Everton v. Arsenal: preview and prediction

Arsenal have a real problem with their away stats. My model uses top five players and ranks them based on their score home or away. Arsenal’s top five away performers this season are Koscielny, Ramsey, Mustafi, Cech, and Xhaka. Since I don’t count keepers, and Mustafi is 100% injured, the next players in that group are Sead and Monreal.  Their combined score is 34.08 and they have a combined 1 assist.

Last season the top five away players were Sanchez, Mustafi, Koscielny, Ozil, and Ox. Their combined score was 36.39 and they scored 21 goals and had 13 assists. I have a way to account for Alexis’ drop in form this season while also keeping his numbers from last season.

So, with my projected top five starters – Alexis, Koscielny, Ramsey, Xhaka, and Kolasinac – I get an away score of 35.08.

Fortunately for Arsenal, Everton are in horrid form. They are at least scoring goals at home but they are also leaking goals. Niasse and Rooney are their only goalscorers at home (2 for Niasse and 1 for Rooney) but neither player figures in my “top five” calculation because they haven’t played enough. So, I have a projected starting top five for Everton of Keane, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Williams, and Baines. Their combined score is just 34.79

This is the statistical equivalent of two 11th-20th place teams facing each other and my model suggests a draw.

Arsenal were 36.39 in last season’s away games and Everton’s home combined score was 37.91 – that’s a 2-1 win for Everton according to my model, which is exactly what happened. But if you remove Alexis and Ozil for Arsenal and Lukaku and Barkley for Everton, both teams drop to being mid-table clubs. It’s hilarious to me that Everton and Arsenal fans expect more from their clubs when they are clearly missing their best players and no one has stepped up to cover the gap.

Arsenal might consider themselves a bit unlucky so far in away games. They have only scored the one goal (Meattower) but they have a combined expected goals scored of 5.7. Still, the Arsenal defense has been the problem this season with an expected goals of 7.1 and a goals allowed of 7. Even removing the incredibly distorted result against Liverpool, Arsenal have an expected goals allowed of 3.65 and an actual goals allowed of 3.

Arsenal’s defensive problems are largely a function of the fact they can’t score. They have 1 goal on an expected goals of 4.93 (removing Liverpool) and all of that high pressing and sending bodies into the attack allows teams to counter attack Arsenal. Against Red Star Yeast it looked like the Belgians were happy to concede corners and free kicks because they knew that Arsenal would throw 8 players forward and leave just two, inexperienced, fullbacks behind to mop up counters. Expect Everton to look to counter off Arsenal corners with Jagielka and Williams easily winning aerials against Lacazette and Arsenal continuing to struggle to win the second ball with their soft as lanolin midfielders.

Everton’s under fire manager Ronald Koeman hinted at the game plan for the weekend. After losing in the Europa League to Lyon he barked, “We have not got the finesse or the confidence at the moment to try and play out from the back, we make too many mistakes. We are better when we play more direct.”

Given the overall lack of quality between the two teams, I am expecting a fight from Everton because it’s their only real chance of winning. Koeman doesn’t have the big Giroud type he wanted this summer so he will probably look for Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Sandro Ramirez to hit Arsenal on the counters.

I’d also be absolutely shocked if Rooney doesn’t start: he’s scored 14 goals against Arsenal in his career, the second most of any club he’s faced.

Referee tomorrow is Craig Pawson. Everton’s record with Pawson is 1-4-2 and Arsenal’s record is 5-2-3. Pawson was one of the referees who allowed Marcus Rojo to put in a two-footed tackle and was spectacularly panned after a red card to Vardy last season. Things got so bad that Howard Webb called for him to lose a few weeks work. But Pawson was handed plenty of big games after those errors, including the FAC semi-final between Arsenal and City. City felt aggrieved when Aguero was denied a clear penalty from a foul by Ox, then had a goal denied for an incorrectly called ball out of play. Arsenal were also denied a clear penalty for Alexis when Jesus held him back.

Pawson has never awarded a penalty in an Arsenal match (for or against) and this is not unusual in recent years: the trend in Arsenal matches (in England) is toward fewer overall penalties awarded than expected.

Prediction: 1-1 draw.




  1. I think we’ll be lucky to get a 1-1. I know they’re in bad form, but given how bad we’ve been away from home recently, and AW’s inability to beat Koeman teams, I’m expecting them to turn us over, let’s say 2-1. Let’s not forget they were on a wretched run last year right before playing us at home in December and running away 2-1 winners in a game that we really should have won (not unlike last week’s Watford game, come to think of it, though Everton last year were more talented than Watford this year).

