Tottenahm, West Ham and Man United all won this weekend, which brings in to focus exactly what is needed from Mikel Arteta’s side tonight as we face an Everton team who have had some injuries, some poor run of form, but haven’t lost at home to us in four years. Last season we lost 2-1 and that was near the Christmas period of woe as I seem to recall. The season before that Mikel Arteta had just joined the club and was in the stands to watch Freddie’s last game as caretaker manager as we limped to a 0-0 bore draw, then the season before that we lost 1-0 to a Phil Jagielka goal as the season began to wind down after Unai Emery’s first in charge. So to say Everton hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds would be a fair reflection of what we’ve seen recently.
Their home fans will be loud, noisy and boisterous, but if we can start quickly and play well, they will start to turn on the team, because their run of form hasn’t been great and Rafa is a guy that the Everton faithful just haven’t taken to in his time in charge at the club. He’s a good manager though and he’ll have a plan to try to negate us this evening, that’s for sure.
I wonder if he’ll draw on the desire of Alex Iwobi to be inspired and prove a point against his old club? I read a few of the Everton fans on Twitter after their defeat to Brentford and a lot of them were pretty raging about how much of a waste of money he has been for them, but this is Arsenal and if there’s one thing we do, it’s give former players some kind of magic elixir of life to spur them on to be better than they’ve been all season. They will most likely line up on a 4-4-1-1 – similar to our own – with Richarlison leading the line in the absence of Calvert-Lewin. The absence of the England centre forward means that Everton will need to play with a slightly different style and approach this evening; Calvert-Lewin is strong, a physical presence and will run in channels. Richarlison will give you that channel running, but not as much as he’s somebody who likes the ball to feet so he can get a feel of it. He’s not as much of a target/link up man as DCL and so I wonder what Everton will look to do in terms of their playing style. Having a quick look on FBRef it looks like Everton are not a team that likes the ball on the ground though, so I wonder if we’re going to see a more aerial approach and runners in behind? Some of the press are speculating that it’ll be Demari Gray behind Richarlison and if he’s the link man then it will be important that either Partey or Sambi are ensuring he doesn’t get space. Although if Everton are a team that look to go longer then perhaps the onus needs to be on our three behind Aubameyang (assuming he plays) to press those players sitting deeper and looking to distribute the ball longer?
With that in mind, I’d still opt for Odegaard this evening but I wonder if Arteta plays Lacazette up top instead of Auba? If he does and we go for Saka and Smith Rowe, there aren’t a lot of goals in the sharp end of our pitch. Having said that, with Auba’s form at the moment there doesn’t seem to be a lot of goals anyway, so perhaps it is worth putting in those players who will close down the space quicker. To be fair to Auba that’s one of the things we’ve seen from him plenty in recent weeks, it’s been his wayward finishing that has been the problem.
So is the answer Martinelli? Maybe. He’s got a goal and assist in his last two games, will press like a mad man and will look to make the same channel runs that Auba will make. It’d be a gamble but after Arteta decided to experiment with Elneny, nothing would surprise me tonight.
I know this is weird given how we lost on Thursday, but if we put in the same performance like we did then but cut out stupid things like not tracking runners or giving away silly penalties, then I think we’d stand a good chance of winning. I thought our play at times was controlled and looked confident and we were better than United on Thursday night. We should have got at least a draw out of that game and that’s why I’m thinking that the same performance again tonight get’s us the win. Of course football is a game of variables and there are all kinds of things that could go wrong – an injury to a key player, a red card, a penalty, etc – but what we need to do is to show that we can put the disappointment of Thursday behind us. Here’s hoping to three points.
I think Arteta will shift around a bit from the team that played on Thursday. The back five maybe has KT coming in at left back and we should be looking at bringing Sambi in for Elneny. I’d have Martinelli starting and perhaps ahead of Auba, with Odegaard, ESR and Saka behind him. Let’s see what youth and effervescence can do to an Everton back line that has looked shaky recently. They’ll most likely welcome back Mina and he’s their best defender so that’ll be tough for us, but we have to find a way through them and I think we have to do it early in the game. We need to start quick, start well, then hopefully get a goal and get the home fans to turn on them. If they get an early one it could be a tough night for us, so a lot hinges on that first third of the game I reckon.
We’ve been patchy since returning to the international break and we need to improve on our finishing of chances. Let’s hope the boys can do the business tonight.
Catch you all tomorrow.