Everton-Arsenal: Midweek Gut-check

Arsenal travel to Goodison Park to play another tough opponent in another high stakes Premier League battle.  Everton have dropped off the scintillating pace with which they began the season but they are never a team to be taken lightly.  Ronald Koeman–a coach who has gotten the better of Arsene Wenger on several occasions–will be especially keen to have his boys play better than their recent results suggest in front of the home support.  While they’ve been beaten soundly in their most recent travels, Everton have also only managed 1-1 draws (vs Swansea and Manchester United) in their last couple of home games.  This will be one to show the home fans that the team means business.

How will Arsenal respond and what is the likely pattern of the game?

Scoring a dozen goals in our last three matches, Arsenal have shown quality with signs that there’s a real depth and togetherness in the squad.  Wenger played the same 11 in the two most recent league matches but rotated 6 players for the intervening midweek Champions League win at Basel which saw us top our group.  Our reward, predictably, was drawing one of the most difficult of the 2nd place finishers, Bayern Munich, again, for the round of 16.  It’s a mental blow–as was Chelsea’s 9th consecutive win in the league which keeps us firmly rooted in 2nd place. This match against a wounded Everton club will thus be one to show that we are up for any challenge placed in our path.

Despite losing 3-2 at Watford on the weekend Everton are still a scary prospect.  The big figure of Romalu Lukaku–He scored both goals–at center forward and the aggressive forward play of fullbacks Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman means wide play and crosses into the box are always a danger.  During this past week Arsenal have looked relatively comfortable absorbing such pressure and springing on the break.  Is Everton another team that we’ll invite forward or will Koeman–seen as the more practical manager compared with the departed Roberto Martinez–hope to control the middle of the pitch and spring on the counter with his own very quick players?  Their midfield is anchored by solid if more pedestrian midfielders like Gareth Barry and Tom Cleverly but players such as Kevin Mirallas, Ross Barkely and Gerard Delofeu work far more quickly and more directly.  They are, however, missing Yannick Bolasie who has gone down with a major knee injury.  Nonetheless, they are capable of moving the ball through the middle or out wide and back in again at pace.  Compared with the teams we’ve recently beaten, Everton may well be the sternest test.

How will Arsenal set up?  Will the PL 11 go again or will there be a measure of rotation as we saw in Switzerland?  Your guess is as good as mine but my hunch is that Wenger sticks with the crew that won against West Ham and Stoke only replacing the injured Shkodran Mustafi with the recently recovered Hector Bellerin while shifting Gabriel Paulista from right back to CB much as he did in the Stoke match after Mustafi tweaked his hamstring.

Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Holding, Elneney, Iwobi, Perez, Giroud

It all seems a little harsh on the bench players.  Who can forget that early season match at Everton a couple of years back where Wenger first tried to play Alexis at center forward?  In that one we trailed 2-nil before Olivier Giroud’s introduction netted us a pair of goals and a point.  Could this be a spot for the big Frenchman?  Could Lucas Perez get another chance to be a midweek magician and build upon the hat-trick he scored in Switzerland?  Are there other changes the manager might make or that you believe he should make for this one?

Whatever line-up the manager chooses Arsenal should relish the chance to continue building momentum ahead of the trip to Manchester City this weekend and then the congested fixtures of the festive season.  Add in the difficult–and repetitive–draw in the Champions League–a mental challenge for sure–and this one appears a real test of our quality and focus.

by 17highburyterrace

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16 Responses to Everton-Arsenal: Midweek Gut-check

  1. AB says:

    Hi there HT. Great preview as ever. Its dangerous to argue with you on selection! And I don’t intend to. But I’m looking at the City game too and asking are there not grounds for some rotation here? I wonder about Gibbs at LB after his performance last week. And I also wonder about Iwobi in for one of our wingers, perhaps Walcott to keep him fresh for the weekend. Neither feels like a major risk to me. More risky perhaps would be resting one of the DMs and giving Elneny a run out; though just writing that feels harsh on Elneny. Our DMs need to cover some ground and 3 games in quick succession will take its toll. City look there for us this weekend if we play to our full potential; it would be a great shame to just run out of gas by the weekend.

    Anyway, its a great spell to be a gooner. Everton have plenty of threat if they can click; but it hasn’t been happening for a while. The chavs will have a poor spell, just as City have after seeming so invincible at the start. We need to maintain our consistency and concentration. Its been an impressive start.

    On the Bayern draw, yes predictable poor luck. But we have to face the big boys in this tournament so why not now. And I don’t see us being the weaker of the two squads this season, so I expect to see us compete. In fact I quite fancy us this season against them. I worry more about the Spanish sides.

