Everton and Arsenal, both coming to the conclusion of their searches for new head coaches, meet at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Saturday (7.30am ET).
The fact that they are seeking new leaders indicates that neither have matched expectations this season. Everton had the top six in the sights but are down in 16th. Arsenal were hoping to challenge for a top-four place but are in 10th.
They have taken their time in assessing candidates. Everton sacked Marco Silva two weeks ago, while Arsenal parted ways with Unai Emery at the back end of November. Now, though, decisions are near. Everton are working through the finer details of a deal to bring in Carlo Ancelotti, while Mikel Arteta is about to take over at Arsenal.
On the face of it, appointing Ancelotti looks like a bit of a coup for Everton. The Italian has won league titles in four countries, including one at Chelsea in 2009-10, and has lifted the Champions League on three occasions. Only recently sacked by Napoli despite making progress to the European knockout rounds, Everton represents a step down.
One would imagine a coach of his pedigree would request further investment from an Everton board who have already invested heavily in their unsuccessful quest to break into the top six and beyond. With that, and a solid if somewhat unbalanced, squad to work with, it will be interesting to see what he is capable of achieving.
Ancelotti should, at the very least, be expected to lift Everton from the lower reaches of the table. Their haul of 18 points has them just three clear of the bottom three, but that isn’t really fully representative of the quality of their performances. By the underlying numbers, they look more like a solid mid-table side.
Results in their two matches under the interim charge of former striker Duncan Ferguson have also provided promise. Everton were perhaps a little fortunate to grab a point in a 1-1 draw away at Manchester United last weekend. The four points gained there and in the previous week’s 3-1 win at home to Chelsea give Ancelotti a better points base to work from than he would otherwise have had.
Arsenal’s interim coach Freddie Ljungberg hasn’t provided quite the same foundation for his eventual successor. When Emery was sacked, there were suggestions that the club might give Ljungberg the job until the end of the season. A record of one win, two draws and two defeats in five matches in charge in all competitions, in addition to his own comments urging the club to swiftly appoint a new permanent coach, have ended talk of that being the case.
It seems that Arteta, the former Everton and Arsenal midfielder and current assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, is now on the verge of taking over. By the time he does there may not be much to salvage from the campaign, at least in the Premier League.
The degree to which a new head coach has turned around the results of Tottenham Hotspur, another top-four hopeful, may provide some reason for optimism. The truth is that Arsenal presently have a worse starting XI and squad than their North London rivals. Neither is there much in their underlying statistics to suggest they have been unlucky.
Their current form is atrocious. Arsenal have won just one of their last nine in the league, only five times all season, and have not won consecutive matches since the opening two weekends. Coming into the campaign, they were considered a viable top-four contender. Now, they are not even odds-on with the top offshore bookies to finish in the top six.
Our Preview’s Everton vs Arsenal Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Both of these teams have their flaws and it is difficult to trust either of them to record the three points. If there is to be a winner, Everton are the more likely candidates. Whether buoyed by Ancelotti’s arrival or Ferguson’s passionate promptings, Goodison Park is likely to be in good voice. That could be enough to tip the balance against a vulnerable Arsenal side who have had some away-day struggles over the last couple of seasons. So from a betting perspective, this is our Everton vs Arsenal prediction and pick for this preview: