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Everton at Arsenal: Projected XI

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Walcott returns to the Emirates.

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Everton head down to London after putting in one of their most complete performances of the season against Leicester City on Wednesday. Arsenal are a bit of a mess - they recently lost to Swansea City, and saw nine players exit in January and three more come in the door.

It’s an opportunity for the Blues, if Sam can pick the right team.

Tactics and Formation

Sam Allardyce has tended to stick with what’s worked in victories, rather than changing a winning side. Following the victory against Leicester City on Wednesday, a rare occurrence in recent months, it seems unlikely Big Sam will make wholesale changes.

Instead, look for a similar setup with a few like-for-like personnel changes.

Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)

Jordan Pickford - 10/10

Jonjoe Kenny - 9/10

Seamus Coleman was absolutely outstanding on Wednesday, but asking the Irishman to go another 90 minutes on Saturday would be ludicrous.

Michael Keane - 8/10

On Wednesday, Keane was the player we all hoped that he could be this pre-season. Everywhere Jamie Vardy went, Keane was close behind, with the English center-back as the biggest reason Everton did not concede a goal in the run of play. If this is what healthy Michael Keane looks like, he should be playing every game.

Eliaquim Mangala - 8/10

We don’t get the addition of Mangala. It makes no sense no matter how you slice it, and Big Sam’s “left-footed player” explanation doesn’t really provide much in terms of answers. But, if Allardyce wanted him, it seems fair to assume he’s going to play him — that could easily start against Arsenal.

Luke Garbutt - 6/10

Big Sam said they added Garbutt to the Premier League roster, but he didn’t make the 18 on Wednesday. We’re assuming that Allardyce didn’t lie to us, and he’s really in the picture now — but who really knows? Cuco Martina has been worked to death and could use the break, so we’ll give Garbutt the edge — barely.

Morgan Schneiderlin - 8/10

The Frenchman was a substitute on Wednesday, but we anticipate the Toffees needing his defensive nous against an Arsenal squad overflowing with firepower.

Idrissa Gueye - 9/10

Wayne Rooney - 8/10

We really cannot emphasize enough that we don’t think Wayne Rooney is a midfielder. He’s prone to bad turnovers, doesn’t have the legs to defend, and can go invisible for long stretches of a match.

He also might be Everton’s best pure finisher and is capable of picking a perfect pass into the box — and Big Sam seems to be more interested in the positives than the negatives. We think (and hope) he’ll be paired with two more defensively-capable midfielders, helping to negate those problem areas.

Gylfi Sigurdsson - 9/10

Poor Gylfi. Just when it seemed he’d finally get a run in the center of the park, Allardyce drops Yannick Bolasie and shuffles the Icelander back to the left wing.

Theo Walcott - 10/10

Everton’s most in-form player going up against his former club — no way Theo doesn’t start this one.

Cenk Tosun - 7/10

Tosun’s exclusion from the starting XI on Wednesday was somewhat surprising — with Oumar Niasse’s start over Dominic Calvert-Lewin coming potentially as an even greater surprise. Niasse was poor, so we don’t think there’s any way he starts on Saturday. Tosun was brought in to be the guy up top, but it isn’t impossible that Allardyce looks to DCL this weekend either.

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Bench

  • Joel Robles
  • Ashley Williams
  • Cuco Martina
  • Tom Davies
  • Yannick Bolasie
  • Dominic Calvert-Lewin
  • Oumar Niasse

What kind of reception Theo Walcott receives will be interesting. More interesting? If Walcott can continue his run of form and drag Everton to an important away victory. If there’s anything left to be done in a push for Europe this season, it starts now.