Happy match day Gooners, hope we’re all holding up well?
It’s the return to an unhappy hunting ground in recent years, as we take on Sean Dyche’s Everton and for a team who hasn’t exactly been one of the leading lights in the Premier League for many years, they have a surprisingly (and annoyingly) good record against us. No victory at Goodison since 22nd October 2017, a 1-0 scabby set piece corner last season, as well as a late Demari Gray winner in stoppage time the season before. In the last two season’s particularly we’ve been really bad. I don’t know what it is, why we’ve been so poor, but we’ve played Everton who have essentially just got the basics right and that’s ended up being good enough to overcome us.
But today is another season and it is another opportunity to banish this hoodoo they have over us. We have no new injury worries, just Partey from the first XI isn’t available, which means Arteta has a plethora of quality players to pick from and he has to get that balance right today against a low block side who will look to replicate the blueprint of recent seasons against us.
They will sit compact, tight, tucked in and cede the wide areas. They will double up on Saka and Martinelli and look to frustrate us by letting us have the ball and being tough to break down. Then they’ll look to spring traps or make the most of set pieces. Which is why we need our best defensive unit out there today and for me that is Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel and Zinchenko, with Rice sitting in front of them. They is a fairly physical, tall and combative defensive line up and so my hope is that when the inevitable in swinging corner comes in, we have the requisite height to be able to deal with any physicality that Everton will bring with the likes of Doucourre, Onana and Danjuma. They’ve also got that new Brazilian signing Beto signed right at the end of the window who will probably start, although apparently Calvert-Lewin is fit so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him start with a face mask. Why is it that Calvert-Lewin seems to spend 90% of a football season injured, but he always seems to be fit for our games, eh? It means an extra amount of physicality to deal with and he’s always played well against us, so i’m expecting the same again this afternoon to be honest.
This will be a tough game, but we have to be much better than we’ve been at Goodison in the last four or five years. We have to control the ball, we have to work their low block by moving it quickly, we have to be able to cater for a small and old ground with a vociferous home support. They will have Ashley Young in at full back and Saka has to be able to get the better of him. In defence they’ve got a kid called Braithwaite who has apparently looked really good, so I’m expecting a Paolo Maldini-style performance from him today, but Everton haven’t been great at keeping the back door closed. In their first four games of the season they have conceded eight goals and with Coleman and Michael Keane out injured, we have to be looking to take advantage of their injuries and bag some goals today.
To be honest though, I’d take a narrow 1-0 to The Arsenal win. We saw yesterday a bunch of results that were annoying like Man City coming from behind, the Scum bagging two in injury time against Sheffield United, with only Man United providing some amusement. But as City are showing you just can’t slip up in this league. They are five for five right now and already it will look like they are stretching away from us if we lose or even draw today.
Arteta will be mindful of a midweek Champions league game too as well I suspect. He will know that he can’t just play the first XI every game and so I wonder if he tries for a little bit of a shuffle today? For example maybe Gabby Jesus starts today with Nketiah starting on Wednesday night against PSV? Perhaps Trossard is given the nod in wide left instead of Martinelli? Or does he drop him back in to the left eight instead of Havertz?
My gut feel is that Havertz starts today; I think Arteta doesn’t want his head to drop and so I think he’ll give him another opportunity to show his value, so if he does play I hope he smashes it and gives us a glimpse of what Arteta and the Arsenal coaching staff have seen in him to bring him to The Arsenal.
As for the rest of the team, it pretty much sorts itself out, because Rice will play, Odegaard will play and Saka will play. What I think we will need to do is give more support to Saka and whoever plays left wing, because I think Everton will double up on the wings and try to negate our wide forwards and snuff them out. So seeing more of the likes of White overlapping for Saka to create space, or seeing Havertz perhaps connect a little more with Martinelli if he plays, is the way to go. Of course the other option is you get Gabby Jesus on the pitch connecting with Martinelli on the left, then Havertz drifts in to the spaces left by Jesus’ movement. That’s somewhere where we might see a little joy, so if that is the plan for this afternoon then I get it and hope it works.
I had a little look on a couple of Everton fan forums and they’re not particularly confident. Which is a little weird given their record against us, but I guess there is that expectation that we are going to turn up and play like The Arsenal of the recent last couple of seasons and that the last two trips to Goodison just haven’t been us. Whether that is true or not, or whether we are in fact cursed on that ground, we will find out in just a few hours time.
James and I will be doing a post match on the whistle digest straight after the gam today so if you fancy hearing our emotional reaction – one way or the other – to the result, you can join us here.
Catch you all tomorrow.