Today’s game against Everton will by no means be a walkover. The Toffees are a bit unpredictable like us and despite the fact that we have a brilliant record at home against them, they have players that can hurt us and so I naturally have that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.
It’s a mixture of excitement and fear of being sucker-punched today and that is certainly a very real chance against a side with players who have enough pace to hit us hard on the counter. In Richarlison and Theo – both fit and free from suspension respectively, there are two players who can capitalise on the inevitable space they’re going to get when we press up the pitch and push our full backs in to attacking positions.
West Ham was the last team to come to The Emirates and they found themselves with plenty of space and time to get in behind us. But their forwards weren’t as pacey as Everton’s and if midfielders like Sigurdsson have their range then we need to be very careful today.
It’s not just the pace we need to worry about either, as Cenk Tosun will most likely lead the line and he is a physical presence that will probable relish having a go at Mustafi and his error-proneness. That’s where the ever-improving Sokratis can be valuable and as long as Tosun and Mustafi aren’t isolated when the ball is being fed in to our box, you’d hope our physical Grecian can handle a physical Turk.
What we have to do going forward is make sure we are clinical. What we’ve seen this season is that we have the players with the requisite quality to get us the goals, but I suspect Everton will adopt a similar tactic to West Ham and try to be compact, waiting for the breakdown or turnover in possession, then hitting us on the break with the pace of their two wide forwards.
So we have to be smart, we have to break them down and that’s why for me we need clever footballers who can pick a pass, which is why I’d have Xhaka and probably Torreira today. Guendouzi has a passing range but isn’t as good tracking back and winning it as Torreira and when we turnover the ball you want a tenacious player biting back into Everton to try to win it further up the pitch.
In front of them I’d have Ramsey for his penalty box threat, with Özil in front of him along with Auba and Laca in the three. Mkhitaryan did well in the second half against Vorskla but there’s questions over his fitness after he injured himself in the game and besides which, the two goals Auba scored will give him more confidence. We all hope.
This will be a tough game and it’s not unfeasible for us to draw or even be defeated. We are far from the Emirates being the same fortress it was last season and because of that it makes for a nervous pre match build up. But if we really want to compete at the top then we need a home form that means we win these types of games and we need to be picking up results in this run of games up to November when we play Liverpool at home at the start. Momentum is key in football and a win today means we can start thinking about whether we’re actually building some. That never happened last season and so this is an important time in the early stages of Emery’s career. He needs games like today to go his way and so do we.
Right, I’m offski, but I’ll be there in the rain singing up for The Arsenal.