Saturday August 23rd
5:45pm Kick Off
Everton V Arsenal
So after a disappointing result with some alarmingly poor individual performances in Europe mid-week we return to the Premier League action with another evening kick off, this time away to Everton. Goodison Park always provides a real challenge for any team and yet despite our somewhat undeserved reputation of having a soft underside it`s in general been a relatively happy hunting ground for us. That changed last year when we went there and were totally bullied off the park and were simply unable to deal with the pace and direct approach that our hosts adopted. They were full value for their 3 points last season (as well as the point they took off us at home let`s not forget!) and that win lifted them into the driving seat to secure that last CL spot. We all know how that particular race ended but we shouldn`t allow that to take away their very creditable 5th place finish which was enough to secure Europa League football for Martinez`s men.
Everton will line up in a 4-2-3-1 type formation. A huge aspect of their success last season came for allowing both full backs to attack at every opportunity. Baines, Coleman and Olivedo scored or assisted in a very impressive 21 league goals last season. It`s an incredible stat on its own but when you see that 21 accounts for 35% of their total league goals scored you see how important the fullbacks pushing on is for Everton. To compare like with like our fullbacks scored or assisted a mere 7 goals last season (10% of our total). Coleman is likely to come in for Stones so with himself and Baines playing Arsenal need to be smart in their team selection. The pace that Alexis on one wing and maybe Campbell on the other would offer would seriously limit Everton`s attacking options. I`ll be honest in saying that I`m not at all sold on Campbell and personally don`t think he`ll ever amount to anything more than a squad player at Arsenal but he does have pace and pace is what we baldy need in this game. Wenger rarely picks his team based on the opposition but in this case I hope he changes habit.
Jagielka and Distin in the middle probably have one more Premier League season in them as a partnership but I think Stones will come in more and more as the season comes on. Distin is 36 now and Jagielka is 32 and the strains of playing the Europa League will have a effect on them. They are a good back pairing but I think both can be got at. Having said that Giroud will have to seriously up his output on what he had on display mid-week. Games like this is where you`d love to have an alternative type of striker to our first choice Frenchman. Howard in goal continues to defy the laws of natural aging and if anything seems to improve year on year. Their backline is solid but questions remain over how they deal with pressure. Leicester showed us that they can be got at but again you need the right type of players and have to be able to control the tempo to do this.
In front of the back four sit Barry and McCarthy. Last season I was surprised at how successful Barry was when played week in week out. I was also surprised at how few bookings he got. He has a nasty streak about him yet seems to stay on the right side of the ref more than many others would in his position. McCarthy beside him is made from a similar cloth. Both are tenacious and high energy players, but importantly both are highly effective. I think that the key here is to
isolate Barry and then attack him using pace. An early card for him will mean he has to change his approach. However worth nothing that there is more to both players than kicking, both have a nice range of passing on them and will come forward if the opposition allows it.
Further forward they play likely the tricky, but totally unreliable McGeady on one wing with Marillas on the other and Pieenar or Naysmith in the middle supporting their big summer signing Lukaku. The front four are very interchangeable and particularly on the wings will swap positions several times during the match. Martinez`s teams have always made sure that games are as uncomfortable for the opposition as possible. McGeady has it in him to be a dangerous player, he always starts well and you think he`s going to dominate a game before fading or often disappearing completely as the game progresses. The key is not to allow him that early success. Mirallas may not be fully fit but he`s still a very good player. Moneral will have a tough game even more so as Lukaku likes to drift to the wings (in particular the right wing) in order to isolate the left back. Lukaku is now a fulltime Everton player courtesy of a big price tag and all that comes with its own particular pressures. I think, that while they may have overpaid slightly in this market they have got a good young player with a great attitude who really can only improve. Even if his form stays at this level they`ll easily get their money back, and possibly some more, should they wish to sell in 3-5 years. They are a mobile and dangerous attack that needs to be treated cautiously.
Having said all that they are far from unbeatable and their second half performance last week showed that many of their players are well off the level of physical fitness required. They flagged badly as the half worn on and while they conceded late they could consider themselves lucky to have ended the game on level terms.
If I was an Everton fan I`d be concerned on how they repeat last season`s heroics. Distan is another year older, Jagielka had a poor World Cup and didn`t look great last week and Barry is at the age where your failing speed can be cruelly exposed. The key to beating them is to offer the treat of pace on the break which will keep their fullbacks pegged back and severely limit their attacking options. Having 35% of your league goals are either scored or created by your fullbacks doesn`t happen by accident so pace will be key for us. With Arteta out I think Flamini will come in with maybe Ozil replacing Jack, the partnership with Jack and Aaron doesn`t quite work for me as both seem to want to occupy the same place. Assuming that Ozil comes back into the starting 11 means that we will look a different side to the last few games and hopefully the German`s return will help galvanise the team who, bar that excellent first 45 against City, haven`t really clicked. Ox is an option on the wings in Wenger doesn`t go with Campbell. He`s played so little it is beginning to look like Wenger also isn`t overly keen.
It`s going to be a tight game with plenty of bookings and how strict the ref is will have a bearing on the result. It`s hard to know what team Wenger will select. Pick a team with pace on the wings and I think we can beat them. Play Jack or Santi on the wings and they`ll win. Difficult to pick and winner and while I think it`s very possible that we`ll get all 3 points I think I`ll err on the side of caution and say that we`ll fall just short of a turnaround from our last visit.
A hard fought but ultimately frustrating draw. We may look back at fulltime cursing the missed 3 points!
Everton 1 Arsenal 1
**Written by Galway Gooner
Scout Report: Everton
Saturday August 23rd