After getting in their first Europa League win this season, Arsenal are waiting on Everton on Sunday for a game that’s going to be a real test for both sides.
Arsenal are flying high, getting in their fourth consecutive win since the start of the season but needs to prove that the team is strong enough to compete in both competitions with no need of sacrifices, in either of them.
Everton has been too inconsistent so far and the team is in pursuit of its second win this term as Marco Silva’s side hasn’t faced a team challenging for a top six spot. Going down 1-0 against West Ham was an alert that they need to focus and have a clear vision for the next game.
But, are the Toffees about to bounce back or the winning Arsenal side is going to make it even harder for them?
Patience pays off
It is obvious that the further we go into the season, the better Arsenal looks on the pitch. There are still some main issues to be fixed, but now, it looks like Unai Emery is slowly getting in control of the team and it starts to all make sense. As we know, his tactics were completely new to the players and it not only seems that they are getting used to it but enjoy it, every once in a while. This is very pleasing for the supporters, but there are still some things getting on their nerves and they may be right.
The team’s counter-attack game is going strong and that’s a thing that Emery was trying to implement, since his arrival. And that is something that Everton should be aware of, although, I am not sure they can react.
Torreira for Guendouzi
No one was expecting such a great start from Matteo Guendouzi. The guy came out of nowhere and owned the midfield area, in his first games. But the more games the team played, the poorer Guendouzi performed. Lucas Torreira failed to start any of the PL fixtures, so far, with the fans moaning about it ever since he came in as a substitute and changed the whole team’s performance.
The Uruguayan contributes more defensively and also has a great impact to the front lines. His defensive positioning is helping a lot to the sometimes sloppy centre-backs, but he also distracts the opponents and leaves more space for Mesut Ozil to operate up-front and deliver. Him starting against Everton is a must, as the Gunners will need a lot of support to the back-four. Otherwise, playing Guendouzi means allowing Everton to make an easier transition from defence to attack.
Some rest is the key to success
Everyone was curious as to what’s going to be the Arsenal Europa League line-up and is Emery going to use the same players or he has a bigger plan and wants to give some of the others chance in this competition. As we could see, the only starting XI players were Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nacho Monreal. It was the first start for the new signings Torreira, Lichtsteiner and the goalkeeper Leno. But also for Elneny, Welbeck and Rob Holding. In my opinion, it was a great idea giving some of the players a rest. We saw how it all changed for Mesut Ozil, after staying with the team during the international break.
Shkodran Mustafi and Hector Bellerin got some rest too and it’s all good because the team needs them fresh, if they want to keep their first clean sheet this season. Their teammates failed to do so against Vorskla Poltava, conceding two for the final score of 4-2. Bearing in mind that most of the mistakes in the league come either from the left (Bellerin’s position) or in the middle (Mustafi’s position), it is definitely a plus giving them a rest as that’s the area that Richarlison operates in.
After a clearance, all the players turned so they can build-up a counter-attack, which is good, but that way, when their opponents got the possession, there was nobody behind to defend. The so-called defensive line at that moment was positioned on a straight line. The ball came out of nowhere for Danny Welbeck, who lost his aerial duel, and then Lichtsteiner (next to him) had to react quickly enough and get the possession back. Which actually didn’t happen. If there was even one player in front of the goalkeeper, then he might have won the defensive duel and prevented the danger.
The club’s main man Richarlison had a flying start to the season, netting three goals in two games but then, had to quickly come back to the ground after seeing red in Everton’s third game (against Bournemouth). He had to sit out for three matches after a violent conduct and that’s been crucial for the Blues. It was clear that the attacking power has been cut in half and the team will experience some struggles up front.
But now, the Toffees have their star player back on track and that will surely cause trouble to Arsenal’s defence. He scored twice for Brazil during the international break and is now ready to put some effort for Everton too. Richarlison is a type of player that can exploit the defenders and leave them with mouths wide open, watching him score, without them being able to prevent it. And as I mentioned, it’s not hard to find a gap in the Londoners back-line.
Every single of these three pictures shows Richarlison’s strong decision-making. He doesn’t hesitate to shoot on any occasion and most of the times it turns out that he took the right decision. In the third picture, Coutinho lost his offensive duel, but in that split second, Richarlison was there to take care of the loose ball and shoot for his second goal against El Salvador.
The Blues lost 3-1 to West Ham as they struggle with a long injury list and have registered only two points from their last three games. The team is yet to keep a clean sheet too and that’s a bit of a worry, bearing in mind that all 10 goals scored by Arsenal in the Premier League this season have come from different players, showing that the Gunners’ offensive play can be unpredictable and complex.
There is a ray of hope for the manager Marco Silva as the new signing and World Cup star Yerry Mina trains with his teammates and is expected to make his debut against Arsenal. The summer signing Mina put some solid performances in for his country Colombia during the World Cup and is yet to make an appearance for the Toffees. He could be a great addition to the defensive line, which struggled against Marko Arnautovic last week. And he could contribute greatly to the frontlines too as his height of 1,95 is perfect for set-pieces, where he can win every aerial duel and net a header. The team allowed West Ham have 9 shots on goal, with 3 of them going in (1-3). And that hasn’t been the only problem. Everton’s passing accuracy against the Hammers was 77%, for the record – Arsenal’s one against Newcastle was 84%.
Everton couldn’t react quickly enough on West Ham’s counter-attack. The highly-positioned defensive line let Marko Arnautovic receive the long ball and deliver it into the box. He outran his marker and made a pass for Yarmolenko to score.
Everton have not beaten Arsenal away since 1996 and that is something that may not change. It is expected that both teams will concede, with both defensive lines not playing to their potential. But the key is the attacking players to use their pace and creativity and exploit the gaps left by their opponents. And most importantly – to never stop their killer counter-attack efforts until the defence cracks.