Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side travel to Everton on Saturday evening. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
If you’re struggling to get up to speed with the transfer activities of the 20 Premier League clubs, Everton should be refreshingly familiar from last season. Of the 13 players Roberto Martinez used in the 2-2 draw at Leicester last weekend, none were new arrivals.
Indeed, two of Martinez’s key signings this summer simply secured the permanent services of players previously on loan. Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku excelled last season, and Martinez was determined to keep them both on Merseyside. Equally crucially, for a club sometimes forced to sell major stars, there have been no significant departures.
Leighton Baines remains a superb crosser, and his relationship with Steven Pienaar is one of the best in the division
However, Arsenal struggled against this Everton side last season. They were dominated for long periods in a 1-1 home draw at the Emirates, before being beaten 3-0 at Goodison Park, so a significant improvement is needed this time around.
Martinez’s side mixes structure and fluidity. In deep positions, he generally keeps a solid defensive ‘square’ together - that means centre-backs Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin are supported keenly by Barry and James McCarthy, who remain in position against big sides.
This gives freedom for the full backs to motor forward. Leighton Baines remains a superb crosser, and his relationship with Steven Pienaar is one of the best in the division - they combined excellently for Steven Naismith’s goal last weekend. On the right, John Stones started against Leicester, although Seamus Coleman could return to offer more pace and attacking thrust.
Further forward, Martinez will keep Arsenal guessing. In Everton’s 3-0 win last season, he surprisingly used Naismith centrally as a false nine, with Lukaku cutting inside from the right to great effect, scoring a superb goal after outwitting the left half of Arsenal’s backline.
Kevin Mirallas also combined nicely with Baines on the left, which is where many of Everton’s attacks originated.
Something similar could be used this time around, although Pienaar and Aiden McGeady both played well last weekend, meaning someone will be disappointed to be omitted - it’s four from five in the attacking section of Everton’s 4-2-3-1.
Ross Barkley’s knee injury rules him out of the contest, while two new arrivals in holding midfielder Muhamed Besic and loanee Christian Atsu might hope to be involved for the first time.
However, they’ll have to wait for opportunities, as Martinez is keen to continue with the cohesion he found last season.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 21 Aug 2014