Premier League Tactical Preview: Arsenal v Everton


Both sides go into this game in great form. Everton took a big scalp midweek as they beat Manchester United at Old Trafford 1-0. Arsenal of course have also been in great form of late, as they continue to lead the way in the Premier League and they have only failed to pick up three points at home once this season, on the opening day defeat to Aston Villa. 

Arsenal are overwhelming favourites at 1.67 for the win, with Everton outsiders at 5.25.


Possible line-ups

Arsenal are without several long term casualties but could welcome Theo Walcott back into the starting line-up. The team are also potentially without Mathieu Flamini, as well as Bacary Sagna who have niggling injuries.

Everton are of course without full-back Leighton Baines meaning the impressive Bryan Oviedo will continue to deputise. Arouna Kone and Darren Gibson are still long term casualties and after a good win midweek we should see a similar starting line-up feature at The Emirates.

Everton's progressive approach

Everton's approach has become far more progressive than it was under David Moyes. The side now look to use the ball and pass it through midfield, rather than taking the more direct and at times reactive approach we saw from the side last season. 

The bravery they showed in their 1-0 win at Old Trafford as well as in their impressive 3-3 draw with Liverpool is testament to this. As such we can expect them to go to The Emirates with intent, rather than simply sitting back and soaking up Arsenal's attacks. Everton will use the ball in the midfield and look to get the ball out wide where both full-backs (even without Leighton Baines) will look to overlap the wide men and cause problems for Arsenal.

At Old Trafford we witnessed Everton having 15 shots on goal - just three fewer than the home side. Bryan Oviedo in particular has been thriving as an overlapping left-back in the absence of Baines and overloading Arsenal on the flanks could be a fruitful strategy for the away side. 

Arsenal have been playing without wingers but the return of Theo Walcott could create an interesting battle on the flank. Walcott, if he starts, will need to make sure he is defending well as Everton tend to double up on the flanks with Oviedo and Steven Pienaar. On the right flank we've also seen Seamus Coleman overlap Kevin Mirallas brilliantly this season, which will cause problems for Santi Cazorla who tends to tuck in from Arsenal's left hand side to play more centrally:

As we can see above despite playing against Norwich as a left-winger, Cazorla was an inverted wide man and spent most of the game in the areas we'd expect a number ten to play. This could in turn leave Kieran Gibbs somewhat exposed at left-back if Coleman and Mirallas are looking to attack him directly. For Everton, attacking the flanks, as they have done under Roberto Martinez this season, may be their best course of action.


Arsenal's new found defensive stability

Few would have imagined that 14 games into the new season, Arsenal would have the best defensive record. They have conceded just ten goals so far and generally speaking look very good at the back. 

The ability to pick a regular back-five has been critical in this regard, as has the industrial midfield play of Mathieu Flamini (although he is a doubt for this tie). In fact, Arsenal have kept clean-sheets in five of their last six games, conceding just once in their 1-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, a game in which they were without Per Mertesacker, who has been outstanding this term. Even though Everton have shown themselves to be more progressive of late, Arsenal may prove to be a tough nut to crack.

The aerial dominance of Laurent Koscielny and Mertesacker has been crucial, and this will create an interesting tussle with the in-form Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku. Mertesacker has won an impressive 67% of his aerial duels this season, although in Lukaku he will be up against a player who is far, far more mobile than him, as well as possessing a similar physical frame. Whether they can shackle a striker of Lukaku's ilk will be a real test for a defence that is now looking like one of the best in the Premier League.


Conclusion

Unibet have the home side as outright favourites for this clash, given that they have been in brilliant form of late, winning six of their last seven games and winning every home game since their opening day shock defeat to Aston Villa. Everton though were underdogs for their midweek win at Old Trafford and their new found fearlessness under Roberto Martinez is paying dividends. If the Toffees can get a result in this tie then they should surely be considered as having a strong chance of finishing in the top four.


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