (he should have gone to ground when Calvert Lewis’s overhead kick hit his head – the goal would almost certainly have been disallowed).

  49. But Auba scored two goals ….. difficult to take it away from him

  50. LBG says:

    Feel not enough credit given to Everton, who were good on the ball and played intelligent triangles in possession. Richarlson is lightning quick but should not have been on pitch for second half. Referee happy to be fooled by falling over, and we were certain it was not a corner for their second goal. Any comments?

  51. RockyLives says:

    Agree Peaches. I hope someone does one of those videos with all his touches and moments v Everton. It will be an impressive reel.

  52. Rasp says:

    Auba is equal top EPL goal scorer despite his 3 match ban. I only saw the second half but what stuck in my mind was a string of headers and clearances from Mustafi when the rest of the team seemed to have become drained of energy … so I’d give it to Mustafi. He’s now put together 4 solid performances in a row.

  53. RC78 says:

    Richarlison and Lewin had some very good chances and were often in good positions ahead of Mustafi and Luiz. Luckily Leno was having a great day and Lewin missed his header by a few inches. It is not that they had a bad day at the office but they did not have a good day either if you see the amount and quality of chances that Richarlison and Lewin had to score.

  54. RockyLives says:

    Those chances were the fault of others ahead of the defence, not the CBs (as far as I can remember).
    As well as the fault of Everton for playing well! Cheeky so-and-so’s.

  55. Sue says:

    Haha no Fred, not guilty! Upper tier today!

    What an excellent result that was! Bloody hell how many seconds on the clock??!! Nice start to the 2nd half though 😉
    Didn’t look good for Kolasinac, surely that was a dislocation… meaning we won’t see him for ages… get well soon my love 😍
    Mustafi was rock solid – I put it down to the hair!! Another assist for Saka 👌 Not only are we closing the gap, Auba has too.. level with Vardy now…. happy days!!

    Shout out to Podolski, scored for his new team earlier (Antalyaspor) 2 minutes after coming on!

  56. Agree with LBG that Everton we’re good, played some lovely football and had total control of the game for about 20 minutes after we scored our third.

  57. RC78 says:

    Lewin s chance is due to Mustafi and Luiz not getting ahead of him in the air and the chance saved by Leno is a combination of a sleepy Bellerin and a Mustafi who gets beaten

    I agree that Everton played really well though and the front 2 r very good. Sigurd also had a good game.

  58. Sue says:

    I forgot to say – nice to see Andre Gomes back!

  59. Sue says:

    Our women won earlier too 👍 I also saw West Ham women beat Liverpool women 4-2… hoping that’ll be a nice omen for tomorrow night…. COYI

  60. LBG says:

    Two excellent parts of Mikel’s post match comments. His reasons for not returning overnight from Greece AND his, IMO, perfect understanding of the genius that is Mesut.

  61. RC78 says:

    We have to rack up as many points as we can until April 12th because from April 12th to May 2nd we will have our tough stretch in the EPL. We need to make sure we are in a good position by then and then let us hope that we can take points from Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham and Liverpool during that tough stretch.

    Arteta acknowledges that keeping Auba at the club will be a challenge. Also, no player has scored more goals in the EPL since Auba joined our club in January 2018.

  62. RockyLives says:

    Wow, that was GoonerB length!

  63. fatgingergooner says:

    Auba was motm for me. Not only did he score the goals but he did it whilst playing most of the match as an old fashioned left sided midfield player. He was always in front of Saka when he was needed and given that Everton had lots of the ball he had to do a hell of a lot of defending for someone who is supposed to be a striker. He never seems to complain and is always willing to get back. Not many strikers in the world with his sort of record would be willing to do what he’s doing for this team. I questioned the captaincy when he got it but it’s starting to make sense now as he certainly leads by example.

    I was a bit worried by how we got bullied in the air today. Everton have some big lads and we really struggled to contain them, especially on set pieces. We are not a big side at all and it’s a problem when you’ve got people like Mina and DCL in the box. I’d like to see Leno be a bit more commanding under crosses to help the defence out. He was better second half but still room for improvement.

    I think Luiz should get an extra half a point on his rating for the assist to Auba. It was a great ball and he timed it to perfection.

  64. fatgingergooner says:

    Just looking at some stats and Mustafi had 7 clearances, all inside our box, and nobody else had more than 1, but on the flip side there were 8 aerial duals inside our box and Everton won 7 of them.

    Mustafi was certainly picking up the pieces, but I think I’d just prefer a CB who wins the first headers! 😂

  65. LB says:

    Giving MOTM to a player for simply scoring a goal makes no sense to me but today was different, Auba was special.

    A lot of contenders though, Mustafi excellent, Ceballos superb and Xhaka, never mind what has happened in the past, he was outstanding today.

    World class assists from Saka and Luis and Pepe’s wasn’t to shabby either.

    Leno or Pickford? lol

    It’s late……..

  66. LBG says:

    Loved your random thoughts, and agree with them all, esp re Leno.
    Having rewatched, most impressed with competitiveness/50:50s won, in midfield, especially against a “tough”, big opposition; tracking back and pressing of Aubang and Pepe; and Mesut’s mileage! (can anyone find it out exactly stats wise?)
    Home on the train with an intelligent Palace fan, who I agreed with almost totally, until he called the German magician a flat track bully
    Nite, nite.

  67. RockyLives says:

    Good point about the competitiveness.

    Towards the end of the Emery era there were games when, never mind 50-50, we couldn’t even win 60-40s when the 60 was in our favour.

  68. RockyLives says:

    Mustafi had seven clearances, four aerials, three tackles and two interceptions.

  69. I’ve pinched Rocky’s thought’s and RC78’s player ratings for the post ……………….. back in a bit

  70. There’s a New Post ……………..

  71. fred1266 says:

    When u lucky u lucky

  72. fred1266 says:

    where is Zaeleam

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