Who has it easier in fight for 4th? Everton and Arsenal by the numbers

2 Comments

Everton thoroughly humbled Arsenal on Sunday at Goodison Park, and the Toffees are clearly in the driver’s seat to move the Gunners from a traditional Top Four perch. Roberto Martinez’s side has been oak-strong of late, and are one point back of the Gunners with a match-in-hand.

But Arsenal’s run-in could hardly be easier, while Everton faces a fortnight of very difficult matches with both Manchester clubs and Southampton on the slate.

Yet even Arsene Wenger is admitting that his club has messed up many lines in its familiar Champions League script, and is in a very troubling spot in its quest for Europe.

And, of course, he expressed it like a philosophy professor:

“The fight [for the top four] is very open and not only dependent on us,” Wenger added. “Everton are in a strong position. We have been confronted by that before and it is down to how we respond to such a disappointing performance.

“It is a massive worry to lose a game like that. We need to go back to basics.

“It is difficult to identify if it is fear. The heavy defeats away from home have taken some of our charisma away. Is that fear, is that belief, is that confidence? Maybe a bit all together.”

So, who really does have an easier road to the fourth spot? Let’s take a look.

Everton
April 12 at Sunderland
April 16 vs. Crystal Palace
April 20 vs. Manchester United
April 26 at Southampton
May 3 vs. Manchester City
May 11 at Hull City

Arsenal
April 15 vs. West Ham United
April 19 at Hull City
April 28 vs. Newcastle United
May 3 vs. West Bromwich Albion
May 11 at Norwich City

The Breakdown

Strength of schedule (points-per-match/season):
Arsenal opponents, 1.05
Everton opponents, 1.41

Strength of schedule (points-per-match/PL form):
Arsenal opponents, 1.00
Everton opponents, 1.44

Record vs. remaining opponents:
Arsenal, 4W-1D
Everton, 3W-2L-1D

The Verdict

What is already a baffling disintegration at the Emirates would be an absolutely massive choke job if Arsenal missed out on the Top Four. With an incredible amount of respect to what Martinez has done at Everton, Arsenal’s schedule is so much “easier” (Though the Gunners also have at least one FA Cup match to play as well).

Take the much talked-about “match-in-hand.” Presumably, Everton would have to be nearly perfect to not draw or lose one of that three-match run against United, Southampton and City. So, even considering the challenges in facing desperate teams staring down relegation, a Top Four club shouldn’t flinch.

So… will Arsenal flinch?

Reina faces hearing over links with trio connected to mafia

Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Outgoing Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina has been summoned to a hearing at the Italian football federation over his association with people with links to the mafia.

Reina, along with Paolo Cannavaro and Salvatore Aronica, is to face the FIGC’s disciplinary committee after an investigation by Naples’ anti-mafia department.

It is reportedly one of the reasons why Napoli decided not to renew Reina’s contract, with the former Liverpool goalkeeper set to move to AC Milan on a free transfer.

The FIGC says Reina “has had and continues to have inopportune association and friendship with Gabriele Esposito, Francesco Esposito and Giuseppe Esposito.” It adds that that includes holidays and “an exchange of favors.”

Cannavaro, who had two spells with Napoli, retired at Sassuolo last year. Aronica also spent several years at the southern club before joining Palermo in 2013.

Iran names initial squad for World Cup

Twitter/@Futbolestodo
Leave a comment

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghaffouri have both been left off Iran’s provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a Persepolis defender, and Ghaffouri were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme leader has threatened the country in the past. Both Shojaei and Hajsafi missed matches with the national team after the game.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a 24-year-old forward who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, is also in the squad, which was announced Sunday.

In the midfield, Queiroz chose Saeid Ezatolahi, although the Amkar Perm player will miss the team’s first World Cup match because he was given a red card in a game against South Korea in qualifying.

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ashkan Dejagah was also chosen.

Goalkeeper Amir Abedzadeh of Portuguese club Maritimo made the squad. His father, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, was Iran captain and goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Iran will play in Group B at the World Cup with Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The team will play warm-up matches in Turkey and Greece before heading to Russia.

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)

Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (KV Oostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiakos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa)

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiakos), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa Sports Club), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (SC Heerenveen)

Six Premier Leaguers named to Argentina, but no Icardi

Epsilon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Argentina’s World Cup roster features a number of the usual suspects, particularly up front, but Serie A’s top goalscorer has been surprisingly left off the list of 23.

[ MORE: Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan ]

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s squad was made official on Monday, which includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.

The Albiceleste won’t be taking Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi though, which has raised some questions about the decision.

Icardi led all scorers in Italy’s top flight this season, scoring 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, while Paulo Dybala edged out the final striker spot in the Argentina squad.

Dybala is teammates with Higuain at Italian giants Juventus.

Meanwhile, six Premier League players were named into the South American nation’s squad, including goalkeepers Sergio Romero (Man United) and Willy Caballero (Chelsea), as well as Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Rojo (Man United) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Men in Blazers POD: FA Cup recap, UCL final preview and more

Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rog and Davo recap a spite-fueled, snear-filled, peak Phil Jones FA Cup Final, preview this weekend’s Champions League tilt between Liverpool and Real Madrid and eulogize Big Sam… gone the opposite of too soon. Plus, World Cup rosters and MLS.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]