The way I see it - Everton v Arsenal

Last updated : 06 January 2004 By Jason Hogan

Deep down I wanted us to win of course but at the same time if someone said to me that in the long run losing to Leeds would guarantee us winning our title back I would have honestly taken it.

Thankfully (in spite of Herr Lehmann's little faux-pas), Wenger's boys were certainly not in the mood to entertain such fanciful thinking and they dumped Leeds rather unceremoniously out of the FA Cup.

Remember when I said a few weeks ago that I was looking to see us put in more solid all round performances? Well, I thought that there were signs of us getting close to that when we played at Southampton immediately after Christmas and we definitely built on that at Elland Road.

People can talk all they want about Leeds not being what they once were but to go there and beat them 4-1 on their own patch not once, not twice but three times in the space of just over a year, is seriously going some. I can't think of any other team that has gone there and put together a more spectacular sequence of results against them. Can you?

Yet, when we won there at the start of November even Wenger admitted that the likes of Thierry Henry played within themselves. On Sunday, however, Leeds played with more brimstone and fire, more spirit (particularly in the first 20 minutes) - and we still thrashed them.

We simply earned the right to play after what was a fairly indifferent opening and from the moment Thierry Henry equalised, the ridiculous gave way to the purely sublime.

The only downside to beating Leeds was that in the next round we have been pitted up against Middlesbrough - AGAIN. Can you believe that? I know I didn't when I heard the draw Monday lunchtime.

So much for variety being the spice of life, huh? Isn't it bad enough that we are playing them this Saturday? Still the Gunners have another date to keep first of all and that is with Everton at Goodison Park.

I don't need to remind any of you Gooners out there of how momentous last year's corresponding fixture was and I don't really need to remind any of you as to why either.

Looking at the season so far from Everton's point of view, I think that it would be fairly safe to say that their season has been as fairly stop-start affair and they haven't as yet looked like the same team that was a whisker away from qualifying for Europe last year.

They haven't been helped too much by injuries particularly up front. In fact things have got so bad, they have had to bring perhaps their most injury prone striker almost out of cold storage in attempt to arrest the problems at least in the short term.

Duncan Ferguson has had more injuries than I have had pints - and I will freely admit that is saying something. Still, I have always been a fan of his believe it or not and it's good to see him back ready for battle.

However the Everton striker I am really worried about is not Ferguson or Rooney for that matter. No the man that I consider to be our biggest danger is Tomas Radzinski. He has been a thorn in Arsenal's side over the last couple of years and the bad news for us, according to the latest word on the street, is that Radzinski did not miss Everton's win over Norwich through injury he was just rested and should be available on Wednesday night.

On the plus side the word is that Thomas Gravesen is struggling to be fit having picked up a knock in the same game. I thought that the Dane was outstanding against us both in last years corresponding fixture and indeed when we beat Everton on the opening day of the season at Highbury.

The $64,000 question everyone will be asking is whether lightning can strike twice. Whether it will or not, only time will tell on that but I can guarantee that there will be a cup-tie atmosphere at Goodison on Wednesday night

In fact, I sense that the Everton fans feel that their club is slowly but surely moving in the right direction and whilst the Rooney factor exists they will always approach matches (particularly at home) with that little bit extra optimism.

Having said that I don't think that the Arsenal could not be going to Goodison in better heart. As I said before there are definite signs that we are starting to play a more solid all-round game. Let's hope we can carry on where we left off at Elland Road.