Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side host Everton in the Premier League on Saturday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Roberto Martinez’s Everton were soundly defeated by Manchester United last weekend, but that wasn’t a fair reflection of their positive start to 2015/16.
Despite a difficult second season on Merseyside, Martinez has largely stuck with the same blueprint - continuing with his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation and a familiar group of players. That said, he has a habit of springing a surprise against Arsenal, like when he used a strikerless 4-3-3 in a 3-0 victory over the Gunners at Goodison Park 18 months ago.Everton have suffered from major injury problems in defence this season, and while Martinez’s young reserves have performed extremely admirably when required, he’ll be pleased at the return of attacking right-back Seamus Coleman and captain Phil Jagielka.
"Everton’s finest performance of the season thus far came in a 3-0 victory away at Southampton"
John Stones has been in fine form and copes excellently against pace, so Theo Walcott might prefer to make runs in behind the 33 year-old Jagielka. Tim Howard has taken a higher starting position in recent years, ready to sweep and intercept balls in behind the defence. Left back Brendan Galloway is the only defender still deputising for an absent first-teamer, and while he’s been very composed defensively, he doesn’t offer anything like Leighton Baines’crossing quality.Nevertheless, Everton’s full backs are instructed to attack, which means Gareth Barry and James McCarthy will hold their position in front of the defence, with the latter breaking into attack very sporadically.This duo will attempt to play forward passes into the feet of midfielder Ross Barkley, who has been excellent so far this season after an underwhelming 2014/15. His spatial awareness is superb, he continually draws fouls from the opposition, and he’s added an end product to his game too. He’s already matched his goalscoring return from last season, and recorded more assists than the previous two campaigns combined.Barkley’s relationship with forward Romelu Lukaku is particularly effective, as both like moving laterally to find space. Lukaku is clever at running the channels, particularly on the break, and Everton’s finest performance of the season thus far came in a 3-0 victory away at Southampton, when their goals were all extremely direct counter-attacks. Lukaku has a habit of getting caught offside too often, but his pace will be extremely dangerous on Saturday.With the spine of the starting XI very predictable, Martinez’s only decisions are out wide. Here, he can call upon two natural wingers, in ex-Tottenham outside-right Aaron Lennon and the tricky Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu, who hit a fine equaliser here two seasons ago. Then there’s the option of two converted centre forwards, Arouna Kone and Steven Naismith.Martinez will probably use one of each, with a winger on the right pushing back Nacho Monreal, and a forward on the left moving inside to support Lukaku. Again, however, Martinez might vary this - he’s been known to use Lukaku on the right against Arsenal, with the wily Naismith as a false centre forward.
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