More of the same needed in Emirates test

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

John Peters/Man Utd/Getty ImagesEverton will be looking to celebrate another historic win on enemy turf when they face Arsenal on Sunday.

Everton ended one of several longstanding away droughts earlier in the week and the Blues travel to the Emirates on Sunday trying to end another. There are a number of similarities between the respective records, for those grasping at possible links to the Old Trafford win, with Everton winning once either side of four draws and 16 defeats heading into both fixtures.

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In addition, like the victory in midweek, the Blues are aiming for just a second Premier League success at the home of one of the top sides. Not since Graham Stuart and Andrei Kanchelskis grabbed the goals in January 1996 have the three points headed north following a trip to Arsenal.

There is a marked difference between this visit and those gone before, however, with the visitors flying heading into this tough assignment. The players are setting their sights on European football come the end of the season, with Champions League talk on the increase, while Roberto Martinez leads a buoyant squad.

Fearless and full of confidence, the levels of self-belief within the current setup could power the Emirates floodlights for this one. The team is brimming with players approaching top form; one of those is Gareth Barry. The midfielder impressed against United, where the former England international has won on his last three visits, and is quickly becoming a lucky charm for the Toffees.

Barry is unbeaten in royal blue, with the only defeat thus far arriving when league regulations prevented him facing his parent club Manchester City. Adding much-needed leadership and experience to an otherwise youthful central midfield, Barry is a pivotal figure who will need to be at his best against the talented midfield quintet of the Gunners.

Behind Barry, though, and it is another reason to be optimistic, is the stingy defensive unit. Four of the five are ever presents this season and the one exception, Bryan Oviedo, has slotted seamlessly into the backline while deputising for the injured Leighton Baines.

This latest shutout ensured an eighth clean sheet in 14 matches this season, which is the best return in the division for a defence that grows stronger by the game. Only Sunday's hosts (10) have conceded fewer goals this season (13).

Five clean sheets in the last six are the hallmark of a team on a seven-match unbeaten run, with Liverpool the only side to breach this rearguard in recent matches. In fact, with the three derby goals arriving from set pieces, no one has breached this defence in open play since Yannick Sagbo in Hull's 2-1 defeat on 19th October.

Defensively strong, and with a bulldozing centre-forward spearheading a creative midfield, Everton must once again strive to show the characteristics evident during their overdue win at the now rather aptly named Theatre of Dreams. This is, most definitely, a case of more of the same for Martinez and his men.

Displaying the same bold approach is imperative; the Old Trafford victory needs to become the benchmark for these fixtures under the new regime. The days of timid safety-first surrender have to fade into little more than a distant memory if Everton are to continue their upward trajectory.

Each one of the chosen eleven performed to near perfection in the midweek and only similar levels are liable to be enough here, as this is undoubtedly a sterner examination, yet this well-balanced squad is definitely capable. Ending a 21-year quest in style at United, this progressive group can erase another away famine on Sunday, one that is closing on its 18th year.

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