Everton v Arsenal: Goals on the agenda at Goodison
Everton and Arsenal meet at Goodison Park for the early Premier League action on Saturday and there could be goals aplenty...
Everton v Arsenal Saturday December 21, 12:30 Live on BT Sports
Form and fight returns under Ferguson
A 5-2 thrashing at home to local rivals, Liverpool, just over two weeks ago, which saw Everton drop into the relegation places, was the straw that broke the camel's back and the Toffees manager, Marco Silva, was finally put out of his misery and given the boot.
At the time of writing, Carlo Ancelotti looks almost certain to be the next permanent manager but Everton have turned things around immediately under interim gaffer, Duncan Ferguson. The passionate Everton legend has re-energised the team and since that derby day demolition the Toffees have beaten Chelsea 3-1 at Goodison, drawn away at an improving Manchester United and lost on penalties to a top-class Leicester City side in the Carabao Cup.
Everton fought back brilliantly from 2-0 down against the Foxes on Wednesday night and when Jordan Pickford saved Leicester's first spot-kick, taken by James Maddison, the Goodison Park faithful must have been starting to believe it was their night. It wasn't to be, however. Kasper Schmeichel saved the first two Everton penalties and Leicester went on to win the shootout 4-2.
Nevertheless, it was another spirited performance against a quality side and if and when Ancelotti takes the reins the club will be in a better place than it was when Silva left, regardless of the result against Arsenal on Saturday.
Ljungberg's Gunners still misfiring badly
It now appears to be a case of when rather than if Mikel Arteta is appointed as the new Arsenal boss. Like Ancelotti in respect of the Everton job, Arteta is a very short-priced favourite to take over at the Emirates but he's going to have his work cut out once he arrives. With just one win in the Premier League in their last nine starts (3-1 away against a very poor West Ham side), Arsenal have been shambolic of late and the Spaniard has an unenviable task ahead of him.
Currently languishing in 10th place in the Premier League, another season without Champions League participation looks almost assured and the immediate goal will be to stop the rot and restore some pride.
Their win at the London Stadium a fortnight ago offered some hope under interim boss, Freddie Ljungberg, but they were comprehensively beaten by a Manchester City side on Sunday that didn't need to be at their best to cruise to victory. The Citizens were 3-0 up at the break and that didn't flatter them. The second half was a dull affair but there was little in the way of fight from the Gunners.
One could argue that the team may perform better away from home, without the pressure of the home fans, but that really hasn't been the case. Their win at West Ham was the first on the road since they beat Newcastle on the opening weekend of the season and they've been poor away from home for some time. Having won four of their first six away fixtures last season, they only won three of their last 12 - against relegated Huddersfield, Watford and a disinterested Burnley on the last day of the season. They haven't won back-to-back away games in the Premier League since October last year so the West Ham win is long odds-on to be a one-off.
The Gunners lost this fixture 1-0 in April and it's hard to see them suddenly finding something special away from home. Especially given they've conceded at least once in their last 14 games in all competitions.
Goodison Goals-fest could be on the cards
Both teams have been operating beneath an interim manager, knowing that both are temporary appointments, and it's not even worth trying to gauge what effect that's had. Big Duncan seems to have got a better tune out of the Toffees than Ljungberg has with the Gunners but quite how the two sides will perform while in this limbo state is hard to figure out. Will either, neither or both sides know who and when their next manager will be by the time they kick-off on Saturday lunchtime? And how will that affect them?
I'm certainly not interested in siding with Arsenal, who looked particularly poor last weekend, and I wouldn't want to put anyone off backing the home side at around the 2.50 mark in the win market but given Everton have conceded in 14 of their last 15 Premier League encounters, the industry-best 3/1 with the Sportsbook about the home side winning and both sides scoring makes much more appeal.
Given Everton have scored 13 of their 20 goals in the opening 45 minutes this season, that only Norwich and Southampton have conceded more than the 16 Arsenal have let in - in the first half this season, and that Ferguson is bound to focus on a sharper start than Wednesday night, Everton taking the lead early on looks likely.
The Foxes struck twice in three minutes before the half-hour mark on Wednesday to go in 2-0 up at the break and Ferguson had this to say after the match: "The second half was much better. We were too passive in the first half."
This could very easily be the big fella's last game in charge of the Toffees and I suspect his team might be quite fired up from the get-go. Everton-Everton is a very tempting proposition at an industry-best 3/1 with the Sportsbook but Arsenal pegging them back after the break makes for a good cover bet to the first wager so I'm happy to play Everton-Draw and Everton-Arsenal for tiny stakes in the Half Time/Full Time market.
Unsurprisingly, Both Teams to Score is a heavy odds-on chance and so too is Over in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market. Both have leaky defences and it really wouldn't surprise me if something of a goal-fest broke out given the circumstances both teams find themselves in.
Last season's encounters between the two sides produced a 1-0 home win at Goodison and a 2-0 victory for Arsenal at the Emirates but the two sides produced a flurry of goals in the 2017/18 season, with Arsenal winning 5-2 away and 5-1 at home.
It's a very hard game to gauge given the situation both sides are in but it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see both teams go at it hammer and tongs in the last game before Christmas in what could be their last games under their respective interim bosses and playing the goals markets makes sense for modest stakes.