Nearly all season, Arsenal have endured the criticisms of being unable to follow the footprints of the leaders in chasing the Premier League title.
Now, they are the ones being pursued heading into Sunday's crunch match at Goodison Park against an in-form Everton squad making a charge at a top-four finish.
Despite being fourth in the table, the Gunners (19-7-6) never found that elite form after the turn of the calendar year to be a title contender and are seven points behind front-running Liverpool with six matches remaining. Arsene Wenger's only remaining realistic chance at winning any silverware this season is in the FA Cup, where Arsenal will play current Everton manager Roberto Martinez's former side - Wigan Athletic - in the semifinals on April 12.
While their title hopes appear to have been dashed, the Gunners did throw a spanner into Manchester City's designs on the top spot with a 1-1 draw at The Emirates on Saturday. Mathieu Flamini netted the equaliser for Arsenal, who enter this match four points ahead of Everton for the final Champions League spot, though the Toffees have a match in hand.
''Maybe it is very difficult to explain mental insecurity,'' Wenger said after his team was held to a second successive draw.
Some of those nervy moments should be gone given their track record of success versus Everton as they enter Goodison Park with a 14-match unbeaten run (9-5-0) over the Toffees across all competitions dating to a 1-0 road loss on March 18, 2007. Additionally, Arsenal overran Everton 4-1 in the FA Cup quarterfinals last month, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain knows the Toffees will be keen on gaining a measure of revenge with so much at stake this weekend.
"It was a really good game, it just happened that towards the end of the match they were pushing to equalise and we managed to get two really good goals on the counter," he told Arsenal's website. "Everton have got great players, and great attacking players especially so they are a real threat going forward.
"Goodison Park is always a really hard place to go to, but in the recent years since I've been at the club we've always done all right there so hopefully we can do the same again this time."
Everton appear poised to make their first foray into European competition since participating in the Europa League in 2009-10, but the prospects of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since their fourth-place finish in the 2004-05 season are proving tantalising to Martinez's side.
"I'm sure the fans will come out in their numbers, hopefully we can put things right from the last time we played them and get a Champions League spot," midfielder James McCarthy told the team's official website. "They put us out of the cup and losing is never nice. It's going to be a big ask but we will give it our best shot. It's in the balance and if we want it, it's there for us."
The Toffees have won five consecutive league matches on the trot, with their offence again on full force in a 3-1 win at Fulham on Sunday.
Kevin Mirallas snapped a 1-1 tie in the 79th minute before Steven Naismith secured all three points with a goal eight minutes later. Everton will now try to further their dominance at Goodison Park, where they've gone 27-9-2 over the last 38 league matches while outscoring opponents 75-31.
Martinez does have concerns over Ross Barkley's availability for this match after the midfielder suffered a knock on his calf in the win at Fulham and was taken out at halftime.
Everton, who have not won six straight league matches since Oct. 19-Nov. 23, 2002, have two draws and four losses in their last six at home versus Arsenal.
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