By Rob Kelly
“We have built up a run and that brings confidence, but you also want a good compromise between confidence, urgency and hunger. It must give us hunger to do more.” - Arsene Wenger
How quickly things have changed for Arsenal this season.
Two months ago, almost to the day, the Gunners had just laboured to a goalless draw with Liverpool that left them five points behind the pacesetters with three games gone.
That uncertain start left them open to a barrage of criticism. Today, things are noticeably quieter after a fine run of form that has seen them rise up to second in the table, hot on the heels on Manchester City.
Everton: Besic (hamstring), Cleverley (ankle - doubt), Baines (ankle), Hibbert (knee), Pienaar (hamstring)
Not only that, but the team's swagger has returned. After beating Manchester United so convincingly three weeks ago, the Gunners have built up a head of steam - culminating in Tuesday night’s thrilling victory against Bayern Munich.
Now the challenge is to ride the crest of the wave. Everton will offer another searching examination on Saturday evening, but Arsene Wenger has full confidence in his in-form squad.
“I was pleased [against Bayern] because we showed another aspect of our game - desire, discipline, fighting spirit and togetherness,” he told Arsenal Player. “We said on the night that we wanted to be together and during the moments we had less of the ball than usual, we showed that we are together.
“We were on the same boat, all fighting together. The players who came on made an impact as well, which shows that the team spirit was very strong, resolute and it’s important that in three days we have shown two different aspects of our game. Both of them in an efficient way.
“We have built up a run and that brings confidence, but you also want a good compromise between confidence, urgency and hunger. It must give us hunger to do more. That’s what we want to do against Everton.
“We have worked very hard after a dodgy start in the first game [of the season] to put us back in the position where we are now. We have a great opportunity so we want to continue our run.”
ONE TO WATCH
With all the garlands heading Alexis’ way in recent weeks, Mesut Ozil’s resurgence has slipped slightly under the radar.
The World Cup winner is a high-class performer, his work in controlling the attacks through the weight of his passing often going unnoticed by observers who demand more obvious end product.
But after two goals and three assists in his past three games, including starring roles against Manchester United and Bayern Munich, the boss is convinced we are now seeing the best of Ozil.
“I would like to give him credit because he worked in a very disciplined way on Tuesday night [against Bayern],” he said. “I asked him to play a special role that was much deeper and he still found the resources to go forward and also score the goal.
“You could see by the way he celebrated how committed he is. He’s becoming a complete player and he does his job, he works very hard, much harder than people think when you look at his stats.
“He’s very efficient offensively as well. He creates chances and now he starts to score goals as well. That’s absolutely fantastic.”
If Ozil is central to Arsenal’s attacking game, then the same can be said for the German’s opposite number on Saturday evening, Ross Barkley, with Everton.
- Arsenal have lost just one of their last 16 Premier League meetings with Everton (W9 D6)
- The Gunners’ joint Premier League record win (7-0) came against Everton - at Highbury in May 2005
- Arsenal have had more touches in the opposition box than any other side in the Premier League this season (329)
The England international was moved around a bit last season, sometimes playing in a deeper role before being shifted out wide on occasion. His performances suffered slightly as a result.
This term, manager Roberto Martinez has built the team around Barkley - and the results are obvious. The 21-year-old has been exceptional, and his five goals in 15 appearances for club and country underline his threat.
“He has tremendous physical power and he has a good technical level,” Wenger said. “A very strong technical level and his combination of technique and power makes him a very dangerous player.
“He can pass the ball well in the final third, he can finish and overall in this position you do not find many players that have that combination of abilities.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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