Mikel Arteta has fond memories of Goodison Park from his playing days, but not as a manager.
The Arsenal boss has lost his previous two games at Everton and will be determined to end that run tomorrow, when the Gunners can pull eight points clear of Manchester City ahead of their rivals’ match at Tottenham on Sunday.
Everton, in contrast, are languishing in 19th place and a club in crisis.
But Arteta expects a tough afternoon at Everton following their appointment of Sean Dyche, who has called on the club’s fans to create a raucous atmosphere in his first game in charge.
“I’ve seen all the white noise around what is going on, but at the end of the day, just give us a start and we’ll pay you back,” said Dyche.
“That’s all I can ask for from the fans, make the stadium what it is. I’ve been here many times when it’s almost bursting at the seams when the energy is really powerful, and I know it was at the end of last season as well. So, it’s there.”
Arteta made 200-plus appearances during more than six years as a player at Everton and knows better than most how hostile Goodison Park can be.
Tomorrow’s game promises to be another test for his side, who have passed every examination thrown at them this season as they bid to win their first title since 2004.
January was a successful month for the Gunners, both on and off the pitch. On it, they were unbeaten and recorded wins over Manchester United and Tottenham. Off it, they brought in three new signings to bolster their title charge.
Leandro Trossard has made an immediate impact and Jorginho is set to go straight into the squad tomorrow, while Jakub Kiwior could again be on the bench.
Arteta will hope for an equally successful February, particularly as Arsenal host Manchester City in the middle of the month. Before then, they face Everton and Brentford, and neither side are likely to roll over.
That will especially be the case on Merseyside tomorrow, as Dyche has vowed to develop a side that can “fight and wear the badge with pride”.
Everton will likely be built in a similar image to his Burnley team, who enjoyed a number of years of success in the Premier League by being disciplined, hard-working and organised.
Indeed, Dyche enjoyed a good record against Arteta during his time at Turf Moor, losing only once during five meetings against Arsenal.
He has never faced a Gunners team like this one, though. Arsenal sides of old may have crumbled in the face of a hostile atmosphere, but this season Arteta’s men are made of sterner stuff.
On their last visit to Goodison Park, in December 2021, Arsenal lost 2-1 to an Everton side without a win in eight games. It was one of Arteta’s lowest moments in charge, but now he is aiming for a new high as his side enter the final four months of the season.