Monday night’s 2-0 victory against Newcastle took us to 63 points for the season, matching last season’s total. A fantastic achievement for Unai Emery, who has taken a disjointed and injury ravaged team to that tally with seven games still to play. Spurs managed to win their first game at their new stadium reclaiming third after we temporarily displaced them. However, victory at Everton this weekend would send us two points clear with six games to go. The Spaniard has us playing confidently and competitively, and on current form third is ours to lose.
Goals from Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette were enough to break down a tough Newcastle defence. Mr right place right time Ramsey cleverly slotted away a half chance to put us 1-0 ahead in the first half. Juventus are getting a true professional in the summer. Lacazette sealed the three points with a delightful chip finish after latching onto a knock down from Aubameyang. The Frenchman has really stepped up this year and surely must be a consideration for club captain. His tenacity on the pitch and will to win continue to motivate the fans and his teammates. Despite strong performances from both, Man of the Match had to go to Mesut Ozil. Our number ten was back to his purring best adding guile and fluidity in the final third. Newcastle struggled to keep up with him and his vision laid the foundation for most of our best attacking work. If he can deliver this level of performance away from home we will have no issues finishing third. Hopefully the Ozil/Emery standoff is over!
This victory was by no means straightforward. Newcastle were set up to be resilient like their manager. Its no surprise they have the eighth best defence in the league having only conceded 42 goals. Importantly, we continued our run of improved defensive displays with Sokratis the force once again. Since his return against Southampton we have only conceded twice with one of those being the dodgy penalty against Spurs. This new found solidness at the back has come at the right time and the organising prowess of Sokratis is at the heart of it.
With five wins and a draw from our last six games, there have been many positives. However, what I have find most impressive is our new found ability to retain performance levels whilst adjusting tactics and personnel. Arsene Wenger favoured continuity and habit building, hence why he was often reluctant to change his system. It finally seems that the squad are comfortable with the diversity Emery craves with us seamlessly transitioning between 4231, 343 and 3421. The manager is building the foundations of a strong team that with the right backing could become great again. Lets just hope the board match his ambition.
Next up: Goodison Park
This weekend we face the in-form Everton at Goodsion Park. The Toffees are coming off of back to back 2-0 victories against Chelsea and West Ham. In our last ten premier league fixtures, Everton have only won twice so they will be even hungrier for their third London scalp.
A draw wouldn’t be a disaster, but I feel we need a win to lay down a marker to our rivals that recent form is not a fluke.
Prediction: Everton 1 – 2 Arsenal
Come on Arsenal!