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!