Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Everton

Robin van Persie makes a lot of sense every time he speaks or pens his thoughts. Here are some of his recent nuggets of wisdom as told to Arsenal Player,

After the two defeats to Milan and Sunderland, everyone was like ‘this is going to be a tough couple of weeks’ because we had games against Spurs, Liverpool, Milan and an international week and then Newcastle. Yet we won every game, so we showed lots of character. We can be proud of that.

Now we need to show that over a period of a whole year. That is very hard and only the best of the best teams have that in them. Look at Barcelona for example. They have a special team there, they are playing most games – 9 out of 10 – really well and working hard. We need to have a run like that for months and even win the ugly games.

That’s the blueprint for the rest of the season right there. Arsenal have 10 games to go and they must show they can perform in at least 9 of those starting with Everton. The pride is back. Now it’s time to build on that pride and construct a strong foundation for the next season.

In order to achieve that though, the Gunners will have to get past this habit of conceding the first goal. In simple terms, they’ll have to defend much better. No matter how much character a team has, no matter how hard they fight till the end, no side is going to keep on winning games if they keep on letting the first one in. The run of comebacks will end sooner rather than later.

Arsenal’s record against Everton is encouraging to say the least. The Gunners have a 9-game unbeaten run against the Toffees. But make no mistake, this will be not be a walk in the park. Everton have won their last three Premiership home games without conceding a goal. City, Chelsea, and Tottenham were the opponents. They might not have outplayed their visitors but they found a way to grind out the results. Arsene and his players will have their work cut out for them when they take the field at Goodison Park.

In those three games, City had 68 percent possession, Chelsea 67, while Spurs managed 62. All these sides also had more shots than Everton but crucially, Moyes’ men managed the same shots on target as their illustrious opponents did.

Essentially, Arsenal should be prepared to come up against a very well-organized defensive unit that has only conceded 31 goals all season with just 13 of those coming at home. That averages less than a goal a game. At the other end the Arsenal defence will come up against an opportunistic, even if slightly inefficient, attack.

In the reverse fixture, a Van Persie special was needed to break the deadlock and settle the tie. This game could be just the same but something tells me the hosts will be more adventurous this time around. If that is indeed the case, and/or if we get an early goal, this could be a very open and entertaining encounter.

The big battle will be on Arsenal’s right flank and down Everton’s left. Theo and Sagna have combined to create a lot of chances for the Gunners while Baines is the hosts’ big weapon. I can see Walcott troubling his English compatriot if he gets some space to run into i.e. if Everton come higher up the pitch and if he isn’t double-teamed. At the other end Baines too should get some joy as Theo isn’t the best at tracking back. With Cahill in the box – 3 goals in last 4 games against the Gunners at home – Everton have a good chance of scoring at least one if they can get some quality balls into the box against this Arsenal defence.

Fellaini’s battle with the Arsenal midfielders will be equally interesting. He has the physicality and power to dominate the individual duels and decent technical ability to do something with the ball.

Moyes could take a leaf out of Pardew’s book and set his team up for an aerial assault with Cahill and Fellaini looking to win the second ball. Pienaar and/or Drenthe could offer pace and trickery in the wide areas to go with the duelling midfielders and an imposing striker, most probably Jelavic.

This is an old-fashioned approach but does sometimes work against Arsenal. For the Gunners it will again be a question of the midfielders supporting the defenders when they’re under said aerial attack. Newcastle, in the first 20-25 min or so, were able to get bodies between the Arsenal lines. Everton, if allowed to do the same, will surely find a way to score. The quality of the defenders will not matter if they’re continually exposed.

Barring that, set-pieces and counter-attacks will be Everton’s other weapons of choice. But I can also see them cancelling Arsenal out in the midfield, particularly if they can cut out the passes to the wide players. That could make it a very frustrating night for the Gunners with little creativity on show.

It will be interesting to see whether Moyes has noticed Arsenal’s inability to create much from the left, especially in the recent games. He could adapt a more defensive approach on his left side with Pienaar supporting Baines while leaving Drenthe higher up the pitch to exploit the space behind Gibbs when the youngster pushes up. Essentially, the Everton manager would have to gamble on giving Arsenal more of a chance on that side while hoping that his players can utilize their opportunities. In such a case we might see a congested Right wing frustrating Arsenal while both sides get some joy down the other flank.

