Arsenal return to Premier League action after the international break with an away game at Everton. Goodison Park is a place where the Gunners have struggled to pick up points in recent times. With no wins from their last five visits, Mikel Arteta’s men must find a new way to approach the passionate cauldron they are bound to step into when they play on Sunday evening.
How Arsenal Can Breakdown a Stubborn Everton Defence
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Creativity Is Key to Unlocking the Low-Block
Although Everton sit at a lowly 18th position in the table, only above Luton Town and Burnley who have not played all four games yet, they have not been entirely poor this season. Their style of play under Sean Dyche has led to plenty of chances this season – averaging 6.25 shots on target per game at this early stage.
However, they have only managed to score in one game so far, and that was in the 2-2 draw against newly promoted Sheffield United. The Toffees have also had a relatively kind fixture list so far with their most difficult match-up being against Aston Villa, where they were swept aside 4-0, returning home having mustered only two shots on target.
Their approach against one of the better sides in the league may provide an insight into the English manager’s approach against the sides in the league with more quality than his side. With just 39% possession against the Villans, the Merseysiders sat back for most of the game and tried to hit back on the counter.
Fabio Vieira’s Bright Start to the Season
The main way of breaking down a low block is movement; this is in a positional sense as well as moving the ball quickly. A man who has stepped out from the fringes of the side to provide plenty of creativity is Fabio Vieira. After signing last season for around £35 million the Portuguese midfielder had a quiet first season at Emirates Stadium.
But he has managed to contribute positively to the opening weeks of this campaign, managing to turn the Fulham game around when he came on to win a penalty and provide a wonderful assist for Eddie Nketiah. This successful cameo was encouragingly built upon when he played through Gabriel Jesus perfectly to secure the victory in Arsenal’s last league game against Manchester United.
This sort of creativity may be what the Gunners need to combat an 11-man behind-the-ball approach that Dyche might be planning and with Kai Havertz struggling in the left position in midfield, it could be time to freshen things up in this area of the pitch for Arteta’s side.
Matching Everton’s Physicality is Crucial
A downside for taking out Havertz for Vieira is the decrease in physicality that this will leave Arsenal with in midfield. Last season in this fixture Dyche fielded a midfield three of Andre Onana, Idrissa Gueye and Abdoulaye Doucoure which thwarted Arsenal’s entire creative threat. These three worked well as a barricade halting any momentum.
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They stopped Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli from receiving the ball with any time to attack the opposing full-back and Martin Odegaard was also frustrated in the centre of the pitch. This left Martinelli and Odegaard being substituted before the final stages of the match and Arsenal only managed three shots on target from a massive 71% possession all game.
Havertz to Make an Impact?
Only allowing yourself to play with incredible creative players at Goodison Park is not the way to come away with three points. You have to beat them at their own game, and this is why Havertz may be key to winning this match for Arsenal. His stature at 6″4″ provides a different outlet from the much shorter focal points of Jesus and Nketiah.
Havertz is also adept at finding space with his intelligent movement which could see the Toffees defence being caught out in the box. His positional play is also something he has over a Vieira-type player as he is willing to put his foot in and make fouls, being able to get stuck into that combative Everton midfield will be decisive if Arteta’s men want to come out victorious in this match up.
With a crucial week coming up which sees the Gunners return to Champions League action for the first time in six years, followed by a huge North London derby against a Tottenham side that Ange Postecoglou has firing on all cylinders, picking up all three points at a ground that they have had such little joy at over the years will be a massive confidence boost for Mikel Arteta’s side.