Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Everton in the Premier League on Wednesday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
There’s been a Groundhog Day feeling with Everton’s seasons over the past few years - they always start slowly, before gradually gathering momentum and challenging for Europa League places by the end of the campaign.
In 2012/13, it’s been the reverse situation - Everton started with four wins from their first six games, but have won just one of the subsequent seven.
Everton base their play around good interplay on the flanks. The left-sided duo of Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines are among the best partnerships in the Premier League – Pienaar drifts inside and allows Baines forward on the overlap, as you’d expect, but their combinations become more exciting when Marouane Fellaini drifts towards that side.
Baines often chips the ball towards Fellaini, who then holds onto the ball before laying it off to Pienaar, charging towards goal. Arsenal’s right flank must perform well without the ball, or Everton will create a steady stream of chances – they’ve had more shots than any other Premier League side this season.
In the centre of the pitch, Everton focus on short, neat distribution from side to side – Leon Osman and Thomas Hitzlsperger are intelligent players who spread the play nicely, and Arsenal must be wary of Everton’s quick switches of play.
Moyes likes to engineer two-against-one situations on the flanks, and with both Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic obvious targets, Arsenal need to prevent crosses. Jelavic darts to the near post to shoot without controlling the ball, with Fellaini arriving in central positions.
At the back, the best way to expose Everton is in the channels. Baines and Seamus Coleman both advance high up the pitch and can leave the centre backs vulnerable when drawn into wide positions. Olivier Giroud’s pace isn’t his speciality, but clever movement out wide, in combination with purposeful midfield runs, could be the key to an Arsenal victory.
Everton always offer a tricky tactical challenge, but they’re on a poor run of form, and injuries have stretched their squad, a particular problem when playing three league games in eight days – so this might be a good time to face Moyes’ side.
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