There really is no shortage of possible tactical permutations in this game but the patterns of play will largely depend on the tactics that Moyes chooses because Arsenal are fairly predictable in that sense. Hopefully, we will see a more positive approach from the hosts.

Everton have played two games since Arsenal last played in the League. Theoretically, the Gunners should be fresher but I doubt we will see fatigue playing a role in this one. But Arsene should have the luxury of picking the same starting eleven as last time if he so chooses.

The only real debate is for the role on the left. Oxlade-Chamberlain is in a learning phase and that means he doesn’t always know when to offer himself for a pass, the run to make, or the decision to take when on the ball. Gervinho has been inconsistent throughout the season but more so after his return from the Africa Cup of Nations. Benayoun hasn’t performed at the required level either. Arsene has the option of putting Rosicky on the wing with Ramsey coming into the middle but that does not seem like a wise option.

Szczesny – Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Song, Rosicky, Arteta – Walcott, RvP, Oxlade-Chamberlain.

I’d go with the same starting line-up for the sake of continuity. Arsene should have had the chance to work with AOC on the training ground and, hopefully, that will result in greater and more intelligent involvement from the youngster in this game.

Santos could come in for the final half-hour or so if the situation of the game permits. There probably is a school of thought that says Arsene should play both his full-backs on the left but I’m not in favour of that unless it’s the final few minutes of the game.

On the whole I expect a very tough game with individual moments proving decisive.

Before ending I want to link to this well-constructed discussion examining the merits and demerits of Arsenal’s right-sided attacking bias by the Gingers For Limpar blog, highly recommended if you haven’t already read it.


25 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Everton

  1. GbG says:

    1-1 IMO. Cahill and RvP to score. I see Everton pinching a late equalizer. Walcott will struggle as will Rosicky. Everton are very good at harrying the midfield. They won’t get much time on the ball and most of our passing will be sideways and backwards.

    The only other options is another made 5-3 kind of scoreline. Moyes will want to avoid that, few can beat Arsenal at the outscoring game.

    • Dhruv says:

      Gbg, A new post after 10 days of rest and you can only think of 1-1. I would be more positive and predict a win. Everton are tough but we need this win, even if it is ugly.

  2. BarDel says:

    3-1 to the Arsenal. RvP 2 goals and Gervinho will get the other. Drenthe will score for Everton.

  3. alan muganzi says:

    We need to win this one no matter how difficult the game might be.

  4. We believe in God, with 2day’s match

  5. shedi says:

    nice approach the two side.but the visitors will prevail

  6. Good analysis, Desi Gunner. I think you are spot on about the left side being the weak link. Which is why I feel Wenger may opt to start with Santos today. He lacks Gibb’s pace, but is a handful going forward and reads the game well.

    As strong as Everton are defensively, I think we have enough to score against them. Question is: can stop them scoring? It’ll be a tight one, Arsenal to just edge it by a one-goal margin.

    That’s what I think – what I’m hoping for is a 6-0 thrashing, of course! Wishful thinking, maybe? :)

    I know this is a plug, but do check out my Everton Preview at http://arsenaldepot.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/everton-preview-3-points-please/. Enjoy the game, Gooners!

  7. rohit says:

    in the reverse fixture our attacking impetus was hurt due to the absence of natural full backs……as a result all our attack funneled through the centre and were easier to cut out….i believe Sagna and
    gibbs will offer a lot more….i hope TR7 continues to impress…
    COME ON ARSENAL!!!

  8. 3 0 will be ok for us RVP will score 2 goals

  9. terry says:

    everton will pack the midfield but we can always play the long ball to the wings also i fell theo and gerviniho will have an important game today.
    i will be a interesting game lets see what happens

  10. ridwan lawal says:

    Aoc shuld start and santos

  11. kc says:

    santos sud start,but i will replace ox with gerv

  12. T2T says:

    An alternative I just realized is to play the same starting XI as the previous game except for replacing AOC with Santos (if fully fit). However, my preferred line up would be with Gervinho replacing AOC. He should be fresh after ANC and more than a week w/o a game. Let AOC come on when Everton start to tire (60-70 min).

  13. frick frick says:

    dont care what the scoreline is as long as we score one more goal then them.

