Should Arsenal be worried about Everton’s “phenomenal” challenge?

Arsene Wenger

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is hopeful of a Champions League place.

Just over two weeks ago Arsenal were in the thick of the Premier League title race. Now they are looking nervously over their shoulders to make sure that they remain in the top four.

Or at least they should be. That’s because Roberto Martinez’s Everton are closing in on the fourth spot that the Gunners currently occupy.

The Toffees’ 3-1 away win against Fulham on Sunday has placed them just four points off Arsene Wenger’s men in fifth with a game in hand. The two sides clash with each other at Goodison Park next weekend and the momentum is with the hosts.

True, Everton were hammered 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup earlier this month, but since then they have won four successive league fixtures, including a 3-0 win against Newcastle United at St James’ Park.

If one were to consider their 1-0 home victory over West Ham United prior to their defeat to Arsenal, then it is five wins in five and no defeats in the league since February 22.

On the other hand, Arsenal are on a three-game winless run that started with a 6-0 hammering by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Wenger’s side’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City at home on Saturday eventually put them seven points behind leaders Chelsea with six more rounds of matches remaining.

Everton manager Martinez has described his side’s encounter against Arsenal next weekend as “phenomenal” and has characteristically and diplomatically refused to think ahead.

"You need to find a real momentum in the squad,” said the 40-year-old after the win against Fulham. “I would not say it would take a miracle, but football miracles do happen. They really do.

"We always embrace the challenge. We really enjoy playing at Goodison. We've created an incredible relationship between fans and players. The fans have been patient, we feel supported and feel we've got a real advantage playing at home.

"We've got Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Crystal Palace and they are as difficult as they can get. But even then we feel if we can be perfect in what we do, we can get maximum points. The challenge against Arsenal is phenomenal. It is a welcome one but it reflects a little bit what we have achieved."

Martinez himself has been “phenomenal” at Everton since taking charge last summer and has quietly and consistently gone about with the task of making his players believe that they can break into the top four.

And if they eventually do, then they would have deserved it.

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