  2. retsub1 says:

    Yes well written 17HT I agree the danger comes from the full backs and Lukaku. As for our team, it’s virtually impossible to read Wengers mind these day, mainly because the squad is so strong at the moment. I think he will make changes though, with the City game coming up he will take the opportunity to rest a few. I wouldn’t at all be surprised yo see Gibbs in for Montreal, and Iwobi in for the Ox. Perez and Gironde must be chomping at the bit. Both have proved they are in good goal scoring form, but can’t get a chance.

  3. 17highburyterrace says:

    Cheers AB & retsub… We’re sort of half-back (half-baked?…) or at least I’m trying to get back into doing the match previews. I will be away for the festive period, however… Hopefully TA will pick up with his writing at that time…

    Yeah, I’m less confident about this line-up as it seems a good chance to rotate in some players esp. the ones who did well out in Switzerland. I went with it, however, because we’re under such pressure for results that if AW gets it wrong I doubt Gooners will cut him a lot of slack. Koeman is under even more pressure these days so he probably cannot rest too many of his better players either even though he’s got a Merseyside derby at the weekend. We shall see…

    Anyhow, good to see some of the old-timers around here. Cheers again…

    COYG

  4. Pony Eye says:

    Great preview HT. The good old days are back. Excellent background information. As for the line up, I should think that the 3-day-only rest between Stoke and Everton is a more critical factor, for the demand of some rotation for today, than our weekend match with Manc. Luckily we have a 5 day rest between Everton and Manc.

    Little to choose between Nacho and Gibbs, between Oxlade and Iwobi. Ramsey availability is doubtful and Coquelin/Elneny partnership lacks sufficient penetration. Le Coq was rested in the Basel match and I can see him started again today. Bellerin starts, having played about 70 minutes on Saturday. Would Wenger rest Walcott for Perez? Am inclined to think so. Walcott does a lot of sprinting up and down the field and sprints are very exhaustive and 3-day-only rest might leave him short of his best. Subbing Sanchez last Saturday tells us Wenger intends to play him today. Ozil is a fixture in the team and our luck is that he rested during the international break. Kosh needs a brake, but that cannot be afforded while Musti is out.

    I expect four changes and two early substitutions.

    Expected line up:

    ————Cech————
    Bel—-Gab—-Kos—-Gibbs
    ——-Coq——–Xhaka—-
    Perez——Ozil——–Iwobi
    ————Sanchez———-

    Bench: Ospina, Hold, Nacho, Eln, Ox, Walcott, Giroud.

    Good all round depth. COYG!!!

  5. Gerry says:

    Another crispy preview, HT. Keep it up 😀

    Alas, unlike last time, I am with the majority above on team selection.
    Yes to Gibbs.
    Yes to Iwobi

    Beyond those it gets scary. We need Bellerin to play, but … He came back early, and had a setback last time when he was pushed into action after a similar break.So unless our cryonic chamber really is working its magic, then it may be wise to rest him? I don’t think AW will, because the options to go up against Baines is the scary bit? Jenks, Coquelin, M-Niles, Holding …. mmmn? The latter might be a thought, if Ox plays on that side. I say this because Ox’s pace going forward can do so independent of Holding overlapping, and Holding could be useful at the set pieces?

    Ramsey is out injured I am reliably informed by Premier League Fastasy football site. I say reliably because of the money involved, I think the clubs are obliged to give accurate info to this site, and Ramsey has the dreaded RED marker. That means ‘no chance of playing’.
    Therefore the midfield partnership of Xhaka and Coquelin should continue.

    Up front I think it will be tweaks rather than mass changes. I’ll go with the thought of Iwobi on the left, Alexis, middle, and Ox on the right … for whatever those nominal positions are worth.
    Throw in Ozil as puppet master, and we have a sound team to keep up with the quick fire stuff?

    How I see the game tweaked differently, to counter the attacking threat are these:
    Coquelin will be considerably more defensive of the DM pair this time.
    Gibbs, when forward, will free up Iwobi to operate inside …. and be a goal threat 😀
    Alexis too, will work with Iwobi and Ozil and be more of a goal threat this time 😀 😀
    Ox will give the width and the threat down the right.
    The back 4 will be more defensively aware, so Coquelin can operate more centrally in front of them?
    Xhaka to back up Gibbs, Ox to back up Bells(most likely?).
    Cech to mop up when any of the above fail.

    Job done!

