- Everton (18 points) sit 16th in PL table
- Arsenal (22 points) sit 10th
- Last meeting: Everton 1-0 Arsenal
Freddie Ljungberg‘s tenure as interim manager has but one game remaining, and the same could also be true for Duncan Ferguson at Everton, when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Mikel Arteta was announced as the Gunners’ new boss on Friday (he’ll take control of the first team beginning on Sunday), and Carlo Ancelotti is still widely expected to take over the Toffees in the coming hours or days.
Before the inevitable change takes place, though, Saturday offers another opportunity for a pair of hugely underperforming clubs to start the difficult climb up the Premier League table.
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Arsenal currently sit 10th, though they trail fourth-place Chelsea by just seven points. A second-half resurgence under Arteta could easily see them return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time after three seasons in the dreaded Europa League. For revenue purposes, it’s something the club desperately needs to achieve. With just one win in their last nine PL games, the Gunners should be nearly out of striking distance for a top-four finish, but all three of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United have struggled to varying degrees and left the door wide open.
As for Everton, three wins from their last nine games were enough to pull them out of the relegation zone, though they still sit 16th, just three points clear of 18th-place Southampton. Ferguson guided the Toffees to a 3-1 demolition of Chelsea two weeks ago, followed by a 1-1 draw away to Manchester United a week ago. Despite their current place in the table — they are just four points out of 10th — things might already have begun to turn around at Everton.
Everton: OUT – Andre Gomes (ankle), Theo Walcott (calf), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh), Morgan Schneiderlin (calf); QUESTIONABLE: Lucas Digne (groin), Gylfi Sigurdsson (illness), Djibril Sidibe (illness), Fabian Delph (hamstring)
Arsenal: Leno — Maitland-Niles, Luiz, Sokratis, Chambers — Guendouzi, Torreira — Pepe, Ozil — Lacazette, Aubameyang
What they’re saying
Ljungberg, on the future of Arsenal: “The message from me is still the same, get behind us and support the team. It’s been an honor to have helped the club I love for the last few weeks and I am excited to work with [Arteta] and his staff moving forward.”
Ferguson, on his future: “Obviously [Ancelotti] is an incredible manager, he’s won everything. It would be fantastic to work under a top manager. I’ve worked with a few in the past, so I would like to continue my education if possible. I’m not looking to move away. I just want Everton to be successful. I want the new manager to come in and do a fantastic job. If I can be a part of that, then brilliant. I love the club and I love my job. If I go back to being a coach, then that’s fine by me.”
Arsenal’s defensive depth is set to be tested with Kolasinac, Tierney and possibly Bellerin unavailable due to injuries. Every Everton attack should originate from wide areas, where they’re particularly strong, which should bring plenty of success on Saturday. Everton 2-1 Arsenal.