What an eventful Saturday it has been for Arsenal fans. Manchester United have lost at home to Newcastle, Chelsea have lost away to Stoke whilst Manchester City were holding on for the draw at Southampton. All these results mean a win against Everton would take us 7 points clear at the top. We can’t afford to pass up such an opportunity. The pressure put on City and Chelsea to win against us will be absolutely huge and that will mean they’ll be more open and susceptible to losing. It’s only December but circumstances could mean we are heavy favourites for the title come January.
Everton will be on a high after beating Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier on in the week. However, unlike us, they didn’t rest any key players and went all out. It’s understandable considering that getting a result at Old Trafford is a more likely outcome than a result at the Emirates at the moment (remember, all league matches have been won at home aside from Villa on the opening day). Arsenal on the other hand rested key players like Giroud, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere etc. We in theory should have a fresher team and should be able to make our physical advantage count.
Tactically, Everton are a lot more intelligent both on and off the ball. They move the ball quickly with meaningful possession and are very dangerous thanks to the likes of Lukaku. They are very efficient at transitioning from defending to counter attack and that has helped elevate them in the league. Off the ball, they press well and defend with a higher block than under the Moyes era. Martinez has a distinct philosophy and that is potentially something that could make him great in ten years time.
He even said before the game at Old Trafford that he’d rather see an impressive display from his players if it meant a loss rather than them clinging on from the first minute and getting a lucky winner. He got the impressive performance and the winner but it’s clear to see that he will do anything to preserve his philosophy and understanding of the game. He will vehemently defend it to his last breath.
Looking at the Gunners tactically, we have all the ingredients to cause Everton some problems. They beat United midweek mainly because they won the midfield battle. Everton won’t be so lucky against an Arsenal side widely accepted to have one of the best midfields in the league, if not the world. Our ball retention in the midfield area will be key. Arteta and Ramsey will need to be very careful in possession as the likes of McCarthy will want to press us and try and force a mistake. Özil and Cazorla will also need to be on their game as well. Quick interplay from them and the others will bamboozle Everton’s defence (who will notably be missing Leighton Baines) and should afford enough chances for Giroud to either get himself a goal or set up one of the midfielders to get one.
Jenkinson – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Gibbs
Arteta – Ramsey
Wilshere – Özil – Cazorla
This is arguably our strongest line up at the moment barring the absence of Sagna. Jenkinson will need to have a top game but is fortunate that a combination of Baines and Pienaar won’t be available to override him on our right side. Wilshere is starting instead of Walcott for me as firstly, the midfield battle as I mentioned is very important and Wilshere is in some fine form at the moment. Also, he is more defensively aware for Jenkinson and will do more to protect him than Walcott.
I’m going with a tight but overall impressive 2 – 1 win by us. I think Lukaku will inevitably get a goal but I also feel our midfield will be too strong and overwhelming for Everton to defend against.