  14. manama says:

    Nice write up,tho it sounds lik 1 4rm an everton heart.u seem 2 ignore d fact dat everton wil hav 2 wuk their socks off 2 kip arsenal out.dnt c dat happeng.tactically n technically,i thnk arsenal r superior.u sound 2 pessimistic lately,my opinion tho.u’r stil one of d best.

  15. Borntobeagunner(btbag) says:

    Desi, i never wanted to stop whenever iam reading your articles. City, Chelsea n tottenham losing at goodison park speaks alot. Everton at home from season start is predictably winnable with enough goal margin but, everton at home deep into d season like this is usually hard for visitors. But then, arsenal of this season run-in is upward unlike other seasons past. Scoreline, i cant quiet pinpoint but my heart tip arsenal for the three points. Just like Desi said, i wouldn’t change the lineup just for the sake of continuety. I dont see Walcott and Rosicky struggling either. Like Wenger said, we now have unstoppable dynamism that only the best few teams can match. Cant wait for 9pm Nigeria time. Will be at four-screen-display pub to watch all four;man city v chelsea, everton v arsenal, tottenham v stoke n liverpool match as well. Well done once again Desi.

  16. Gerry Lennon says:

    I believe Santos played in the Reserves, or is due to play, so my guess would be that he will not start.
    I quite like the idea of playing both Gibbs and Santos though. Especially against sides who double up down the right. It makes sense to play Santos in front of Gibbs because he has the knack of nicking the ball, useful high up the pitch. At very least he would buy time for Gibbs to get back.
    However, this option does limit the midfield or forward options. My thoughts would be to play the pair as wing-backs in a 4-4-1-1, with Walcott on the other side of Song and Arteta, pushing Rosicky up behind RVP. You would then have AOC to come on when fresh legs are required?
    Not for this game though, at least not at the start. Your 11 looks the obvious one, especially if they are going to try for early goals. The midfield must use AOC more if he is out on the left, otherwise he is wasted there.

  17. Borntobeagunner(btbag) says:

    Manama, if you read along d line, you will see where Desi made mention of city, chelsea n tottenham having possession of 68,66 n 62 advantage over everton yet, everton still finds a way to grind out result of winning all three of these last home matches. I guess that answered your everton working out their socks to match arsenal. Is this in any way pessimism? Dont think so but actual facts that must be told to create d awareness that even if everton struggle against arsenal, it might not necessarily determine d end result if arsenal is not careful, just like everton have shown in their last three home matches.

  18. Borntobeagunner(btbag) says:

    Also, d problem with out left side of d field i think is about understanding between d left back n forward and not d personnel used there. Sagna n Walcott understanding is understandable since they have being playing together for a while now. Santos or Gibbs can still face d same problem of d left flank understanding with aoc or gerv or whoever is used there is not found.

  19. Beekeeper says:

    2 – 1 Arsenal, with Robin scoring both.

  20. muzora ismail says:

    3 1 these gonners hav had enough rest.so 2days game is a must win. Good luck goonerz.

  21. Dhruv says:

    We have a good CB pair but they are prone to mistakes and are conceding at least one goal in the last few matches. Song needs to provide the extra defensive cover and nullify someone like Fellaini. I am confident of Kos dealing with Tim Cahill. TV should keep his focus in the early part of the game. And Rosicky to provide the creativity and win this game for us. My prediction is 2-0 or 2-1 to Arsenal.

  22. Dianjuh says:

    Hey Desi? Balanced analysis again…Love it.

    I like your line-up….but I would replace the OX with Gervinho…..Why? because i feel its the same with Ramsey/Rosicky issue. When you give a more experienced player a run of games he gets to his best faster than one who is younger trying to gain experience (grow into a player). Do not get me wrong, in some future to come the OX position in the 1st team will be obvious and guaranteed but right now we need to get our experienced players sharp for a strong finish, the younger talented players will fill in the required support. That said…..the OX can come in after an hour and do his part of damage.

    Here’s to 3 points…(whether by a whisker or by a continent of margin)!!!!!!!!!

  23. SB says:

    Inevitable? :)

  24. richie says:

    Great result! Even as a return to the old “One Nil to the Ars-en-al”!!
    We ground out the victory we needed, grabbed 3 points and sailed above the Tiny Totts, Wonderful result! Verm & Kosh immence!

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