In this series we are going to be taking a look at our upcoming opponent’s last match in the Premier League. The goal is to look at how the team is currently playing to derive some insight into how Everton may attack and what the squad will have to avoid in order to come away with the win.
The thoughts presented below were made as the game occurred and are based on specific events or general trends in the game with some summarizing thoughts on each half and the game as a whole.
Arsenal comfortably beat Newcastle United 2-1 away, but struggled to break down their hosts in the first half and looked under pressure whenever the Toon mounted a coordinated attack.
Arsenal Formation & Lineup
Bellerin - Mustafi - Sokratis - Monreal
Xhaka - Guendouzi
Ramsey - Ozil - Aubameyang
Subs: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Elneny, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck
Manager: Unai Emery
I’m not sure either team has possessed the ball in the attacking third in the first few minutes. Arsenal is desperate to go down Newcastle’s right flank with Aubameyang, but Newcastle is holding firm.
The Gunners are almost extreme in their desire to play out of the back rather than hitting long balls. It has already hurt them this year and they’ve had 3-4 near misses against Newcastle.
Arsenal’s back line are very uncomfortable running on the counter. Newcastle was able to play a ball through the midfield and pressure the backline on the counter and really had an excellent sequence.
Mustafi has definitely had a bit of a drop off. He’s making some real mental errors, one of which almost leads to a goal. Arsenal definitely has some speed in the back this year though and they recover well.
As odd as it sounds, Arsenal almost seems the most comfortable in countering. They just aren’t stringing any sort of possession together and they want to break quickly.
It’s funny, Arsenal’s only real chance today has come from swinging the ball across the field and attacking Newcastle’s left. The Gunners continue to try the right but don’t break through until they then swing the ball across, but bungle the opportunity.
1st Half Thoughts - This was pretty ugly. Arsenal were determined to overload their right side to attack and it did nothing. Newcastle was up to the challenge and were able to easily crowd the midfield to prevent Arsenal from doing anything.
That said, the defense for Arsenal was susceptible to balls over the top. If we still had Lukaku this would probably be a 3-1 type win for Everton if Arsenal continued to play like this. There isn’t enough help in the defensive midfield for Arsenal to have that stout defense.
Midfielders Mattéo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka are both good distributors of the ball, but also show positional naivete and struggle to win the ball back. If Gylfi Sigurdsson is on song, he will be traipsing past this pair all game long.
Arsenal finally score, with the first shot on goal of the match, but it is a free kick and it is hard to say this is really deserved.
Now we are seeing a little of the “classic” Arsenal. A lot of short passes just outside the box that lead to nothing. They’ve finally begun to settle into a bit of possession, but it isn’t meaningful possession right now.
Mesut Ozil finally rescues Arsenal with some nice play for the second goal. It has been all Arsenal this half. It really is a classic Arsenal goal where they get the ball wide then slide it into the middle for a shot. Then in the ensuing chaos Ozil can slot it home.
This one is really over and sort of peters out. Newcastle get a goal right at the death but it was more a result of an utterly awful attempt to play out of the back by the two centrehalves and Peter Cech.
2nd Half Thoughts - Arsenal can still be dangerous, and they lull you into a false sense of security sometimes before putting two or three past you, but there is still a lot of vulnerability in this defense. The key is to exploit it while still being sound enough to stop Arsenal’s skill players.
The Gunners are also one of those teams where there is a decent amount of individual talent, but they haven’t figured out how to play together yet under Emery. That causes a lot of the confusion that Everton will need to take advantage of.
With the tale of two halves here it can be hard to really know which Gunners Everton will face. Is Arsenal really rounding into form or are they just playing well in fits and starts?
Either way Everton will have some opportunities in this one. As much as I’m loathe to say it the high press could be very effective in this one. The Arsenal backs are not very good and are susceptible to pressure, as is Cech. But for this to be successful Everton needs to solidify their midfield play. Without it Arsenal will be able to pass out of the pressure and counter.
If indeed Lucas Torriera (who has come on at halftime in the last three games) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan miss out, then we’ll be facing the same starting lineup as last week. Both Guendouzi and Xhaka are weak points and the Blues will need to focus on them.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now out on the left wing, expect them to attack Jonjoe Kenny. The Gunners showed a desire to go down their left and the Everton defense will be well tested with speed and precise passing. Don’t be surprised to see Arsenal find some success there as Alexandre Lacazette has done well holding up the ball and will force the midfielders and defenders to track the late runners like Aaron Ramsey who feasted on Everton last season.
Finally, set pieces. Everton didn’t concede last weekend but it is always a concern with Arsenal. The set piece goal they gave up late against Newcastle was odd, but a good measure of Arsenal’s quality.