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.Follow @goonerdesi