Thoughts On Everton And The Predictably Disappointing March

Ever since the fixtures were announced, it was pretty clear that the Feb-March period was going to give us a the real picture of Arsenal’s quality and improvements this season. Starting with Southampton at the end of January till the game against City last weekend, the Gunners have picked up 13 points from 10 games. Crystal Palace have done better, as have eight other teams. Of course, some of them had easier fixtures and Wenger’s side had some injuries to contend with but it’s hard to argue this is the performance of a side deserving to be champions.

The thing that rankles most is the sheer predictability of poor performances and the nature of mistakes made. I cannot understand how a man as brilliant as Wenger chose the side he did at Stamford Bridge, and this is not the first time he has done it. The desire to go there and perform with style in search of a win is, in itself, commendable. Chelsea certainly haven’t been in the kind of form that would warrant extra caution or diffidence of any sort. But handing the game to the hosts with such an unbalanced starting eleven beggars belief. In most games it’s hard to argue any one individual could have turned the game on its head but Flamini alongside Arteta would have done so in that one. Anyway, I’d better not dwell on this too much as you’ve probably worked hard to put it out of your mind.

The draw against Swansea was another poor result. The team probably had some soreness from the previous thrashing that prevented them from playing close to their potential. The Gunners have won such games often this season but when you’re defending that deep there is always the risk of a freakish moment taking points away.

At home against City the team did better, in relative terms at least. And if they can build on that the season can still have a very good finish. The best case scenario is simple – eight wins. That would mean an FA Cup trophy and 82 points in the League. In my opinion that would make this season a resounding success irrespective of the actual league position. Here’s the problem though, I just can’t see it happening.

The Cup remains a lottery and much will depend on the kind of pressure the players feel going into the game. For instance, a bad defeat at Goodison park will create a negative pressure while a solid win will create positive pressure/momentum.

In the League, six wins out of six are doable based on the quality at Wenger’s disposal but unrealistic given current form, injuries, and mental state.

Everton – A Must Not Lose At Any Cost Fixture

Arsenal were 9 points ahead of Spurs and 11 of Everton at the beginning of March. Both those teams had a game in hand. While Sherwood’s side have now fallen behind (form worse than Arsenal’s over the last 10 games), Everton have won their last five games and cut that lead down to 4.

Both teams will feel they have the final top four spot in their hands. The Toffees have a slightly tougher run in but Arsenal are perfectly capable of dropping points in games they should be winning. This is a classic six-pointer and could set the tone for the rest of the season. Arsenal’s priority has to be to avoid defeat. It won’t be easy.

The last time Martinez’s side dropped points at home was on boxing day. That surprise reversal against Sunderland remains their only defeat at Goodison Park. Everton have picked up an impressive 2.4 PPG at home. Arsenal have the second best away record in the League but Wenger’s side have won two and lost three of their last six on the road.

The patterns of play will be governed by the intensity of Everton’s pressing and the control Arsenal can show when dealing with it. They won the Cup tie at home by playing through that pressure to take the lead. In this game, I feel, the Toffees will come harder. Breaking their resistance could result in a sweet win but any lack of sharpness is likely to lead to a bitter disappointment.

Arsenal will also have to find a way to prevent the hosts from controlling the ball in the centre of the park. Martinez’s side will consistently find spaces between the lines and in wide areas if the visitors sit too deep or lack cohesion in their pressing. We’ve seen both problems often enough this season for it to be a genuine worry. In fairness, the Gunners did a decent job of pressing in the centre of the pitch when the sides met a few weeks earlier but I expect the tempo to be much higher in this away game.

Everton have good creativity and attacking diversity in their squad along with energy and power. The main ingredient they lack is experience and that has resulted in a somewhat inefficient attack. In other words, they haven’t scored as many goals as their attacking qualities actually merit. The positive for them here is that if the attack does click as well as it can they have the potential to score three or four goals in such a game.

