Arsenal kept their faint top four hopes alive by beating Sunderland midweek and now need to beat Everton and hope Liverpool slip up against Middlesbrough. The odds are stacked against them as Middlesbrough are already relegated and the Reds are in excellent form, but they just have to uphold their side of the bargain and should beat Everton.
The Gunners are in the sort of excellent end of season form that has become a hallmark of Arsene Wenger’s tenure. They always seem to leave it too late to hit form, but they always do just enough to sneak into the top four. They have won six of their last seven and closed the gap massively on the teams above them, but it looks like they will miss out on a Champions League place for the first time in Wenger’s 22-year reign. They could still overtake Man City, but to do that they would have to beat Everton comfortably and hope City lose heavily against Watford, and that is extremely unlikely. Their only real hope is to beat Everton and hope Liverpool – who are one point ahead of Arsenal going into the last game of the season – fail to beat Boro.
Arsenal’s season started to unravel in an away game at Goodison Park back in December. A win would have taken them to the top of the league, and they took the lead on 20 minutes through Alexis Sanchez, but Everton battled back to win 2-1. Arsenal lost their following game, away at Man City, and it has generally been downhill since then. First their title hopes faded, then their chances of finishing in the top four diminished. They are already finishing below Tottenham for the first time since the mid-1990s and fans are not happy at all. Even an impending cup final against Chelsea has done little to stem the anger directed at Wenger.
They will have a tough time beating Everton, who do not really have anything left to play for, but have become a tough nut to crack under Ronald Koeman. He has got them up to seventh, 11 points behind Arsenal and four behind Man Utd, but 16 points clear of eighth-placed Southampton. In Romelu Lukaku they have the league’s deadliest striker and he should give Arsenal a tough afternoon.
But the Gunners have become a lot more solid defensively after switching to three at the back. That has coincided with them winning six of seven, and in those seven games they have conceded just four goals, keeping four clean sheets. That is a pretty remarkable turnaround for a defence that was previously leaking goals all over the place. That third centre-half has made them more compact and better at dealing with aerial threat, and they may have lost an attacker but the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Gibbs have the stamina and athleticism to get up and down the pitch and provide support at both ends as full-backs.
All told, Arsenal will be hungrier and more motivated to win this game, and they will be playing in front of their home fans, so they should get the job done. They have not been great in front of goal of late but Sanchez has made the difference and he will be a real problem for Everton’s defenders, who struggle for pace. An Arsenal win is 1/2 with Stan James and that looks a decent bet. Certainly one to add to an accumulator. To get more value you could go Arsenal and under 3.5 goals, which is 11/8 with most of our green listed bookmakers, as it is likely to be a nervy encounter and four or more goals looks unlikely. But perhaps the best bet is Sanchez to score at any time. The Chilean may be playing his last game at The Emirates if he agitates for a summer move, with just a year left on his contract, but it has not stopped him banging in the goals. He has four in his last three games, and is even money with Bet365 to extend that goal scoring run against Everton.