There is a match day to be had today folks and much like Tyson Fury on his journey to achieve his objectives and be the best, this is another hurdle that this Arsenal team must overcome if we want to claw our way up the table and build confidence to fight for titles and trophies.
It’s Everton at home today who are in the middle of their own renaissance under Carlo Ancelotti. They are unbeaten in five games under the Italian since they were defeated away to Liverpool in the FA Cup and have picked up 17 points since he took over at the same time as Arteta. That’s the second best form in the league so they will go into today’s game with that confidence and swagger and we simply cannot take them for granted.
Both Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison have kicked into gear under Ancelotti with 11 and nine goals respectively and they are clearly the two biggest threats that we’ll face from an attacking point of view. Richarlison has the pace and trickery, Calvert-Lewin is a physical and imposing presence that our two centre halves will have to deal with. Both play up top in a traditional 4-4-2 with proper wide men.
Ancelotti has been playing Walcott, Bernard and Iwobi as his wide men and if you look at the average positions of the full backs then they like to support by pushing up high as well. It will most likely be Coleman and Digne who will be those fullbacks and both are good on the overlap and getting balls in, which is probably why Calvert-Lewis has such a good goal return.
So how do we stop them today and ensure that it is our game that is the imposing narrative of the day? I think it’ll remain the 4-2-3-1 that Arteta favours, but his team selection is fascinating. I put out a team I would play yesterday and got a few pelters from some; mostly because it didn’t contain Saka in it and so I understand why people thought I was off my rocker. But with this Everton team I suspect they will look to make the most of the overloads on the flanks and Saka has been playing as a very attacking wing back rather than a full back, which has meant Xhaka moving out wide to cover when we are in possession. But if we lose possession quickly and he’s out of that position, I worry about the middle of the park behind exposed, which is why I wonder if a more experienced head in Kolasinac will come back in.
The other option – depending on how fatigued Saka might be – is to push him further up the pitch and play wide left, with Kolasinac behind him. I suspect that won’t happen as I think Arteta will stick Auba wide left and Lacazette through the middle, so I don’t think we’ll see that variation, although I do think Pepe will come back in to the right hand side attacking position. Playing Auba there on Thursday night simply didn’t work he didn’t naturally drift in field and it really felt like a waste of our resources. I know plenty of other Arsenal fans have said the same and if we can see it, you can be darn sure Arteta can see it.
Behind Lacazette I guess a question mark remains. I haven’t seen whether Özil has had his child yet so that means he’s probably still awaiting the arrival, which means he might miss out today. That means Arteta has a decision to make. Willock May feel like the most natural choice in that position but I thought he was poor against Olympiakos. He didn’t have control of the ball as much as we have seen from him and he also lost possession a fair few times. Perhaps it was a one-off and perhaps Arteta just needs to keep the faith, but the other option is to play Ceballos further forward. Arteta has said previously that he doesn’t think Ceballos is a ‘10’ so I suspect it’ll be another opportunity for Willock to stampede his mark today if Özil isn’t playing.
If that happens there could be space for Ceballos in the two behind but that worries me because Newcastle were able to set players running straight through Xhaka and Ceballos last weekend. Everton play Siggurdsson and one of Delph or Schneiderlin through the middle who aren’t exactly power runners, but if they’re looking for quick transition from defence then it’s players like Richarlison who can drop deep and carry the ball beyond a midfield of Ceballos and Xhaka.
That’s why I’d go with Torreira and Xhaka today, assuming the Uruguayan is back fit after illness, because he’ll offer a little more physicality and ability to recycle the ball compared to Ceballos.
I guess it depends how Arteta thinks Everton will line up. They’re not like Newcastle so I can’t see a low block, which might give us space, but I still think we need a midfield which will give us the ability to break down attacks better than that of Ceballos and Xhaka. We will have to see.
Im certainly not in an arrogant enough mood over this game to expect the win but we have the tools, as well as hopefully the form, to hope that we can get all three points from this game.
Time for the players to step up once again and get the win.