Three reasons why Everton will pip Arsenal to fourth place
Trevor Murray takes a look at three reasons why Everton will pip Arsenal to a fourth-place finish this season
Everton possess big-game character
Arsenal and Everton’s Super Sunday clash seems to have taken on more significance than many would have imagined a few weeks ago. With Arsene Wenger’s title hopes all but gone up in smoke following a series of capitulations and defensive calamities, securing the final automatic Champions League place is now his primary concern. No doubt, the meeting of the two at Goodison Park will be a real test of character for both sides. Before the season started, the assertion that the Toffees would beat Arsenal to a higher placing in the league would have been whispered by only a select few. But with home advantage on Sunday, the truth is that they have every chance of turning up the heat on the Gunners even more. Simply put, Roberto Martinez is tantalisingly close to over-achieving should he guide the Merseyside club into Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in their history. And while the reality of that may yet be some distance away, the fact remains that Everton have given themselves every right to be in contention – they are the in-form side between the pair and have already proven themselves this season against some of the top-tier’s heavyweights. In stark contrast to Arsenal who have flopped on the big stage far too often, Everton have vanquished their fair share of giants this season by beating Manchester United and Chelsea as well as drawing with current table-toppers Liverpool. The Toffees’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of Arsenal in the FA Cup duly noted, they did manage a 1-1 draw with them in early December, so they certainly should not be discounted especially with the home crowd willing them on to put themselves in the driving seat to make history.
Incentive of UCL money & favourable schedule will spur Blues on
With Martinez last week revealing plans of a revamped, modernised training complex to include a bed for every player, as well as targeting the summer as the appropriate time to ring a host of personalised changes, it’s pretty clear the Blues are in need of the cash windfall they’d get on securing Champions League football. To put it dramatically, if Everton want to finally make the leap from long-standing pretenders to competitors, now is the opportune time to step up to the plate. And having never before tasted the delight of the big Champions League match nights (aside from a third qualifying round clash with Villarreal in 2005), it’s easy to see how their hunger and desire will far outweigh that of Arsenal. In essence, they’ve already shown they want it more; striking a far more composed and cool figure in the form guide by winning their last five. Of course, the north Londoners are also desperately in need of the money – having qualified for the competition a consecutive 16 times, it’s not easy to imagine the mid-week ties without their unique brand of football. Nonetheless, you don’t get in to Uefa’s most prestigious tournament on the back of past successes, and it looks as though Arsenal are in for a hectic final few games to prove themselves – not to mention they also have the added headache of an FA Cup semi-final in the coming weeks. Add to this the fact that the league has Everton’s undivided attention as well as possessing the added bonus of having a game in hand over their competitors, and the prospect of them coming out on top at the end of the season begins to look less and less outrageous.
Pressure of Wenger treading a fine line will help
Although it would be ludicrous to suggest that Wenger is in any danger of getting the sack, there remains massive pressure on the Frenchman to compensate for the manner in which they’ve thrown the title away. Truth be told, to lose crunch ties is one thing, but to suffer such heavy, embarrassing defeats is something that has left many – Wenger included – totally baffled. Frankly, as of their 5-1 away-day drubbing by Liverpool back in February, he has edged closer and closer to this season becoming somewhat of a miserable failure; a misery that was compounded even further by their recent 6-0 Chelsea defeat. Arsenal have totally lacked the big-game mentality and although this will be their chance to prove that they can win crunch ties and that their spirited 1-1 draw against City wasn’t just a flash in the pan, their track record this season, when it matter most, certainly doesn’t inspire one with too much confidence. Tactically, it’s up to the 64-yar-old head-honcho to get things right and it will be his responsibility to ensure that when they cross the white chalk at Goodison Park, they enter the tie with a winner’s mentality. However, they’ve only really been winners at The Emirates, and have lacked the necessary punch in away games. With Wenger no doubt feeling the pressure of Sunday’s tie, don’t be surprised to see Arsenal fold on the big stage once more and expect to see Everton pushing them hard right from the off. Arsenal are on the ropes and Romelu Lukaku and company will be going straight for the jugular.