Their defending is very reliant on the midfield pair of McCarthy and Barry. Neither is particularly quick but both are disciplined, read the game well, and work hard. Nevertheless, getting behind that pairing is Arsenal’s best avenue for creating quality chances and it is possible if the passing has that bit of crispness. It’s not beyond the Gunners from a technical point of view but the players’ mindset plays a big part as well. It’s very hard to create the attacking flow if even one or two players are slow with their off-the-ball reactions or if the defence is demanding greater protection in deeper areas. Often these are linked because laborious possession can invite the opponents forward and make pressing easier for them.

Wenger doesn’t have too many options right now. I’d like to see,

Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal – Arteta, Cazorla, Flamini – AOC, Giroud, Rosicky.

Gibbs would be the first choice for left back if fit. Apart from that, Podolski on the left with either Chamberlain, Santi, or Rosicky on the bench is the only other option that seems feasible. The selection of the German could lead to a counter-attacking approach, which is not a bad option if the team is tactically prepared.

A late cameo for Ramsey will be interesting but I hope he is not rushed.

Unlike most other games the Gunners have played, a steady first half followed by a win in the second is not likely to be a good tactic for this one because Everton themselves are adept at gaining points late in the game. Arsenal have to cause some early damage and build on it instead of sitting on it. Conceding first is always a problem.

Over the last few years, one of the most frustrating aspects of supporting the Gunners has been the knowledge that they are good enough to win almost any game and, at the same time, the awareness that they can make a spectacular mess with little warning. I don’t know how the game will pan out but I doubt anything will surprise me.


7 Responses to Thoughts On Everton And The Predictably Disappointing March

  1. Always a pleasure reading your blog … I’d like yo know your thoughts on whether Arsene should retire at seasons end . As for me I think it’s time. He’s had since the debacle at man utd to get things right and we all saw that nothing has changed with that complete humiliation at Chelsea!

    • Wahooligan says:

      Replace him(in a perfect world, and we would have low,klopp or Pep right)? SMH, look at manure(and it would be worse for AFC)? Wenger is never spoken in the same breath of Alex, but he revolutionized the epl in more than one way. Martinez isn’t the answer. Grass is always greener, and I respect your point of view, just tired of seeing Wenger out(we really needed that qpr scout or Dein back lol). Form is temporary, class permanent. Just listen to all the players talk about him, me don’t think fergs the turd would not be in THAT sentence.Biting nails till the end tomorrow!

      • KLOP ON MY MIND!

        Jurgen Klopp, the coach of Borrusia Dortmund. ..

        If Arsene Wenger loses today to Everton, the call to replace him will no doubt be nearing zenith point! Who is most suited to replace him without plunging Arsenal through the malaise eating up Man U presently?

        I look everywhere and I see only Klopp starring back at me. He is a coach, who managed non stars and made them all stars! The brand of football he introduced was similar to Barcalona’s in pressing and possession but because he lacked Barca’s armada of stars, he added physicality and precise counter-attacking! He kept losing stars after stars every season but soldiered on. This season, injury made a terrible meal of his squad but he still managed to get them to second spot in the Bundesliga and Q-final in Champions League.

        Will Klopp agree to come to Arsenal? Probably…at 46, he’d welcome a new challenge, especially if Arsenal give him the rumoured 100m to recruit with…and promise him they wouldn’t be selling anyone unless if he (Klopp) desired…and of course, a better package than he presently enjoys!

        We have lost Pep Guardiola to Bayern Munich…we should start tempting this German now. With the array of German players in Arsenal, I don’t think it’ll be hard to get him over. At least, he’ll put Jose Mourinho in his place!

  2. jcloud says:

    82 points would indeed be a resounding success if achieved (along with FA cup). Agree, Arsenal would need to put pressure in the beginning and get a goal before half time.

    Desi, will you have a chance to go to NY in July when Arsenal (finally!!) come to the US? I’ll buy my ticket as soon as it’s available. Can’t believe I’ll see the Gunners for the first time live! Very excited!

