Arsenal Top-Four Quest Faces Everton Test

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Arsenal will look to take another step towards securing a top-four spot when they face Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday. The Gunners have picked up 16 of the last 18 points available in the Premier League to move into fourth place, a point behind North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. A Champions League finish is now firmly in their hands, especially with Manchester United losing to Wolves in midweek action

With the FA Cup semi-finals taking centre stage this weekend there are only a handful of Premier League games on the fixture list for today and Sunday and the pick of them comes on Sunday when Champions League-chasing Arsenal head north to face a rejuvenated Everton, who are hoping to build on back-to-back victories over Chelsea and West Ham respectively.

With the four-way battle for the final two Champions League berths hotting up, it is Arsenal who have moved into pole position with seven wins from their last nine. They begin the weekend in fourth place, but Sunday’s match against Everton is their game in hand on third-placed Tottenham, who are only one point above. However, in order to capitalise Arsenal must show they are over their inconsistency away from the Emirates, having won just five of 14 of their matches on the road.

Everton have the opportunity to finish the season in a respectable position. It has been an unsatisfactory campaign for Marco Silva’s side despite plenty of promise preseason. Varying performances and up and down results have been a regular occurrence and it’s often difficult to predict how the Blues will perform on match days.

They come into the fixture off the back of an impressive win away at West Ham, their second in succession, and looked very good when attacking, particularly in the first half, but it is worth bettors noting that as good as Everton performed, West Ham were extremely poor all-round.

The Merseyside club are certainly playing better football under Marco Silva, and their underlying process has improved, but in terms of results, their expected position hasn’t altered much, and given the money Silva has spent, more improvements are needed if they want to close the gap on between themselves and the top six sides.

Their defence is still vulnerable both home and away and one would expect it to be exposed at some point again against an Arsenal side that have averaged 2.10 goals per game this season.

Arsenal head into this fixture off the back of a dominant performance against Newcastle at Emirates Stadium and are in outstanding form in the Premier League. The Gunners will be looking to claim all three points at Goodison on Sunday to maintain their current edge in the race for a top four finish.

The North London club have won five of their last six Premier League matches, only dropping points at Tottenham in a 1-1 draw in a game they deserved to win. Despite their resurgence and fine form, Arsenal’s defensive troubles are still apparent on the road, and until they can fix this issue there is always the feeling that they can be vulnerable defensively when they do not have home advantage.

Consistency has been Everton’s Achilles heel all season. A 2-0 win at West Ham last week gave them back-to-back victories for only the second time this season in the Premier League. The last time they did it, all the way back in September, they actually won three on the bounce. Beating Arsenal to do so again might be the minimum requirement if Marco Silva’s side are to continue their push to finish ‘best of the rest’ by snatching seventh place. Still four points adrift of Wolves, and also trailing Watford and Leicester in the congested top half of the table, anything else will surely leave them with too much to do.

Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche will go head to head today when Bournemouth host Buenley. Howe, of course, was Dyche’s predecessor at Turf Moor and Burnley defender Ben Mee, who played for both men, believes they are the best two managers in England. A case can certainly be made, with both sides on course to avoid the drop despite their limited resources. Burnley still have some work to do, but they hold most of the cards as they sit five points clear of 18th-placed Cardiff, who must travel to Turf Moor next weekend. Any points they can pick up at the Vitality Stadium would only strengthen their position.

With Newcastle’s safety in the Premier League all but assured, the club is starting to look to next season with discussions expected this weekend on transfer targets for the summer. But they key question remains – who will be in charge? Rafael Benitez is still being linked with a move away from St James’ Park, with Ligue 1 the latest mooted destination. Given the continuing uncertainty over whether the club will be sold, few could blame the Spaniard if he chooses to move on. The issue is sure to hang over Saturday’s meeting with Crystal Palace, in which Newcastle will seek a sixth straight Premier League home win.

Relegation was confirmed with six games to spare, and looked inevitable for much longer, so Huddersfield at least have plenty of time to prepare for their return to the Championship. Ahead of today’s clash with Leicester, captain Christopher Schindler has told his colleagues they are all playing for their futures at the John Smith’s Stadium, with manager Jan Siewart no doubt needing to make budget cuts once they drop down a division.