Arsenal look to continue improvement as Tofees visit the Emirates – Match Preview
With Greece firmly planted behind them, Arsenal return to England for their Premier League matchup against Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton side. The Gunners have shown steady improvement under new head coach, Mikel Arteta, but the Toffees are purring their own right and will pose the home side a stern test.
When Last they Met
When these two teams squared off last time in December, it was the last match that the caretaker coaches were in charge. Freddie Ljungberg was in the dugout for Arsenal and Duncan Ferguson for Everton.
The match ended 0-0 and both teams have evolved since then. Under Ancelotti, Everton are a flexible side opting for a 4-4-2 off the ball and 3-5-2 when attacking. Like Arteta for Arsenal, Ancelotti has gotten the best out of his players and it’s paying off with improved results.
Attacking wise, he has used shorter passing combinations at a quicker pace. He’s fixed positioning and worked on the overall accuracy of passing and attacking combinations. Additionally, he has simplified their build-up play and tried to bring quicker movements off the ball.
Off the ball he has also worked on to improve their pressing. As highlighted in our scouting report, he likes them to press in a man-to-man system. The ball-side forward looks to press and force the centre-backs on to their weaker foot or drive inside to traffic.
Behind the press, the rest of the team is organized cutting off the next passing line or activating the next layer of the press if still down in the opposition final third.
Ancelotti has imposed an organized structure in the 4-4-2 defensive shape with the team working to keep play in front of the block. They maintain a compact shape in both their medium and low block.
How Arsenal Combat Everton
One thing stands out watching Everton, even with their improved structure – Ancelotti likes to keep a high line. For Arsenal to be successful against their press, the CBs need to release the ball quickly – either looking for the pivot sitting between the forwards and midfielders or out wide in a diagonal.
If Arteta wants to keep Everton’s backline honest he could look to ensure that his front three stay high and have the wide forwards occupy the full-backs and the striker occupy the centre-backs.
With the Everton midfielder pushing up a little, Özil would then be free to find the space in between the two lines and act as the catalyst for the attack. Additionally, Everton have struggled with tricky wingers and with them pushed up higher and Özil getting on the ball, the combination play with the wide players would create opportunities for attacking combinations in threatening areas.
Defensively, it’s about as stern a test as Arsenal have faced since the Chelsea match. Mustafi and Luiz have formed a solid tandem in the middle of the defensive line but they’re going to be working against some speedy, creative forwards that can cause them problems.
Mustafi and Bellerin will have a lot to do with the Calvert-Lewin and Bernard working in tandem to create chances from the right side of the pitch. This will be a real test for the German defender who has benefited from Arteta’s work on the shape and structure of the team. You always worry that he is still one step away from one of his classic mistakes. But if he can keep a cool head and use the system that is around him effectively, he could still be a standout player for the Gunners in this important match.
It’s still early days for both of these coaches and their taking over their respective teams. Both are much improved over the previous incarnations. The victor is going to be the one that can continue to find consistency and execute their coach’s vision.
For Arsenal, that is going to mean trying to start the match with a higher sense of urgency than they have been. Everton will get on them and if the Gunners try to grow into this match they could be playing catch up.
Still, the overall improvement by Arteta’s changes should give hope that we can continue to improve and maybe make a close season run for a European spot – which seemed so far away only a few weeks ago.
Arsenal 2 – 1 Everton
What the Head Coach Says (Courtesy Arsenal.com)
“I was telling them that they have to enjoy defending as well, it is a big part of the game and like tonight, if you give simple balls away, you better run back and get that ball back as quick as possible. They played with a big heart, I saw a lot of big effort and instead of splitting it joins together really quickly. The wide players before used to have different behaviours, now they are tracking back everybody. I think we are doing a lot of work to try to stay as compact as possible in many situations when we don’t have it, and I am pleased with that because it is big part.”
Arsenal record vs Opponent (league only)
55P 33W 8L 14D
Average Goals Scored Per Game
Arsenal (home): 1.63
Everton (away): 1.23
Average Goals Conceded Per Game
Arsenal (home): 1.38
Everton (away): 1.83
Referee: Stuart Attwell (13M 56Y 2R)
Assistants: Adam Nunn, Simon Long
Fourth official: Simon Hooper
VAR: Craig Pawson
Assistant VAR: Stephen Child.
UK: Sky Sports 16.30 BST
US: NBC Sports Network 11:30 AM EST
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal are on a season’s best run of six league games unbeaten (W2, D4).
- The Gunners are the only side – along with runaway leaders Liverpool – who are undefeated in the Premier League in 2020.
- They could keep three consecutive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since November 2017.
- However, their tally of 34 points after 26 matches is their second-lowest at this stage of a Premier League season. They had 33 in 1994-95.
- They have won only one of their 12 Premier League matches this season against other teams in the top half of the table.
- Twenty-six of Alexandre Lacazette’s 33 Premier League goals have been scored in home games, including each of his last nine.
- Bukayo Saka has assisted nine goals in all competitions this season, more than any other Arsenal player. The 18-year-old has more Premier League assists than any other teenager in 2019-20.
- Everton have lost their last five league visits to Arsenal.
- The Toffees are winless in 23 Premier League away fixtures against Arsenal (D4, L19).
- Arsenal have scored 107 Premier League goals versus Everton, a competition record for one club against another.