Meanwhile, Everton’s defence will be bolstered by the return of Jarrad Branthwaite from a one-match ban, although Salomon Rondon remains on the naughty step. Andros Townsend and Nathan Patterson will both miss the final day of the season, but Fabian Delph and Yerry Mina have small chances of making the squad, though neither man should be risked from the off. Lampard will almost certainly shuffle the pack after their successful midweek exertions, with ex-Tottenham man Dele Alli sure to be in line for a start as he aims to help his old club fend off their top-four competition.
Still in with a slight chance of clinching a top-four place on the final day, Arsenal welcome Everton to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday to round off their Premier League season. Meanwhile, the Toffees head to the capital with the pressure firmly off after securing survival in dramatic fashion against Crystal Palace on Thursday night. Mikel Arteta admitted that Arsenal’s performance at Newcastle United did not warrant Champions League football. Granit Xhaka told those who were not up to the task to “stay at home”. There are no two ways about it – it was a St James’ Park disaster. Lampard will almost certainly shuffle the pack after their successful midweek exertions, with ex-Tottenham man Dele Alli sure to be in line for a start as he aims to help his old club fend off their top-four competition.
Knowing that a win would see a top-four place remain in their hands heading into the final day, Arsenal were outplayed and bullied by Newcastle, who struck through Ben White’s own goal and Bruno Guimaraes – a rumoured January target for the Gunners – in the second half. The inquest into Arsenal’s collapse has already begun, with many pointing to a lack of January incomings to bolster a thin squad, and only a spectacular set of circumstances would see Arteta’s side clinch a spot in the Champions League for the first time in six years. The Gunners currently sit two points behind Tottenham Hotspur and realistically need their North London rivals to suffer a shock defeat to 20th-placed Norwich City at Carrow Road to stand any chance of making the top four, and nothing less than a win will do for them on the Emirates turf.
Defeat to Newcastle also extended Arsenal’s run without a clean sheet to nine matches – a far cry from their previously resilient defence – but they have won each of their last 10 final-day matches in the Premier League and will certainly be the fresher of the two sides this weekend. Last weekend, Everton were on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline against Brentford and continued to run the risk of an unthinkable relegation from the top flight. On Thursday night, however, the tables turned. Jean-Philippe Mateta’s header and Jordan Ayew scrambling home led to even more groans of discontent around Goodison, with Everton seemingly set to be involved in the relegation dogfight until the final day, but not even the home crowd could have envisaged the magnificent second-half turnaround.
Michael Keane, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s efforts sparked rapturous scenes around the blue half of Merseyside – some of whom took it too far during the pitch invasion and felt the force of Patrick Vieira’s boot for their troubles – but most importantly, Everton are safe. Frank Lampard’s side can now finish no lower than 16th and would have been relieved to secure their survival before a journey to the Emirates, especially seeing as they have won just twice away from home all season, although one of those triumphs did come at Leicester City earlier this month.
The Toffees also dented Arsenal’s top-four bid earlier in the season with a 2-1 win at Goodison Park – their third consecutive victory over the Gunners – but not since 1924 have the North London club suffered a quartet of successive league losses to their Merseyside counterparts. Arsenal right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu just cannot catch a break at the moment, as the Japan international was run ragged against Allan Saint-Maximin before being forced off early with a muscular problem on Monday. Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey are keeping Tomiyasu company in the treatment room, while Rob Holding is back from a ban and represents a much fitter option at the back compared to Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White – both of whom reportedly missed training on Wednesday.
Emile Smith Rowe was also absent from the session but would have been expected to drop out for Gabriel Martinelli either way, while Tomiyasu’s absence should mean a recall to the first XI for Cedric Soares. Meanwhile, Everton’s defence will be bolstered by the return of Jarrad Branthwaite from a one-match ban, although Salomon Rondon remains on the naughty step. Andros Townsend and Nathan Patterson will both miss the final day of the season, but Fabian Delph and Yerry Mina have small chances of making the squad, though neither man should be risked from the off.
Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Ramsdale; Cedric, White, Holding, Tavares; Xhaka, Elneny; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Nketiah
Everton possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Branthwaite, Godfrey, Keane; Iwobi, Alli, Doucoure, Mykolenko; Gray, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison