Everton v Arsenal: Martinez defends under-pressure Wenger


Roberto Martinez launched a staunch defence of Arsene Wenger as Everton prepare to host Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday.

The Frenchman is under pressure with the Gunners sitting third in the table, 11 points adrift of shock leaders Leicester City with only one game in hand.

Arsenal have also been knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League to Watford and Barcelona in their previous two matches and Wenger will be desperate to avoid a trio of damaging losses when his team travel to Goodison Park.

Everton's season has also been under scrutiny as they sit down in 12th position, but - unlike Arsenal - they did progress to the last four of the FA Cup.

Martinez's men have only won one of their last 18 matches in all competitions against Arsenal and have tasted victory in just one of their last eight home league games.

Many of Arsenal's problems have been on the road, though, with only two wins in their last nine league away matches. But Martinez does not think the scrutiny Wenger is under is fair.

"It just shows you the times that we live in," said the Everton boss. "It's a need to criticise the losing team. It doesn't matter what you've done at a football club, the modern game is useless.

"Everyone knows better than you and that's disappointing. In a football match there is often a winner and a loser and people are led to criticise and focus on the team beaten.

"A few short-term results should not be allowed to overshadow the work that has been done through the years. You can see what Wenger has done at Arsenal. He has been inspirational for many managers.

"I think it's a very strong challenge for any individual. He is constantly innovative. These people don't come along too often."

Everton are without the suspended duo Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas, while Martinez is hopeful Bryan Oviedo will be able to play some part as he continues to recover from a serious chest infection.

Arsenal will assess Mathieu Flamini (hamstring) after he limped off in Wednesday's second-leg loss to Barcelona, with Petr Cech (calf), Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Santi Cazorla (Achilles), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Jack Wilshere (calf) all still out.

Midfielder Mohamed Elneny and attacker Danny Welbeck both stressed the importance of returning to form after the Barcelona loss.

"We are still up for the league," said Elneny, who netted his first goal for the club in the defeat at Camp Nou. "We need to focus. We still have nine games to go and God willing we can do it.

"We did what we could [against Barca]. Sure, we lost, but we tried our best. We were playing against a big team."

Welbeck added: "We want to play and go into every game and win it. We have to concentrate on preparing right physically and we will see how it goes.

"It was difficult. Barca are the best players in the world but to come here and play it is great opportunity and we didn't give up. We would have liked to have done better but it might have been different in certain situations."


Key Opta stats:

- Olivier Giroud has scored five goals in his last five games in all competitions against Everton, including in each of the last three Premier League meetings.
- Mesut Ozil has scored two goals and assisted four more in five appearances in all competitions against the Toffees.
- Everton have committed the fewest fouls in the Premier League this season (235).
- Only Arsenal (33) have picked up fewer yellow cards than Everton (36) in the top flight this season.