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Arsenal vs Everton: 5 key players to watch out for

Arsenal host Everton in what promises to be a rollercoaster of a tie at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday!

SNS | New Delhi |

When sixth-placed Arsenal host Everton at the Emirates for their Premier League clash on Saturday night, all eyes will be focused on the English capital, for there’s plenty at stake for both sides.

The Gunners, recovering from their damaging 3-1 loss at the hands of Swansea, have, somewhat uncharacteristically, made some bold moves in the transfer market and will be looking to their expensively-assembled forwards to fire them to glory.

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In their path stands a stubborn Everton side managed by Sam Allardyce and while not everyone appreciates the style ‘Big Sam’ employs, it is effective and the visitors will not make life easy for their fancied opponents.

The Statesman takes a look at the five players who are expected to be the main protagonists of the clash in North London below:

Petr Cech (Arsenal)

After his calamitous error against Swansea in mid-week, plenty of Arsenal fans vented their ire on the veteran shot-stopper.

At 35, he’s still got plenty of football left in him but if blunders like those start becoming commonplace, Arsenal may be forced to look for a replacement in the summer.

Premier League, Arsenal F.C., Swansea City vs Arsenal
Cech (Bottom) will have to up his game when Everton come visiting! (Photo: AFP)

 

The Gunners may have made several additions to their forward line in January, but no reinforcements arrived in midfield or defence, to the surprise of many as the North Londoners have had long-standing defensive issues.

So Cech will have to make do with his current back-three (or four) when the Toffees coming visiting and pull up his socks as the Gunners cannot afford any more mistakes as they are already someway off the pace in the race for the top-four.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

Aubameyang may have not had too many training sessions in London, but the Gabonese international simply has to start alongside Alexandre Lacazette on Saturday.

Despite his repeated indiscretions at Borussia Dortmund this season, the 28-year-old was actually banging in the goals at a prolific rate and is a perfect fit for the fast-paced Premier League.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Can Aubameyang live up to the hype? (File Photo: AFP)

 

Possibly the fastest player in the English top-flight, the African will have to quickly acclimatise to his new surroundings and the tie against Everton could be the first time the Gunners send out their vaunted attack quartet from the off.

Aubameyang’s reunion with former Dortmund teammate Henrikh Mkhitayran has been the talk of the town and fans will hope the duo links up to devastating effect as they chase a top-four berth.

Lacazette and Mesut Ozil, who inked a contract extension on Thursday, complete their quartet and it’s as good as any of their rivals for sure.

How well the club-record signing combines with his new teammates could determine the fate of this tie, but don’t bet against him!

Ashley Williams (Everton)

It’s not a secret that Everton have been pretty poor defensively (and offensively, for that matter) this season.

Ashley Wiliams has been fighting a lonely battle with fellow mainstays Seamus Coleman (now back in the side) and Leighton Baines out injured and the ex-Swansea City skipper has been partnering with youth-team prospects for the most part.

His partnership with summer signing Michael Keane hasn’t been as successful as the Blue half of Merseyside would have liked but they have shown promise of late.

Sam Allardyce, Everton F.C. Premier League
‘Big Sam’ will set up his team to frustrate Arsenal! (Photo: AFP)

 

While the Toffees seem to be safe from a relegation dog-fight this season, a club of their stature has to be pushing for the European spots and they have an outside chance of making it as they trail the sixth-placed Gunners by 11 points.

Beating opponents like Arsenal, away from home, will go a long way towards proving their credentials and while a win will not come easy, a loss would be disastrous and effectively consign Sam Allardyce’s men to mid-table mediocrity for this season.

If Everton are to keep the Gunners’ formidable forwards quiet, Williams will have to win his battles with Aubameyang and Lacazette and inspire the rest of his defence to up their game.

Theo Walcott (Everton)

Arsenal’s lack of success in the Premier League for the past few seasons has largely been attributed to their soft underbelly and no man would know their weak-point better than Theo Walcott.

After spending over a decade in North London and notching 100 plus goals for them, Walcott departed in January to the grateful arms of Allardyce and Co. at Everton.

The jet-heeled winger’s had quite the impact already, scoring a mid-week brace to guide the Toffees to a 2-1 win over Leicester City and against his former employers will be eager to prove a point.

Theo Walcott, Everton F.C., Premier League,
Walcott’s hit the ground running at Everton! (Photo: AFP)

 

Nacho Monreal’s sensational form has seen him edge ahead of Sead Kolasinac in the pecking order at left-back and in theory Walcott should be able to expose the Spaniard’s lack of pace with ease.

At the very least, their battle will prove to be an interesting one when the game kicks off!

Wayne Rooney (Everton)

With Walcott’s arrival, Rooney’s place is under threat and the club talisman is no longer a sure-shot starter.

Club-record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson and Rooney are too slow to play together, Sam Allardyce himself admitted, to spark fears that either might be benched.

However, considering the  Manchester United legend’s record against Arsenal, it’s likely that Allardyce will start him on Saturday against the Gunners.

Wayne Rooney, Everton F.C., Premier League
Will Rooney (R) silence his doubters for the umpteenth time on Saturday? (Photo: AFP)

 

So will the veteran turn back the clock or could this be the beginning of the end for Rooney at his boyhood club?

Considering Arsenal are expected to dominate possession, Rooney and Co. will have to make the most of the few opportunities they get on the break and considering the hosts’ defensive record this season, there’s hope yet for the Toffees.