Sunday’s Premier League action concludes at Goodison Park as out-of-sorts Everton and high-flying Arsenal go head-to-head in a lopsided contest.
An uneventful recruitment campaign during that summer backfired in the early days of 2023/24 as the Toffees lost their opening three league matches ‘to nil.’
While a come-from-behind 2-1 League Cup win over sub-par Doncaster offered some respite to Sean Dyche, he could be counting his final days in Liverpool unless his men recover from a disastrous top-flight start.
England international Jordan Pickford’s stunning double save in the last moments of a goal-glutted 2-2 draw at newly promoted Sheffield United probably saved Dyche’s skin.
However, the ex-Burnley manager heads into this fixture under heavy scrutiny, even though he is the last man to blame for Everton’s underwhelming form in the Premier League.
The Merseyside strugglers lack quality and strength in depth within their ranks, which can only encourage Arsenal to pick up where they left off before September’s international break.
Following a gut-wrenching 2-2 home draw against cross-capital rivals Fulham, Mikel Arteta’s side passed a stern test of character with flying colours, putting Manchester United to the sword last time out.
Blockbuster summer arrival Declan Rice couldn’t have picked a better time to open his Gunners account, slotting home a stoppage-time half-volley to break the parity at the Emirates Stadium.
It looked like Man Utd could walk away from north London with all three points when Alejandro Garnacho found the net at 1-1, but VAR disallowed the youngster’s goal for offside.
Arsenal took full advantage of the situation to clip United’s wings, netting two injury-time goals through Rice and Gabriel Jesus to maintain a near-perfect Premier League start (W3, D1) with a 3-1 victory.
Dyche has emerged as an early favourite to become the first Premier League manager to be relieved of his duties this season, with Arsenal’s visit to Goodison threatening to push him over the edge.
However, with several first-team stars expected to return to the fold for this encounter, the 52-year-old manager will hope history can repeat itself on Sunday.
When he assumed managerial reins from Frank Lampard last January, Everton were in the midst of a troubling seven-game winless run in the Premier League.
But Dyche brought them back to winning ways on his touchline debut, ousting none other than Arsenal 1-0 on home turf against the odds to make it three consecutive H2H home wins for the Toffees.
Arsenal avenged their disappointing result in Liverpool with a thumping 4-0 home victory in the reverse fixture, but their ‘Goodison jinx’ calls for extreme caution.
Since an overwhelming 5-2 win in 2017, the Gunners have lost four of their last five away league matches against Everton (D1), frustratingly failing to score on three occasions.
However, Arsenal finished the previous Premier League campaign as the best travelling side with 39 points, so it was no surprise they scooped up a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace on their only trip this term.
Arteta’s men cannot afford complacency, which could be a problem, given they entered the international break as one of six sides to win at least three Premier League games this season.
Long-term absentees Andre Gomes, Dele Alli and Seamus Coleman are still on the sidelines with injuries, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin facing a race against the clock to recover for this match.
But Everton will welcome the likes of Dwight McNeil, Michael Keane and Jack Harrison to the fold, offering Dyche a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel.
As for Arsenal, Mohamed Elneny, Thomas Partey and Jurrien Timber won’t leave London for this trip, but Gabriel Jesus’ return to full fitness is a massive boost for Arteta.
Everton potential starting line-up:
(4-4-1-1): Jordan Pickford; Nathan Patterson, Michael Keane, Mason Holgate, Ashley Young; James Garner, Idrissa Gueye, Amadou Onana, Abdoulaye Doucoure; Arnaut Danjuma; Beto.
Arsenal potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Aaron Ramsdale; Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ben White, William Saliba, Thomas Partey; Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard; Kai Havertz, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka; Gabriel Jesus.
We Say: Everton 0-2 Arsenal
Arsenal have been prone to conceding cheap goals this season, while their perennial struggle at Goodison casts further doubt on Arteta’s lofty ambitions ahead of this clash.
However, we expect the Gunners to buck both trends and stay within touching distance of early pacesetters Manchester City.
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