Everton were back at Goodison Park to complete a narrow win over struggling Arsenal, taking them back up to 2nd in the Premier League table.
Seamus Coleman returns to the squad, as expected, but only on the bench with nine substitutes named for the first time this season. Davies replaced Allan in the starting line-up, while Pickford was rotated back in for Olsen.
Among the substitutes were Branthwaite and Nkounkou along with Gordon and of course a third goalie in Lössl. Gomes had a 'little problem' in training and Carl Ancelotti did not want to risk him, with a game coming up on Wednesday.
Arsenal kicked off but their progression was halted and Everton looked to build an attack but Sigurdsson's cross was hopelessly overhit. Keane tried a Route-One ball that was fielded by an Arsenal defender. Everton tried to build slowly with short back and side passing, inviting the press, until Iwobi gave up the ball.
Everton probed and poked again until it broke down once again at Iwobi. Arsenal went long, Godfrey shepherding the ball behind and out of reach of Pepe. More short back and side passing ended with a direct ball that saw Calvert-Lewin slip. Another slow attack saw Iwobi cross to the hands of Leno.
Keane got given a lot of space and decided to wellie a shot from distance that was not far off the post. Arsenal were content to play deep and deny the Blues much space for anything creative. That was until Iwobi made another inward run and fired a tasty ball for Calvert-Lewin but his header was going wide until redirect by Holding just behind him, and into the Arsenal net for the first goal of the game.
This was just what the game needed as it had descended into a moribund pattern. Arsenal would now be expected to come out a little and indeed Ketia was given acres of space to drive his shot well wide of Pickford's goal. Arsenal then got a couple of corners, one off a particularly strong tackle from Godfrey.
Iwobi went on another run but ran into a cul-de-sac. Not much was happening until Davies was unfortunate to give a penalty away when Maitland-Niles appeared from his blind side to challenge for a loose ball. Pepe put it away from the spot.
Playing out rom the back finally worked with CL picking up the ball and trying to set up fr a shot until Tiernry took him out in the dee. Sigurdsson's effort was utterly hopeless, distracted perhaps by a main lying behind the wall to prevent the daisey-cutter.Ceballos should have seen red for the way he came in on Mina, but Mariner only gave him a yellow. Nketiah gt a chance to shoot but there was no real power in it. Calvert-Lewin worked his way into a good position and put a great shot in toward the top corner that brought a tremendous save from Leno. A perfect corner from Sigurdsson met perfectly by Mina this time could not be kept out by Leno.
It was end to end at the start of the second half. One good break by Richarlison saw Sigurdsson miss his pass and the follow-up shot was not a threat. Arsenal looked to play in NKetiah with a tasty cross that beat everyone.
Everton came under some pressure with Arsenal dominating possession, Saka got inside but Holgate blocked him very well. Pickford flapped at a cross, David Luiz delivered it back in, deflected off Doucouré's block onto the angle.
Richarlison went chasing the ball around as Arsenal were attacking, giving away a silly free-kick but Saka wellied it high over Pickford's goal. Everton finally won a free-kick in the Arsenal half when Calvert-Lewin was fouled but nothing came of it.
Godfrey went on a tremendous run down the left but Calvert-Lewin got just too far ahead of his cross. Richarlison was next to make a determined push into the Arsenal area but the ball was not quite perfectly placed for Iwobi (Where was Calvert-Lewin?) and a brilliant chance evaporated.
Godfrey was fouled but the free-kick by Sigurdsson was wasted. Calvert-Lewin then found himself crossing the ball fro Richarlison, but lacking sufficient accuracy. At the other end, Everton's defence were being tested but holding firm, forcing Willian to fire wildly high and wide.
A foul on Calvert-Lewin saw a nicely worked effort by Sigurdsson scooped over the Arsenal defence to the advancing Michael Keane but the ball crucially evaded him. At the other end, Willcock got behind the Everton defence and put in a decent cross that sailed past Pickford and the far post.
Calvert-Lewin played in Richarlison but Maitland-Niles got his foot on it to give away a corner. Iwbi's shot deflected wide for a second corner from the opposite side, where Holgate got a talking to for blocking Leno. Coleman replaced Iwobi for the last 10 mins or so.
Arsenal attacked again and Willock headed weakly wide of the post. Everton tried to counter but the ball kept coming back at them. But a loose ball from midfield gave Everton a corner, and a respite from the late pressure, which they tried to walk into the Arsenal goal from the corner flag.
Godfrey tempted Willock int a rash tackle as Kenny replaced Richarlison, who got an extra helping hand to leave the pitch from fellow Brazilian, David Luiz. In a comedy moment, Calvert-Lewin got booked for not leaving the field fast enough, his replacement was Tosun.
