Morning folks and welcome to the last Friday pre match ramble of this Premier League season. There will be plenty of time for a review of the season and reflect on how good it is, but much like those Arsenal players having to forget whatever happens in Manchester (although we’re all 99.9% in the know about what will happen) on Sunday and getting their game faces on, we as fans need to also do our bit and make sure we have our game faces on for another cup final that simply has to be won.

We’re yet to hear from Mikel Arteta in his press conference, so instead I thought – like I have for a number of games this season – I’d take a look at our opponents and see what’s going to transpire with the visit of Sean (Allar)Dyche’s Everton.

It’s a difficult one to fully assess because Everton have ensured their safety a few weeks ago with a win at home to Forest followed by a local derby win at home to Liverpool to all but confirm their falling away from us and Man City. So much like West Ham have little to play for, the same could be argued of the Toffees, who did their job, then won their last two home games of the season against Brentford and Sheffield United and now sit in 15th place a point above Brentford. I guess there’s the hope that they will try their best to keep that spot because they’re one ahead of Brentford, but whatever happens this weekend the best they can do is 15th and the worst they can do is 16th. It’s even worse for us when it comes to West Ham; win, lose or draw West Ham will remain in ninth and ninth is where they will stay. I appreciate the message I think Mohammed Kudus said about “I will see my Ghanaian brother lift the Premier League trophy” but we all know in reality it’s probably a forgone conclusion.

It’s also therefore difficult to properly analyse Everton, because much like West Ham, they have no incentive to do anything other than go through the motions. From a statistical point of view Everton are better at home (28 points) than they are away (20 points) and have won five and drawn five from their 18 games. Their last two away games have been quite a contrast though, with a 1-1 draw away at Luton and being absolutely hammered 6-0 by Chelsea. They’re a hard working outfit – which you’d expect under Dyche – but they aren’t free scoring, with just 39 goals all season (joint second worst with Burnley). But that 6-0 thrashing by Chelsea belies the real strength of this Everton team, which is (again – Dyche side) in defence. In fact behind Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool Everton have conceded the fewest goals in the league with 46 all season. Six of those alone came in that Chelsea game and so if you’re going to predict how this match on Sunday is going to go, it’ll be that Everton will set out to frustrate us.

That in itself is a worry because Man City are playing against one of the worst defensive teams in the league in West Ham, whilst we play one of the best in Everton, so if anyone is in for a tough afternoon on the goalscoring front, it’ll be us.

Their expected goals against is also low (sixth best in the league) and so the quality of chances they give away isn’t great. They don’t really progressively carry the ball and they don’t progressively pass the ball; this is an old school route one side with Everton attempting the most long balls of any side in the league. They’ve attempted more than 100 long balls compared to the next team in the league in the long ball stats, which is Bournemouth. So we all know what we’re going to see a lot of this weekend, which is Pickford launching the ball to the likes of Calvert-Lewin to win knock downs for the likes of McNeil and Beto. Jack Harrison is injured so it will most likely be the choice and it wouldn’t surprise me to see those two big lads up front battling to win knock downs. If you closed your eyes and pictured an Everton attack it would be Pickford going long to Calvert-Lewin who is battling with Saliba or Gabriel, so this weekend we’re going to need to make sure our back line. One look at Everton’s style of play on WhoScored re-iterates that again. A team who like set pieces, who like aerial duels, take long shots and deliver long balls. They don’t care about not having the ball, they just want to stay compact and in their shape and be difficult to break down. This is very unlikely to be a hammering on Sunday and we should all be mindful of it.

The upside is that apparently they are missing a few players and I’ve already mentioned Jack Harrison, but at full back they have a couple of players out too, which means their right and left back pairing will be wily old heads in the shape of 35-year-old Seamus Coleman and 38-year-old Ashley Young. If we’re going to get any joy against Everton this Sunday you suspect it will have to come from our wide players and potentially some overlapping to double up. We’ll most likely look to deliver those overloads by have White, Saka and Odegaard matching up on that right hand side and you have to hope that they will get some joy. It’s difficult to do that when you’re facing what will inevitably be a low block, but this Arsenal team has shown it knows how to unpick a low block. So I am hopeful. It probably isn’t a game in which Martinelli will start and certainly given his form you’d expect Trossard to be wide left, but in a game against this kind of opponent you’d say that’s the better option anyway given his trickery and Martinelli’s need for a little more space. More than likely he’s an off the bench option in the second half.

Everton will make this tough, they will be hard to break down, but for one final time this 2023/24 season, Arsenal need to do their job and pray for a miracle. It’s unlikely to happen but hey, them’s is the breaks.

Right, I’m offski for today. Back tomorrow with some post-presser thoughts as we build up to that final home game of the season. Catch you all then.