With Arsenal having blown their chances of progressing in two cup competitions within the space of a week, their trip to Everton has become an almost "do-or-die" situation for Arsene Wenger and his men.
Can Arsenal recover and regain their form during the last couple of months of the Premier League season? Or will Everton, who have struggled despite playing well at times this season, put Wenger's men to the sword at Goodison Park?
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The major criticism against Roberto Martinez's Everton team is that they have failed to pull their weight in a season during which seemingly smaller teams are challenging for the Premier League title. Despite playing well on a number of occasions this season, and boasting one of the season's top scorers in Romelu Lukaku, Everton seem to have fallen well short of their target.
With teams like Leicester and Tottenham sitting atop the Premier League table, the Everton faithful will wonder why their team could not muster more points this season.
However, fans will be pleased at the fact that they have managed to get themselves a ticket to Wembley having beaten Chelsea in the quarterfinal tie of the FA Cup.
Having said that, Martinez's men have won just two of their last 11 home league matches, and those were against Aston Villa and Steve McClaren's Newcastle, according to Four Four Two. There remains little doubt, then, that Arsenal will provide Everton a stern test when they meet each other in Saturday's lunch-time kickoff at Goodison Park.
Speaking at the pre-match conference, Martinez refused to be drawn in by Arsenal's faltering season, and instead, warned his team to expect a team challenging for the Premier League title when they meet Arsenal later today.
"Arsenal, with the experience that they have, the know-how, the clarity and the way they play football - it doesn't matter what pressure is on them they will always play with a certain style and be very, very good in that style.According to Sky Sports, Everton will be left without the services of Gareth Barry, who was dismissed for the second time this season against Chelsea in the FA Cup and will begin a two-match ban against Arsenal, while Kevin Mirallas will also miss out as he completes a suspension of the same length.
"I just feel Arsenal are still strong title contenders and that's what we're going to be facing at Goodison."
Muhamed Basic and Bryan Oviedo could feature for Everton after being declared fit.
Arsenal will hope to end a miserable week on a high after having been knocked out of the FA Cup and the Champions League by Watford and Barcelona respectively. What appeared to be a promising season for the Gunners at the start of the new year has quickly descended into a difficult one, with Wenger's men appearing exposed to the the same shortcomings that have plagued their life over the last decade or so.
Trailing table-toppers Leicester City by 11 points with nine games to go, Wenger will know any more setbacks can effectively mean Arsenal dropping out of the title race before the end of March. And for a team that promised so much till only last month, that will be a bitter pill for Arsenal's fans to swallow.
However, Wenger has refused to give up on the title yet, saying at the pre-match conference that his team is only focused on getting back to winning ways, according to BBC.
"At the moment, the only way to achieve something special is first to be realistic and humble enough to deal first with Everton...As the Premier League heads towards the finishing line, however, Arsenal have more injury concerns to contend with. Mathieu Flamini joins long-term absentees Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Petr Cech, Santi Cazorla, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at the treatment table.
"It's very tight, but I believe the Premier League is far from over. We are in a position where we hope for the best.
"I agree that a negative result would be very bad for us, but we focus on a positive result. We know now is the time for us to produce the result we want."
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