TACTICAL football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) shares his breakdown of Sunday's showdown between Arsenal and Everton.
Arsenal v Everton | Sunday 23rd February 2020, 16:30 | Sky Sports
Arsenal host Everton on Sunday as Mikel Arteta looks to build on an impressive second half performance against Newcastle last weekend, as well as an away win in the Europa League against Olympiacos.
Alexandre Lacazette made it two in two games after netting the winner in Greece, whilst back-to-back clean sheets display improvements at the back for Arteta’s outfit.
Everton have been a revelation under Carlo Ancelotti, and with only a defeat to Manchester City in the league since the Italian took over, the Toffees head to London full of confidence and belief they can cause the Gunners problems.
Sat ninth, one position above Arsenal, victory for the Merseysiders would give any European ambitions a real push, and pile the pressure on Arsenal in the race for continental qualifying slots, and so it should be an interesting encounter on Sunday afternoon between two in-form sides.
Arsenal will attempt to dominate possession
A tactically interesting game to unpick, a lot has changed since the drab 0-0 draw between the sides earlier in the season with both teams undergoing managerial changes, and evolutions in style. As a result, I don’t believe too much can be read into that first meeting, and it should hopefully mean a much more open and attacking affair on Sunday.
Arsenal look to dominate possession under Arteta, and they will try to do so again, with Everton often looking to sit deep and counter against the top sides.
A feature of Arsenal’s play under Arteta is the high positioning of the full-backs, particularly Bukayo Saka down the left, and it is these areas which should see a lot of joy for both sides.
Sitting deep and inviting on the Gunners’ wingers and full backs to push forward, it will leave space in behind for Everton to exploit, and this was a feature of Newcastle’s tactics in the first half last weekend, and highlighted how Arsenal can become exposed to the break.
With Hector Bellerin and Saka pushed high, it leaves space up against a backline often found wanting for pace, and the Everton wingers will look to exploit.
Everton to exploit the flanks in transition
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s hold up play and tenacity up front has been a revelation since Marco Silva’s sacking, and he and Brazilian counterpart Richarlison will be confident they can cause problems for Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz, and it will be their hold up play that allows them to bring the wingers into play.
Who Everton opt to start out wide awaits to be seen, but they all appear to fit the same mould of attacker, possessing pace and a willingness to run in behind the backline, and this will be how Everton will look to target Arsenal.
Dani Ceballos returned against Newcastle after a long layoff, and whilst he was tactically well suited to a game where the opposition sat off and possessed little attacking quality in central areas, he, alongside Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka, could struggle to cope with the energy on the break of the Toffees.
Fouls in transition of coping with the box-to-box midfielders would be no surprise for Ceballos and Xhaka, and are certainly ones to look out for on the card markets.
Expect overlaps from Arsenal’s full backs
As touched on above, Arsenal do look to target sides out wide and the overlaps they can create will be crucial to breaking down the Everton defence, and whilst it can leave them open at the back, they will look to target Everton’s wingers, who can at times be found defensively wanting.
Theo Walcott, if fit, has been targeted by sides in the past, and this stands out as an area where Arsenal can exploit with Saka.
Saka pushes on and allows Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to drift inside, and if not tracked well, the young full back will cause the Everton backline a whole host of problems. The 18-year-old’s attacking threat cannot be underestimated, with seven assists across the Premier League and Europa League, as well as two goals, and this is certainly an area that Everton will be wary of.
In central areas, Everton will have to try avoid being overrun in midfield, with the 4-4-2 potentially leaving them outnumbered, and the pressing role of Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison will be crucial to enabling the Arsenal midfield do not have too much time on the ball.
Stifling Xhaka could frustrate the hosts
With Xhaka looking to pick the ball up deep from defenders, I’d expect to see Ancelotti place a player to man mark the Swiss midfielder and stifle this outlet, and if they can effectively do this, like Olympiacos did for long periods, it means that Luiz and Mustafi will see the ball for long periods, and as a result make it harder to create.
How Arteta alleviates this will be key, and against Newcastle he did so by dropping the more forward-thinking Ceballos deeper, but against Olympiacos, his side lacked the secondary output for long periods, as Matteo Guendouzi’s energy and pressing was favoured to help keep it solid, and this is something to watch out for.
It should be an entertaining game on Sunday, and one with two in-form teams well equipped to exploit the weaknesses of one another.
The betting angles
Unlike the first clash between the two sides, I do expect this to be a much more open, attacking affair, and I think both sides are well equipped to cause one another problems defensively.
Despite their back-to-back clean sheets, Arsenal are still vulnerable to conceding, particularly on the counter, whilst Everton could see themselves overrun in midfield, whilst the wide threat from Pepe, Saka and Aubameyang can’t be overlooked.
Priced at 1/1 (Bet365), I’m happy to take Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score, with a thrilling match anticiapted.
The open nature I am expecting and counter-attacks of both sides lends itself to cards, but without the line-ups and uncertainty over who will start in Arsenal’s midfield, I’m cautious on selecting individual players.
However, taking the tactical pointers, and ill-discipline of both, as well as a card-happy referee in Stuart Attwell, I’m happy to take each side to have ov Over 1.5 Cards for each side at a best available 11/8 on Bet365.