Roberto Martinez will be looking to engineer Everton’s first win of the new campaign as a re-run of our most complete performance of last season sees Arsenal visit L4 in the Saturday tea time kick off.
We played the Gunners three times last season with each game throwing up talking points and tactical tit bits, although it’s the blueprint of the 3-0 win in April which Martinez will be revisiting most in the build up to Saturday evening’s match.
So lets follow suit…
The win was unquestionably the best of the season and the first time we have really webbed a top quality opponent in recent times – in terms of the scoreline anyway.Whereas wins over the league’s better sides under Moyes were based on a rearguard action with fans invariably biting nails to the last minute to close out a 1-0 win, this was as emphatic as you can get and principally down to an offensive approach which centred on the forward trio of Lukaku, Mirallas and Naismith, all of whom got on the score sheet. This is pretty much how it worked…
Kevin Mirallas principal job was to expose Arsenal’s right side by drifting inside and out. He would drift into central positions to create the space for Baines to exploit on the flank by his forward runs which effectively gave Baines a 1v1 run at Sagna due to Arsenal’s right midfielder playing narrow and not helping out. With Sagna pre-occupied it basically meant we had a 3v3 situation in the final third with Mirallas, Naismith and Lukaku v Mertesacker, Vermealen and Monreal. Mirallas clever running outwards towards the by-line also had the impact of shunting Mertesacker across to cover this side of the pitch leaving gaps through the middle.
Romelu Lukaku was schooled in the reverse league game by Mertesacker and perhaps with this in mind Martinez looked to play him on the other side of the pitch against a physically weaker opponent (Monreal). Here there was more space to operate and enabled us to play to his strengths of being able to plough through with runs from outside inwards.
Lukaku stayed high up the pitch on that side as a right-sided forward looking for quick transitions when possession was regained, mostly from the opposite flank by Mirallas. Vermaelen was worried about his presence and was successfully dragged across to the flank as Mirallas did on the opposite side with Mertesacker. This meant both Arsenal centre backs where being dragged into the corners meaning big gaps opened up for Naismith through the middle.
Sandwiched between Lukaku and Mirallas was arguably the key player of the trio, Steven Naismith. His starting position was quite withdrawn, almost as an advanced midfielder with his brief being to tempt the centre halves out of position with decoy runs so that the wide forward duo Mirallas for Lukaku could steam into. Naismith also got on the scoresheet and he’s made a habit of producing in the big games in his short spell at the club, scoring against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal at L4. What all this meant was Arsenal’s defence was all over the place and we exploited it superbly.
Repeating the trick won’t be easy though, after all Arsenal won more away games than any side in the top flight last season and are on a run of 6 straight wins since the aforementioned humbling.
Arsenal travelled to Besiktas in midweek meaning we’ve had 6 full days to prepare compared to Arsenal’s probable 1 which could impact on who starts for them and also how much they press, given that they have the return game to come next week. Whilst an inferior opponent, Wenger will also be mindful that the Turkish league doesn’t start til the end of the month so Besitkas will have more time to rest up before the return leg.
Former Toffeeman Mikel Arteta was crocked in that game and is likely to miss out again, probably replaced by hatchet-man Flamini. The only other significant absentees for the Gunners are Walcott and at left back where Gibbs will be replaced by the awful Monreal. Arsenal’s three World Cup Winners are supposedly ‘in contention’ for this one, which is nice.
We know Wenger is an idealist, stubborn and will rarely re-shape his approach to suit an opponent, nor will he compromise his philosophy and go long over an opponent who floods the midfield. Therefore we will probably impose a high press to combat Arsenal’s favoured game of passing triangles in the middle of the park.
The big question for Martinez is whether to go with the same game plan / side as last time and thus potentially drop last week’s star man Steven Pienaar and goalscorer McGeady. Mirallas played his best game in a blue shirt in this fixture last time round and came through a warm up game through the week and I think he will definitely start in place of McGeady. I think leaving Pienaar out would be harsh and I don’t see why he can’t play on the left side of a three man midfield in the slot Osman/Barkley played in last season’s game.
In terms of shape I think he’ll go with the same 4-3-1-2 that won the game last season. So this would be Barry at the base and McCarthy and either Osman/Pienaar alongside him in midfield. Naismith would play a similar role to last week and drop off the front with Mirallas & Lukaku in the wide forward positions. Off the ball, both Lukaku and Mirallas would drop back to defend the wide zones meaning we would be 4-6-0 without the ball.
Everton; Howard, Coleman, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, McCarthy, Barry, Pienaar, Mirallas, Naismith, Lukaku
Arsenal; Szczesny, Debuchy, Monreal, Chambers, Koscielny, Flamini, Wilshere, Ramsey, Sanchez, Oxlaide Chamberlain, Giroud
Martinez v Wenger Head to Head > Games Played: 12 Martinez Wins: 3 Draws: 2 Wenger wins: 7 Martinez Goals: 13 Wenger Goals; 28 Average Goals per game: 3.4
Recommended Bet: 3 goals or more: 17/20 BetVictor