    Cheers,
    Gerry

  6. TotalArsenal says:

    Fab match preview, Seventeenho. I think you covered the threats of the Toffees very well and they will be a wounded animal looking to gain back some pride in front of a passionate home crowd. Until the start of the new year, this is the only real congestion of fixtures; and even then there are five days of rest between Everton and MC. After Citeh, there are plenty of days between games, due to Christmas falling on a weekend. So for me this is the big one, as it is our fourth game in ten days. Not going to argue about the line up as you had an impressive 11/11 last time round. I wonder though whether we will see a start for Holding to deal with the well covered aerial threat of their Lulu. We need lots of energy and I wonder whether Rambo, or indeed Perez, will get a start, just to add that little bit extra. Elneny was very impressive at Goodison Park last time round, and maybe we need his drive and tidiness in midfield? Getting the mindset of the team right is the most important aspect for tonight’s key clash. CoyGs! 😀⚽️🌶

  7. 17highburyterrace says:

    Teams are in…

    Everton: Stekelenburg, Coleman, Jagielka, Ashley Williams, Baines, McCarthy, Gana, Barkley, Lennon, Lukaku, Valencia. Subs: Robles, Deulofeu, Mirallas, Cleverley, Funes Mori, Calvert-Lewin, Holgate.

    Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez. Subs: Gibbs, Lucas Perez, Giroud, Ospina, Holding, Iwobi, Elneny.

    Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

    Wenger sticks with his PL 11… This time I got all 18 names correct… 🙂

  8. retsub1 says:

    Just confirms that 17HT is in fact Wenger in disguise….. can feel a song coming on.

    Good luck fellow Gooners

  9. TotalArsenal says:

    11/11! Well done Seventeenho 🎯🎳🎲

  10. Gerry says:

    Clatts is a bonus too!

  11. TotalArsenal says:

    We are doing well with nine men. Time to bring on proper wing players.

  12. TotalArsenal says:

    Hehe subs on and we have 11 on the pitch again

  13. TotalArsenal says:

    Ozil and Alexis gave everything but needed help from others today as they clearly were fatigued. They did not get this and that’s why we lost. Koz was immense. A setback, but not totally unexpected. Wrong options for the wing today which cost us. Ah well, bring on the Oilers.

  14. njk84sg says:

    We should have started Iwobi and rested Ox. He is the most inconsistent performer for us.

    Would have preferred Holding than Gabby, but well we did not take our chances.

    Gutted.

  15. Gerry says:

    It does seem a strange decision that one of the games where we had the minimum days between the last one, AW chose to make no changes? Yet had successfully made 4 or more changes previously, albeit against lesser opposition, but was successful in each?

    Not hindsight from this quarter, nor from TA above. In four lines he has summed up the game perfectly.

    Sadly, our next game when we really need our A-gamers to be at their peak, have a hangover to get over before they get on the pitch?

    But sticking with this game to have an idea why we failed, not by much to be fair. as super cool Ozil could have put us in the lead second time, and it might have been a different story? Even he is allowed to have an element of fatigue in his game, when the need to score creates a moment of snatched decision, when cool precision was really needed.

    I thought that by letting the physical side of the game to flow, Mark Clattenburg could have erred on the side leniency, but if he went the other way, it would have been a bitty game which would have no fluency in it. Also, had he gone for bookings, we certainly could have lost Coquelin and Xhaka twice over, as both side got reduced to 9 aside?

    Everton set the tone. but for a while we rose above that, and even took the lead. But once our quick passing dropped off, which coincided with them closing down more quickly, the warning signs were there. Our passing accuracy dropped off which in turn led to us being on the back foot for the remainder of that half. Only for a brief spell did we regain that control early in the second half, but the general fatigue set in, and we had little continuity between our previously excellent team units.

    I am not one to go after individual players in a game like this. I believe it was a mistake to try and replicate our game strategy against a team that were driven by a collective unity to do better than their previous game. We, on the other hand, seemed content to attempt to play at the same level as previously, when we needed to go up a level? Therein lies the difference.

    HT warned us that they were a dangerous opponent. A wounded animal no less, and they played with that intensity. We looked like it was a battle too far for some, and despite heroic effort by others, the mismatch of unity, confidence, energy levels … call it what you like, just wasn’t there throughout the 11, and it cost us.

    AW now needs to somehow breathe fresh fire in their bellies, as the next game is going to be equally difficult. The three points lost yesterday are not a major problem. The loss of three more at the weekend will be!

    Over to you AW …

    Cheers,
    Gerry

  16. TotalArsenal says:

    New post ⚽️😀

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