So what do we make of the business done in February?
It certainly started on a splendid note with that annihilation of Aston Villa, certainly the most enjoyable Arsenal performance of the season thus far, featuring all of what every ordinary gooner had dreamt of seeing in his beloved Arsenal – a breathtaking Cazorla, a commanding Coquelin, a menacing Ozil and an Ospina that gave us much hope of a more secure future.
Not all that endured till the end of February, and going into the first fixture of March, Arsenal fans find themselves once again split on where exactly the team marches on to – “WengerOut” is in the air again. And anything less than a victory over Everton on Sunday will see them crank the volume up a few decibels.
It does not promise to be an easy fixture as the Gunners have failed to beat the Toffees in the last five meetings, having only managed to escape a second successive defeat back in August at Goodison Park.
Wenger has not had plenty good moments over Roberto Martinez for some time now, going back to his Wigan days, but the psychological weight of this fixture goes beyond overcoming the tactical flexibility of a young and coming manager.
Any manner of win will suffice to keep the Gunners’ comfortable on the road to securing Champions League football for another year but much about the performance will be under scrutiny to see if there is any reason to be optimistic about the chances of progressing further in this year’s competition. In the minds of most, Monaco are effectively going to advance at Arsenal’s expense into the last eight, unless something substantial turns around between now and that trip to Monte Carlo in two weeks.
Everton will present the first of three challenges which, if successfully executed, will give ample hope towards making that mission, possible. Baines, Jagielka, Stones and Coleman pose a more organized defensive unit who will arguably frustrate the Gunners just as much as the four relative unknowns who proved impermeable on Wednesday, and in Romelu Lukaku and Steven Naismith, there will be no hiding place for Koscielny and co; it’s either they have overcome their naivety or show a spiral plunge towards decay.
There is not much to be said about this game, it’s simply one that has to be won and both teams will be going for it. Recent results from both camps prove they can score and concede in equal measure. It will be about who makes the most mistakes and who can take due advantage.
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