    Fun fact: we’ve yet to see Alexis-Lacazette-Ozil start a single competitive game for Arsenal, and we’re nearing the end of October. This is crazy. If Arsene will start them together consistently that might just kickstart our season (though I have my doubts, with central midfield so dysfunctional), but I can’t see it happening this weekend.

  2. Too negative I think. If we play one of Sanchez or Ozil, we’ll get chances for Lacazette to put away. And Xhaka can’t be as bad as he has been all season. Everton are in a dire run; even if they play defensively and play hoofball, I think we’ve got sufficient defence to nullify them. But I’m sure we’ll gift them one. If we score first and force them to attack, I can see 1-3 for us and more pressure on Koeman.

  3. I have a bad feeling about tomorrows game (though I have a bad feeling for most games these days). I’m hoping for the best, but if we have some kind of cataclysmic Arsenally implosion (which we’ve seen lots of times), I’m seriously thinking that Wenger’s situation will start to become untenable.

  4. Should be the perfect game for Koeman to get his Everton career back on track. Wouldn’t be too surprised if we end up making Calvert-Lewin and Ramirez look like world beaters or Rooney 5 years younger. I just don’t look forward to away games any more. My only hope is that Everton keep up their dreadful form. I will be optimstic and go with 2-2.

  5. If Wenger pair Walcott or Ramsey up front with Lacazette and pair Wilshere with Xhaka and Ozil, we have a better chance of scoring and winning. Walcott and Lacazette can easily unbalance defense with their off-the ball run (same with Ramsey), Wilshere can pick those guys up quickly. But knowing Wenger, he will line up the predictive Sanchez and Lacazete up front. And Sanchez will be playing Hollywood. And we might just find it difficult to win.

  6. Halftime thoughts:
    1. The challenge on Xhaka is a foul.
    2. He’ll get plenty of criticism for losing the ball there (to put it mildly), and rightly so (though Per deserves some too for a silly pass), but this is what happens when you expect someone who’s not Patrick Vieira in his pomp to play all on his own in midfield.
    4. Otherwise, we’re playing well, and our attack is quite delicious..

  7. Come on, man. Stop blaming everyone else, except Xhaka, for Xhaka’s mistake. The problem isn’t the pass back, or Ramsey (that was predictable) the problem was his heavy touch that turned a pass in a tight space into a loose ball. He didn’t need that ball to bounce 10 feet off him — he needed to protect it better. Credit too to Everton for good hustle in the middle of the park, and to our old nemesis for a really good finish. Another Everton player was also in Per’s eye, and a split second hesitation over which man to occupy gave Rooney the opportunity and he took it well.

    Monreal has been our best player this season, and his goal is a just reward. Good goal by the front 3 to take the lead. Intelligent players always find a way. I don’t care how much pressing defence Welbeck brings from the front, or whether their suitcases are already packed, he shouldn’t be getting into the team ahead of Sanchez or Ozil.

    1. I said he should receive criticism. I’m absolutely blaming him. I’m also blaming Arsene for the way we play, with one guy in the midfield engine room. Against well organized, smart teams it’s going to bite us in the ass over and over again. That was my point.

      1. And it has NOTHING to do with blaming him for the goal (which I didn’t), but if you can’t see that we’re unbalanced with Ramsey constantly making runs into forward positions too early in the buildup, then you’re not watching what I’m watching. It’s frustrating from Ramsey, but I don’t blame him (I blame him for other things, but not that), because it’d be a relatively simple thing for Wenger to cut out if he really wanted to. It’s Wenger’s suicidal midfield tactics that will keep costing us.
        But hey, Everton are bloody awful (first time I’d seen them this season), so we cruised.

        1. Even if you’re correct in the big scheme of things about being unbalanced (and I’ve said consistently that I don’t think they complement each other that well), I still think that your reaction was a too-quick resort to your favourite hobby horses.

          Xhaka’s issue IN THIS INSTANCE, wasn’t acres of space to patrol, it was his failure to protect the ball in a tight space. What happened on the goal actually runs counter to your argument.

