Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal side to avoid any letdown from their victory over Bayern Munich when they go up against Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Late goals from Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil secured a 2-0 win over an in-form Bayern on Tuesday to revive Arsenal’s hopes of reaching the Champions League knockout phase. Yet, with Arsenal having regularly been labeled as inconsistent in recent times, Wenger is eager for his side to make a statement this weekend.
“We have a big game in front of us against Everton and we can extend our run,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “Our focus is mainly on our next game.
“You gain credibility through consistency and when people think this could be a game where people think we could slip a bit and you respond in a positive way. I believe that [at the] top level, you come out of a big game and show you can focus again and produce the same performance again.”
A victory could also be hugely significant for Arsenal, in that it would take them, at least temporarily, a point clear at the top of the Premier League table. And, with leaders Manchester City visiting third-place Manchester United on Sunday, Arsenal could well end the weekend at the summit.
But amid all the positivity, Arsenal have also been handed an injury blow. Aaron Ramsey was forced off against Bayern with a hamstring injury and will now miss at least three weeks of action. Captain Mikel Arteta has also suffered a fresh ankle injury. There could be a temptation to make further changes to the lineup, given their exertions last time out, although Wenger commented that “the team will not be much different.”
While Arsenal should still be full of confidence, Everton will go into the contest on the back of a chastening defeat. The Merseysiders had lost just once in eight Premier League matches heading into last week’s fixture at home to Manchester United, but they fell flat with a lackluster performance and a 3-0 defeat. And manager Roberto Martinez is seeking a win at the Emirates as a perfect way to bounce back from disappointment.
“It was a really bad day for us,” he said. It’s one of those results that you couldn’t see coming. As a team we want to be back to reach the level that we’ve showed consistently this season. We’ll have to do it probably in one of the hardest arenas in the league, against one of the hardest opponents.
“We know we’re going to find a team probably in their best moment. But it’s one of those games where we need to look at ourselves and react from what happened in our performance at the weekend and make sure that we are as good as we can be.”
Recent history provides little encouragement for Everton. It is 21 matches and nearly 20 years since Everton last came out on the winning side at either the Emirates Stadium or Arsenal’s former home of Highbury.
Some good news for Everton comes from the return from injury of Tom Cleverley and Steven Pienaar, although both remain lacking in match fitness. Leighton Baines, Muhamed Besic and Tony Hibbert remain on the sidelines.
D: Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal
M: Coquelin, Cazorla
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Sánchez
D: Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Galloway
M: McCarthy, Barry
Deulofeu, Barkley, Naismith
Kickoff time: 12:30 p.m. EDT
TV channel: NBC
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra