Saturday, June 10, 2023

Brighton preview: Leaks and tweaks

It’s our penultimate home game of the season this afternoon when we take on Brighton.

After a very good win away from home last week, it will be interesting to see what Mikel Arteta does with his team. His midfield selection of Jorginho was made with Newcastle in mind, and he talked about it openly after the game. On paper, Thomas Partey feels a more natural fit for a game against a side as athletic as that, but he chose the technical security of the Italian international and it paid dividends.

Even Partey himself admitted that his teammate deserved the start, so I’m curious to see if he keeps his place against a Brighton side that offer a different kind of threat to Newcastle. Perhaps part of the decision will be informed by who is available at left-back. During the week it was reported that Oleksandr Zinchenko would miss the rest of the season due to a calf strain.

And yet, there he is in the training pictures released yesterday. Curious. Smoke and mirrors from Arteta to mess with Roberto de Zerbi’s decision making? Was it a case that information was leaked deliberately to uncover a potential leak? Maybe it’s just that an initial diagnosis turned out not to be as bad as first thought, and the player is determined to be available for his team in the final stages of a season in which points are still valuable.

It does leave the manager with a decision though. As I wrote during the week, there’s no doubt that Zinchenko is going through a difficult run of form from a defensive point of view. I do think those moments have clouded his importance throughout this season, and even during some of those recent games. What he gives the team allows us to play higher up the pitch, to dominate and control in a way that has been vital.

Then again, Kieran Tierney had a good cameo against Newcastle, our second goal began with a smart interception by him on the edge of our box, and you could probably make a good case that he’s the kind of full back that might suit a game against Brighton from a defensive perspective. It’s not just about that though, it’s about that link with midfield and whoever gets the nod on the left hand side. It could be Gabriel Martinelli, it could be Leandro Trossard, and how Arteta views those partnerships might well be the key to who starts at left back today.

I mention Trossard, not just because he’s facing his former club, but because a change in the front three wouldn’t surprise me. Who sits this one out though? That’s difficult to predict. I think the hold up play of Gabriel Jesus means he’ll get the nod as the 9, but the Belgian could easily play either side of him. Let’s see.

As for today’s opposition, we know they’re an excellent side, with dangerous players across the pitch. They still have plenty to play for too, this is not a team that’s on the beach by any means. They’re just two points behind sixth place with three games in hand, and while that might allow some margin for error, expect them be to out for all three points today. I’m sure Arteta and his analysts will have done their homework.

Of course, we have plenty at stake ourselves. If – and it’s a very big if to be fair – Everton can take anything off Man City, we have to capitalise on that. Arteta says:

That’s what we’re here for. It starts on Sunday again, there’s three games to go, this is the crucial one and right now we want to beat them and elevate our hopes and enthusiasm to keep going because everything is still to play for.

The Toffees had a big win in their last game, against Brighton no less, so it remains to be seen whether or not they’ve got anything left in the tank. It adds another layer to today as the visitors will be determined to bounce back, so all in all we’re going to have to be pretty close to our best to get the result we want today. Fingers crossed.

As ever, we’ll have live blog coverage and all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News.

For now, have a great Sunday and I’ll catch you later for all that.

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