Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Everton are the visitors to Emirates Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday, to find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Dave Prentice.
Having been accustomed to a relegation fight with Wigan Athletic, Roberto Martinez has adjusted impressively to the demands of coaching a side challenging for European places - and the evolution in Everton’s playing style is already obvious.
Whereas Martinez’s predecessor David Moyes was a reactive manager who generally played extremely cautiously at the Emirates, Everton are now playing much more proactively, and boast the second-highest average share of possession in away matches this season, behind Manchester City.
Whereas Martinez’s predecessor David Moyes was a reactive manager who generally played extremely cautiously at the Emirates, Everton are now playing much more proactively, and boast the second-highest average share of possession in away matches this season, behind Manchester CityMichael Cox
Arsenal will still expect to dominate the ball, but Everton will retain possession carefully when they win it.
Martinez has continued with the centre-back pairing of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, who are both comfortable on the ball. In the recent draw against city rivals Liverpool, it was notable that Jagielka stuck extremely tightly to Luis Suarez, with Distin playing a sweeping role behind - a similar tactic might be employed against Olivier Giroud on Sunday.
Martinez has encouraged his full backs to push forward this season: right-sided Seamus Coleman has enjoyed a fine campaign, but left back Leighton Baines is absent, following an injury sustained in the Merseyside derby. This is a significant blow for Martinez - Baines’ relationship with Steven Pienaar is excellent, and Everton play a higher proportion of their passes down the left than any other Premier League side.
Baines is also statistically Everton’s most reliable passer, as well as being a considerable threat from set-pieces. Costa Rican Bryan Oviedo will play instead - he scored a fine goal on his first start of the campaign against Stoke and then got the winner at Manchester United. All the same, Baines is a huge loss.
In the centre of midfield, the all-new combination of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy has worked superbly. Barry often drops deep between the centre backs, allowing them to spread and the wing backs to push forward, and his positional discipline allows McCarthy to make powerful forward runs into attack.
Out wide, Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas - an extremely pacy player who runs powerfully with the ball - started the season as first choices, but Barcelona loanee Gerard Deuloefeu has impressed in recent weeks, and could start. A direct dribbler, he’s particularly clever in one-versus-one situations close to the touchlines, and while his defensive discipline remains questionable, Martinez has encouraged the youngster to express himself.
Up front, Romelu Lukaku has proved a brilliant loan signing. While often cast as a predominantly physical player, the Belgian is an all-round centre forward, making superb runs into the channels and linking nicely with onrushing midfielders. His movement causes constant problems, and his team-mates often find themselves free when their direct opponent is dragged out of position to help stop Lukaku.
DAVE PRENTICE, LIVERPOOL ECHO
I think it's fair to say that there was a little bit of apprehension at the start of the season with the new manager coming in. We were all anticipating a different style of football with Roberto Martinez saying that he was going to try and introduce the passing-from-the-back philosophy that he had at Wigan. Things started slowly this season but the players have got used to the system very quickly and the results over the last month have been absolutely outstanding. Everton have only lost once in the league all season and the result on Wednesday night was the cherry on the top.
Martinez has made a real effort to accentuate the positives. I've never met a more positive manager - he's on top of everything. He wants the players to believe in themselves and believe that they are capable of going to grounds like Old Trafford and the Emirates and picking up resultsDave Prentice
Martinez has made a real effort to accentuate the positives. I've never met a more positive manager - he's on top of everything. He wants the players to believe in themselves and believe that they are capable of going to grounds like Old Trafford and the Emirates and picking up results. The quality of players is certainly enough to do that. He's a very bold manager. During the Merseyside derby, Everton were trailing 2-1 and the left back got injured. He brought on a right winger and really opened the game up. It ended up like a basketball match but was certainly the best derby in a generation. He explained afterwards that he wanted to make the game wide open because he thought that was the best chance of getting back into the game. I think the fans are loving his adventurousness and ambition. David Moyes did very well for Everton but if there were any criticisms of him, it was that some fans thought he was a little bit over-cautious at times - Martinez is quite the opposite.
Romelu Lukaku has been outstanding but the real unsung heroes in the Everton side are Gareth Barry and James McCarthy. They have created a base at the heart of midfield which is so hard to break down. We ran a poll a month or so ago asking which signings had impressed the most and Barry came out on top with Lukaku a close second. Gerard Deulofeu looks like he's coming to terms with the Premier League now as well. All of Martinez's late signings in the transfer window have been pivotal.
We can expect a very good game of football on Sunday. I thought the same game last season was a great game to watch, even though it finished 0-0. The confidence that Everton will have gained from winning at Old Trafford and coming from behind to draw in the derby will send them to London with a spring in their step and I think they will quietly fancy their chances. I think it will be quite tight even though both teams haven't struggled to score of late. I wouldn't be surprised to see Everton come away with something so I'll predict a 1-1 draw.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 6 Dec 2013