Arsenal aiming for birthday win against Everton

09 December 2011 01:46

Arsenal will try to celebrate their 125th birthday in style by beating Everton in a Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium here on Saturday.

The landmark date arrives with Arsene Wenger's team having returned to winning form following their early season problems when the north Londoners were in the wrong half of the table.

Arsenal lost to Greek side Olympiakos in midweek but had already qualified for the next round of the Champions League, while in their domestic league they are unbeaten in their last seven matches.

Wenger believes the run stems from his signings before the last transfer deadline bringing more experience to the team, with his younger players responding to the changes.

"We look more mature, I must say," the Arsenal manager said. "You can feel that in the difficult moments of the game where we don't panic and don't give stupid goals away. That's very pleasing."

The run of unbeaten matches has been built on the goals of captain Robin van Persie, who has scored 13 times in his last 10 appearances for the club.

The Dutch forward has suffered a number of fitness problems since his arrival from Feyenoord seven years ago, but he has been injury-free this season and has led by example.

"When you see the player that arrived and the player he is today then you have to give him a lot of credit," Wenger added.

"His transformation has been exceptional," the Frenchman, whose fifth-placed side are still 10 points behind leaders Manchester City, said.

"We have all played football because we wanted to enjoy it. He is a football lover. He watches tapes and knows all about the game.

"Then he wants to be on the pitch. Maybe he has been so frustrated by being out so many times that he rates what a chance it is to play for Arsenal.

"He has had an outstanding season so let's hope we can keep him fit. He has played, I think, 48 games in the calendar year. That is the most he has played.

"He is talented and now he is the leader of the club. At a club like Arsenal that is not easy and he does it remarkably well."

Wenger, however, does have injury problems elsewhere as Andre Santos has an ankle complaint, joining Abou Diaby (hamstring), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Carl Jenkins on (back) Kieran Gibbs (stomach) and Bacary Sagna (ankle) on the sidelines.

Everton are looking to bounce back from defeat to Stoke in their last match, which came after consecutive victories, against Bolton and Wolves. They will also be facing old boy Mikel Arteta, who moved from Goodison Park earlier this season.

"Arsenal started slowly but they have got great quality in their team and it would be nice to stop them on Saturday," said Everton midfielder Seamus Coleman.

"Robin van Persie is fantastic, his finishing is brilliant and he always looks like he is going to score.

"And I am sure it will be a bit weird for Mikel Arteta playing against Everton for the first time.

"He was at the club so long and is loved by everyone here and it will be a big day for him, but on the day, we will be looking to get one over him."

Everton captain Phil Neville is looking forward to manager David Moyes bolstering the squad when the transfer window reopens in January, with the Toffees currently in mid-table.

"I think new signings would give everyone a boost. We need a lift -- I think the whole club does in a way."

Source: AFP

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