          Let’s run a thought experiment, and it’s Santi who received the pass. One, it sticks to his bootlaces as if glued there. Two, if he can spin, drop a shoulder and ferry/carry, he does so. If it’s not on, he knocks the ball back to Per, to allow him to find a safer outlet option.

          The ball bounced 10 feet off of Granit. Tight spaces play is actually a cornerstone of our play, and a failure to control in that situation was what led to the goal. I think that Doc got it spot on this.

    1. That was Peak Ozil (Trademark). Last time I can remember him playing like that was the 3-1 drubbing of Chelsea at the Bridge. He created 8 chances, scored arguably game’s most impactful goal (after Rooney’s opener) in the least Mesut Ozil way possible (run into the box, headed goal) and did his part in a complete team defensive performance. When he plays like this, I’m a) really chuffed to watch Arsenal play football and b) wondering where the hell this is for 90% of the games he starts for us.

  8. Easy to forget after watching them play the last 30 minutes like amateurs, but it was a fantastic premier league match in the first half and Everton played hard, pressing Arsenal in uncomfortable situations. I was overall impressed with the way Arsenal coped with that pressure, but the game’s opening goal still came when we were trying to play out and against a really good team, a moment like that will often decide the game. I don’t like blaming individuals but Xhaka really had to a) take a better touch and then when he felt his touch was too heavy b) bust a gut to get to it first. Neither happened, Gueye stuck in and probably fouled him but it was close enough that the referee let it go, and then Rooney wasn’t closed down fast enough by Mertesacker or Koscielny. In fairness, it was a great hit. I don’t remember Rooney impacting the game at all before or after that.

    Overall I felt Xhaka still played one of his better games, despite that mistake, and I am encouraged by his performance. He was competitive without fouling too much in the 50/50’s, rarely allowed himself to be played around or isolated, and mostly made good decisions in tight situations. His passing and outside shooting remain big weapons and the equalizer came about from his willingness to take aim from distance and ability to get it on target. If he can play like this consistently, Arsenal will be a good team. Alexis and Ozil played one of their best games and combined well with Lacazette in a front 3 that could be lethal if they can keep up this level of energy and cohesive play, especially if they are supported by, at a minimum, competent midfield play.

    From an Everton perspective, I don’t understand why Koeman signed both Rooney and Sigurdsson, much less he insists on starting them together. They are both more orchestrator than instigator at this point in their careers, and both are probably best used in dead ball situations. Arsenal has always been vulnerable to speed and power over the top of their defenders and with Mertesacker starting today it’s hard to explain his decision to pair these two. I did love Arsenal’s incision and drive in this game but a lot of it was because Everton didn’t carry enough forward threat.

    1. Agree with this. Xhaka did have a good game after the blunder, was instrumental in Monreal’s goal, and might have scored himself. His mistake apart, he had one of his better games for us this season — a season where he’s not played well at all. He offers what no one else does (at least not as effectively or well)… the ability break tight banks of defences and defensive lines by precise, over the top passing. That said, if Jack continues to improve, he’ll push him for his spot. Elneny, noticeably, was not even on the bench. Was he injured, or has Jack leapfrogged him?

      1. And it was the first time they’ve all started together for us. Coincidence that we actually looked deadly going forward? (Well, probably as much about Everton being rubbish, but still…)

        1. They were competitive in this game; this was not a procession, especially after we conceded first. We really had to earn those first two goals, even if the last 3 looked like training ground stuff. Still, the two goals we conceded were oh so very Arsenal (1st shot on target, etc).

        2. Yeah Everton probably had something to do with it but even taking that into consideration I thought our front 3 was really impressive today. I guess all we can do it enjoy this while it lasts.

  9. This is how you do the business against a relegation fodder team.
    Predictably Özil has a superb game where he is given space and time to shine.
    Sanchez needed that goal just for him to maintain his sanity.
    Cech needs to work on his foot speed with ball at his feet and his speed of thought in distributing the ball up field.
    Okay, okay so Monreal hit an under weighted pass back to Cech but I’ve seen Roberto Carlos make that same mistake so I’m not going to go bat shit over it.
    Nice run out for Wilshere here.
    More of the same for Swansea please.

  10. I thought we could have been up 2 nil before they had scored. Ramsey and Laca both wasted a couple of very good chances and when Everton inevitably scored with their first chance, all I could do was laugh. Still, we never let up and kept on creating chances. It’s a real shame that that we are set to lose both Ozil and Sanchez. Our front three were really fluid today.

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