Arsenal pressed hard again, forcing Everton to hang on amid screams from the Everton fans. A fantastic Arsenal cross beat everyone, then Pickford had to produce a brilliant low save, but still Arsenal kept coming until finally the whistle blew and Everton had won their third game in a row.
Scorers: Holding (og:25'), Mina (45'); Pepe (pen:35')
Everton: Pickford; Holgate, Keane, Mina, Godfrey; Iwobi (83' Coleman), Davies, Doucoure, Richarlison (90+2' Kenny); Sigurdsson; Calvert-Lewin [Y:90+3'] (90+3' Tosun).
Subs not Used: Olsen, Lössl, Nkounkou, Bernard, Gordon, Branthwaite.
Arsenal: Leno, Holding, Luiz, Tierney [Y], Maitland-Niles, Elneny [Y] (64' Willock [Y]), Ceballos, Saka, Pepe (71' Martinelli), Nketiah (76' Lacazette), Willian.
Subs not Used: Bellerin, Runarsson, Cedric, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Smith-Rowe.
Referee: Andre Marriner
VAR: Michael Oliver
Improving Everton are back at Goodison Park in front of restricted attendance by fans for the visit of struggling Arsenal this weekend, hoping to press their top-four credentials with what would be their third successive win.
Carlo Ancelotti's side have registered impressive victories over Chelsea and Leicester City in the past week, keeping clean sheets in both matches and ensuring that they come into Saturday's match sitting in fifth place.
Ordinarily, a date with Arsenal would represent a daunting task for the Toffees but this time around Everton will be going up against the Gunners as slight +130 favourites, according to SportsBettingDime, as Mikel Arteta tries to get his arms around the job he took a almost year ago to the day.
Since then, the former Everton midfielder has guided Arsenal to an FA Cup triumph and won the Community Shield but the start to 2020-21 has not gone at all to plan. The North Londoners have won just four matches so far and just one of their last five, a sequence that has left them sitting in 15th place.
Arteta's cause hasn't been helped by red cards in each of Arsenal's last two games and it also means that both Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Magalhaes will be suspended for their trip to Merseyside. Gabriel Martinelli is unlikely to play despite coming through an Under-23s match as he works his way back from a knee complaint while marquee signing Thomas Partey is also set to miss out.
Everton have come through their own bad patch of results in impressive fashion as Ancelotti approaches his own anniversary in charge at Goodison and look to be on a much surer footing defensively despite the loss to injury of Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman. Ancelotti has bolstered the back four with Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey in the last two fixtures but could have the option of welcoming the club captain back from a hamstring injury this weekend.
Coleman has missed the last five games but has been back in training and might be passed fit by the club's medical staff. If so and his manager is ready to put him back in the side, Holgate is the man likely to make way despite scoring his first Premier League goal at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday.
Then there is James Rodriguez who is, perhaps, more doubtful for the Arsenal game. The Colombian had been training individually the past week after picking up a calf injury in the 1-1 draw at Burnley and might not be risked with the League Cup quarter-final looming next week.
Depending on where would be deployed, James's inclusion might require a tactical rethink in how the team plays, particularly in terms of their defensive posture and it would not be a surprise to see the former Real Madrid star eased back in if he is fit with a place on the substitutes' bench.
Ancelotti is expected to bring Jordan Pickford back into the team after he was rested against Leicester but the Italian will be forced into at least one other change after Allan injured his hamstring in midweek. The Brazilian's prognosis hasn't been revealed by the club — Ancelotti will, no doubt, face questions on that matter in his pre-match press conference — but he is expected to miss the rest of the 2020 programme. Richarlison should play despite injuring his arm on against the Foxes.
André Gomes was the man charged with replacing Allan against Leicester and the Portuguese could get the nod again this weekend, although Tom Davies is another option for Ancelotti to consider. And there is the possibility that other players could be rested as the manager eyes the busy run of games over the next few weeks, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin promised a breather at some point and the likes of Bernard and Anthony Gordon itching for more game time.
While they may be in poor form, Arsenal still possess plenty of quality in their ranks, not least Willian, Nicholas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who became the first Gunner to score from open play in almost 800 minutes of Premier League action when he equalised against Southampton on Wednesday. The Gabonese striker has also scored four times in as many seasons against Everton, including a brace at the Emirates last season.
So there will no room for complacency in the Blues' ranks in a game that calls for as much robustness and professionalism as they have shown in their last two games so that they go into the cup game and Christmas programme beyond on a real high.
Kick-off: 5:30pm, Saturday 19 December 2020 on Sky Sports
Referee: Andre Marriner
VAR: Michael Oliver
Last Time: Everton 0 - 0 Arsenal
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Holgate, Godfrey, Doucouré, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Iwobi, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin