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Everton vs Arsenal: Opposition Analysis | Home Turf Advantage?

Can the Blues continue their recent positive results over the Gunners at Goodison Park?

Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Returning from the international break, Everton find themselves sitting in 18th spot in the Premier League table, above only the pointless newly-promoted outfits Burnley and Luton Town, having managed just a single point from their opening four games. Worryingly, the strength of opposition to date has not been too daunting, which makes such a meagre haul doubly disappointing.

Blues chief Sean Dyche will have had a little extra time to work with most of the squad, seeing as few departed Merseyside on international duty. It’s to be hoped that the team has tightened up somewhat, given they’re conceding an average of two goals per game to kick off the campaign and have looked wobbly defending set-piece situations.

With news breaking at time of writing concerning Everton’s sale by Farhad Moshiri to US-based investment group 777 Partners (pending approval by the Premier League), the manager’s position figures to be under new, possibly more intense scrutiny in short order. There must be signs of improvement following the team barely hanging onto a point against Sheffield United last time out.

Next up for the Toffees is the arrival at Goodison Park of last season’s league runners-up, Arsenal.


The Gunners enjoyed an outstanding 2023-23 campaign, leading all comers most of the way, before a stumble opened a window for a relentless Manchester City to overhaul them down the stretch. Mixed in with understandable disappointment at ultimately falling short is an acknowledgement of the North Londoners’ continued improvement under Mikel Arteta, culminating in a 15-point jump and a move from fifth place in 2021-22 to second last term.

The former Blues favourite has been handsomely backed by the club in the transfer market since arriving in December 2019 and that was ramped up further last summer, to the tune of a net spend of €167m. Major additions in the form of West Ham midfielder Declan Rice for a fee of €117m - a transfer record for a British player - attacker Kai Havertz (€75m), Ajax defender Jurrien Timber and on-loan goalkeeper David Raya from Brentford have strengthened Arteta’s options, though Timber will miss the season with a serious knee injury. Notable departures from the club were former captain Granit Xhaka, left back Kieran Tierney and one-time €80m signing Nicolas Pepe on a free transfer to Turkish side Trabzonspor.

Arsenal FC v Manchester United - Premier League
Havertz has yet to find his feet at his new club
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Suitably reinforced for both domestic competition and for the club’s return to the Champions League, the Londoners have started the new season in solid fashion, beginning with a penalty shootout victory over City to win the Community Shield at Wembley, followed by three league wins and a draw. Performances, however have been uneven. A home 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest at the Emirates Stadium to open the campaign was unimpressive, though the Gunners were the better side next time out against Crystal Palace, albeit again only winning by a single goal. Conversely, Arteta’s side dominated Fulham after conceding sloppily in the first minute, but were held to a draw.

The London outfit travels north coming off a slightly fortunate 3-1 home win over Manchester United, during which a possible late winning goal for the visitors was chalked off via a debatable marginal offside call on Alejandro Garnacho, before two late strikes (in the 96th and 101st minutes) secured three points for the hosts. Arsenal start the weekend in fifth place in the league table.

Style of Play

Arteta has shown little intent to deviate from the 4-3-3 formation he’s used throughout his time as Arsenal manager, though he’s shown signs of experimentation this term. Firstly, his decision to use midfielder Thomas Partey as an inverted right back in much the same fashion as Oleksandr Zinchenko on the opposite flank. This has caused some problems for the team - most obviously for Fulham’s opening goal a few weeks back - with the Arsenal backline leaving gaps for the opposition to exploit, not helped by the Ghanaian's unfamiliarity with the role. Sadly for the Blues, Partey will missing for the trip to Goodison and the Ukrainian is able to switch from left back into midfield fluently. In all likelihood Ben White will play on the right side of defence and support winger Bukayo Saka with overlapping runs as per last season.

A second major shakeup has seen Arsenal’s midfield three substantially restructured, with the arrival of Rice and in particular Havertz, whom Arteta has chosen to deploy deeper than was the case at Chelsea. The former has slotted in seamlessly, but the latter is struggling to adjust at the moment, though it is early days and it is big shift for the German to adjust to Arteta’s precise demands.

The Gunners have taken up where they left off last season in terms of basic play, dominating possession (averaging a 64.3% share) and that figures to be unchanged at Goodison on Sunday, with Dyche preferring to go direct much of the time. Much like Arteta’s mentor at City, Pep Guardiola, the Basque favours a pass-heavy approach, looking to patiently probe for openings and to stretch defences with a wide expansive style, though the London outfit are more likely to run with the ball than the Mancunians. They will attempt to create mismatches in wide areas, in addition to attacking through the middle.

Arsenal FC v Manchester United - Premier League
Rice will add steel to the Arsenal midfield
Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Player Assessment

The visitor’s captain, Martin Odegaard is as influential as ever. String-puller in chief in midfield, the Norwegian leads the team with attempted shots, scoring twice, in addition to completed passes into the opposition area (12).

Saka will be a major threat on the right. The 22-year-old has 5.78 SCA (Shot-Creating Actions) per 90 minutes and has 14 Key Passes (those leading to a shot) already this term, as well as also bagging a couple of goals himself. The wide forward is attempting four dribbles per 90 and enjoys a 50% success rate.

Although Xhaka enjoyed a strong final season at the club, Rice is undoubtedly an upgrade. An all-rounder in midfield, the former Hammer tops the Gunners with a combined 4.0 tackles and interceptions per 90 and keeps possession ticking over, his 91.6% passing accuracy second only to centre half William Saliba.


Dyche was able to turn the tables on a rampant Arsenal in what was the Blues boss’s first outing in the Goodison dugout back in February, but Arteta will be motivated to ensure there is no repeat on Sunday, with his side already trailing an imperious City by two points after four games. His side dealt handily with Everton at the Emirates a month later, though the Toffees will be far more aggressive on home turf.

Arsenal will look to impose themselves on the hosts and to play in their accustomed style, so the onus will be on the Blues to disrupt the talented visitors from the opening whistle. Rice will add some extra steel and composure to the Gunners’ midfield but Everton will be looking to win the physical battle in the centre of the park, as was the case in February and have the tools to do so. Establishing superiority there will go a long way to knocking Arsenal out of their stride.

Everton FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Onana blows past Odegaard
Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

The Blues have been surprisingly open so far this term, so I feel a shift in formation could be in order, dropping Amadou Onana back in alongside Idrissa Gueye as a double pivot, with Abdoulaye Doucoure operating in front, adding an extra body deeper to shield the defence. Beto will be sure to trouble the opposition centre backs and hopefully the big Portuguese can continue to link up effectively with Arnaut Danjuma and a returning Dwight McNeil, Everton’s leading scorer last season.

This will be a very tough game and I feel a win may be a bit of a stretch for the Toffees at this stage.

Prediction: Everton 1 Arsenal 1

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