  3. WENGER NOT GOOD IN BED!

    Have you ever seen a situation where a man is in a serious relationship with a very beautiful, pretty, well-behaved, adequately-working lady? She visits his family home frequently and his parents couldn’t help but marvel at their son’s luck in unearthing this God-sent woman.

    However, our friend is not prepared to walk this lovely woman through the aisle. His parents mount pressure but our friend wouldn’t…worse, he couldn’t even tell his parents and friends why he is not keen on taking this woman that every other man would love to take home. Our friend wouldn’t take her in because she is not good in bed. In fact, she is horrible in the act of making love. How could he tell the parents…and friends that this singular quality means so much to him?

    That is my summation of the Arsenal Board. Arsene Wenger is the beautiful woman. He has everything…intelligence, maturity, resourcefulness, integrity, fame, eye for talent…everything any football club could dream of. And the Arsenal Board couldn’t be happier having the Frenchman as her manager for a long 17 years. But there is one snag…Le Prof is tactically careless!

    How could Wenger always enter any pitch always structured to attack? Why would Arsenal fall apart against any big side once they concede early? Why wouldn’t the Frenchman tell his players to start cautiously on any away ground…and if you concede early, don’t panic or strive immediately to come back. Hold your shape first, frustrate your hosts from grabbing that all-important second, then come into the game…once the game becomes stable, probe for your equalizer!

    But not Wenger. Against Man City, with Arteta suspended, Flamini and Ramsey started as dms, with the Welshman in his usual box-to-box role. Arsenal conceded early, strived to get the equalizer, then conceded again just before half-time. In the second half, Arsenal pulled up a gear but still conceded a careless third. Walcott scored his second to bring Arsenal into the game but again, Arsenal conceded another careless goal. From the play, if Arsenal could re-shape their rearguard and avoid further careless goal, Walcott and the rest were playing well enough to come back. But at that moment, Wenger removed Flamini, brought in Gnabry and the rest is history! Why on earth would Arsene give Yaya Toure and Fernadinho that express ticket to destroy by removing the only battling player shielding the back four?

    Against Chelsea, Wenger kept Flamini on the bench and opted for Arteta and Chamberlain at a ground where his tactic should be safety first! Another six goals conceded and worse, none scored! Against Liverpool, like against Chelsea, Arsenal conceded early and followed up with a disastrous four conceded in just 20 minutes! Why should a big team like Arsenal usually get completely headless once an early goal is conceded against a fellow big side?

    It’s no coincidence. It’s just the manager’s tactical carelessness. Injuries might have hampered Arsenal of late but The Gunners have the squad to have still been there in the title race. Instead, Arsenal are now battling Everton for fourth spot! How on earth should Arsenal descend to the level of Everton? Apart from Suarez, is there any other Liverpool player that can easily get into Arsenal squad? Perhaps only Gerrard, in the absence of Ramsey, of course!

    On Sunday, Wenger will line out against Everton at Godison Park, without that word, caution at the back of his mind. Everton has lost just once at their home turf this season…and that loss was only because they played over 60 minutes with ten men. Every big side in the EPL, including Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, has gone to Godison Park without going home with full points!

    Wenger, should know that he must give Everton their due respect. There is nothing wrong in playing for a draw. A draw keeps Arsenal on the driving seat.
    But if expectedly Wenger decides to go all out for attack, ends up losing the match, then no matter the reluctance of the board to do away with this beautiful woman who is not good in bed, his days as Arsenal gaffer will be grinding to a close…and I’ll be the first to cast that stone!

  4. dianjuh says:

    @Tai Emeka
    Very very very well put!

    Desi,
    Arsenal from a Desi heart? I always smile when I read that.
    No one can deny lately one is thinking who can replace Wenger?
    I did my research and I found out Pep submitted his request that if Arsene should ever call it a day, they give him first consideration. An of course Jurgen Klopp is an Open Arsenal admirer. Now if those two are the candidates then my advice would be, lets finish as high as we can, win the FA Cup, celebrate Wenger and welcome Pep/Klopp for the future!

    My personal choice is Pep.

  5. @dianjuh…thanks…

    Did Pep actually make such request?

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