Arsenal’s visit to Everton suddenly seems much more important than it did a few weeks ago, as the race for fourth really hots up. Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool are almost guaranteed to be the top three and it seems that it will be either The Gunners or The Toffees that take the final Champions League spot.
Arsene Wenger’s side’s tough run of games have left them without a win in their last three, allowing Everton to catch them up, with Roberto Martinez’s side winning their last five games.
It puts a huge meaning when the teams meet on Sunday, because if Everton are victorious and then win their game in hand over The Gunners, it will be the Merseyside outfit in fourth place going into the last few games of the season.
Roberto Martinez has done extremely well since replacing David Moyes at Goodison Park in the summer, and getting fourth spot ahead of Arsenal, who led the table for the majority of the first half of the campaign, would cap a superb season.
Read below to find out five reasons why I think that they can beat The Gunners to fourth place.
1. Nothing to lose
Last summer, nobody expected Roberto Martinez, coming in from recently relegated Wigan Athletic, would do so well at Everton, who had just seen David Moyes, who had served them so well for 11 years, replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
But The Spaniard has done exceptionally well, with the squad he has and The Toffees have been in and around the top four for the majority of the campaign and could now even finish there.
It would surpass expectations, so even if they didn’t qualify for the Champions League and finished fifth instead, it must be considered a success, so they have nothing to lose in the final six games and know that getting fourth would make an already triumphant season even better.
Arsenal meanwhile, must be feeling the pressure, after topping the Premier League table for the majority of the first half of the campaign are now cautiously looking over their shoulders as the possibility of not even finishing in the top four looms.
Their are definitely nerves in North London, as they know any lower than fourth and 2013-14 will be considered another failure for The Gunners.
2. Wenger fear
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 has been what has let The Gunners down this season.
Tactically, it’s up to the 64 year 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.
But if they walk back into the changing rooms after 90 minutes as losers, you would question Wenger’s ability to pick them up again for the final few games of the season.
He is one of the Premier League’s best ever managers, but usually he has a whole summer to rejuvenate squad after disappointment, but here he has only six games before The Gunners head to Wembley for their FA Cup semi-final against Wigan.
Is this task too big for the Frenchman?
3. Money incentive
With Roberto 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 changes in the squad, by spending big.
So it’s pretty clear The Toffees are in need of the cash they’d get on securing Champions League football and fourth place in The Premier League. David Moyes was always hesitant to spend in his time at Goodison Park but after Martinez’s transfer activity last summer, it’s clear he doesn’t have the same mentality as the current United boss.
That isn’t to say that Arsenal don’t need the money, but The Gunners obviously do have more than Everton thanks to sponsorships and the fact that unlike Everton they have been in the Champions League for the last 16 years.
But with the grit and determination that Everton have showed at times this season, they look as though they may want fourth place and its benefits more than The Gunners – a fact that may be evident on Sunday.
4. Big game mentality
The result of Sunday’s game at Goodison Park may be what decides who finishes fourth out of Everton and Arsenal, and going by form and capability to beat teams around them, you’d have to say The Toffees may just be the slight favourites when the match rolls around.
Arsenal’s downfall this season has been their inability to perform well against teams around them, losing to Chelsea 6-0, Liverpool 5-1 and Manchester City 6-3 away from home this season.
It is certainly a factor that needs sorting out quickly, as their trip to Goodison Park is their last ‘big’ game of the season, and the one in which a loss with have the biggest consequences.
Everton meanwhile have vanquished their fair share of giants this season by beating Manchester United and Chelsea as well as drawing with current table toppers Liverpool. Yes, they did lose 4-1 to Arsenal in the FA Cup last month, but they did manage a 1-1 draw with them in the league 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.
If you were to look at both sides fixtures remaining fixtures of the campaign, you’d have to say Arsenal have the easier run-in on paper, as after Sunday’s game, all but one of the teams they are left to face in the league currently sit in the bottom half of the league, whilst Newcastle United, the only top ten team they do come up against, are on a abysmal run since Alan Pardew received his touchline ban.
Meanwhile Everton host both the Manchester clubs. But is this such a problem? Goodison Park has been made into a fortress this season, with only Sunderland able to beat them at home this season.
Furthermore, they managed to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier in the season, whilst visited City when they were in their unstoppable goal scoring prime.
Arsenal also have an FA Cup quarter-final to consider, and host West Ham United just three days after they face Wigan Athletic. Hull City and Norwich City aren’t easy places to visit in the league either.
One thing’s for sure though. The race for fourth place will go right down to the wire.
This article is also being published on Touchline Talk, the website I write for. You can look at previous pieces of mine here: