Everton v Arsenal, Premier League, August 15, 2009
Last season’s fifth-place Toffees play host to last season’s fourth-place Arsenal on Saturday evening as the Premier League gets underway with a mouth-watering match. Nine points separated the two teams at the end of last season, and the Merseysiders will be looking to get one over on the Wenger Boys on the opening day of the season.
Last season in the corresponding fixture Arsenal claimed a 1-all draw thanks to a late Robin van Persie strike, but perhaps more telling was the manner of Everton’s goal on the day – a Tim Cahill header from a sweet Leighton Baines cross.
With Tim Cahill (8/1 to score first), one of the star players of the 2008/09 season, having just netted a brace against the Republic of Ireland, the Socceroo continues to look in fine goalscoring touch and will again prove a thorn in the side of the Gunners backline.
Aside from Cahill, although the Toffee attack will be weakened for the absences of Mikel Arteta and Yakubu through injury, additional goal-threats will come from the superb Marouane Fellaini (7/2 to score), while up-top Jo (2/1 to score) and Louis Saha (9/4 to score) both have enough guile and ability to cause the Arsenal defence serious bother.
It is at the back where the question-marks begin to surface against David Moyes’ side, with the major headline grabbing story being speculation over how the Goodison faithful will react to Joleon Lescott after the defender handed in a transfer request begging the club to let him join Manchester City. Expect to hear a torrent of boos bellowed in Lescott’s direction.
Everton, known for their aerial strength particularly from set-plays, will pose a big opening day test for the Gunners backline who have been labelled as vertically challenged. In particular, short-stuff Thomas Vermaelen’s performance will be forensically analysed in the Belgian’s league debut. (Arsenal are 6/4 to keep a clean sheet.)
The Gunners also have injuries to contend with, Tomas Rosicky and Samir Nasri both finding themselves on the treatment table after falling to injury during the pre-season. However the North Londoners will still have plenty of fire-power in their locker, boasting some of the finest talent in the division with Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie (6/4 to score) , Nikolas Bendtner, Andrei Arshavin (15/8 to score) and Eduardo da Silva (7/4 to score) all set to hit the ground running.
After a summer of chatter debating whether the departures of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor were a positive or negative for Arsenal, focus will now shift to whether Denilson, Alex Song, Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere can make the step up.
Arsenal have not won a trophy in four long years, and against Everton they will have a tough time proving that this season will be any different.
101predicts: Everton 2 – Arsenal 2 (12/1)
Full match odds here.