It’s Everton away today, and everyone knows we have a record there that isn’t great. It’s 2017 since we last beat them away, and it’s one of those strange things about football given how good we are when we play them at home.
Mikel Arteta was asked by Sky how he judged Arsenal’s season so far, and he feels like we should have 12 points rather than 10, which is hard to argue with. As ever he says there are things to improve, things to do better, and he said:
The margins, they’ve been too small and probably that’s the thing that we have to do better to kill games earlier. We have the dominance that we have shown already … be more ruthless.
I think that applies especially well to recent visits to Goodison Park. I remember a Martin Odegaard chance, not a sitter by any means but a decent sight of goal, that he fired over last season. Almost immediately Everton got the only goal of the game. The season before that, Eddie Nketiah had a chance to put us ahead before we fell victim to a brilliant winner from Demarai Gray. I think we even had a late chance to equalise in that 2-1 game, but Aubameyang missed. Margins.
It’s about time we won away at Everton, and to be fair we’ve overcome some poor records fairly recently. So, it will be interesting to see today’s team. Part of me wonders if Takehiro Tomiyasu might be the right choice for left-back for an away game like this, but if we’re going to go there and take the game to them, it’s likely to be Oleksandr Zinchenko in a back four that would be unchanged from Man Utd.
I don’t see any change in midfield, with Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Martin Odegaard. Obviously it would be a very good day for the German international to make a real mark, whether that’s with a goal or an assist, but playing a good part in an Arsenal victory would be fine by me as a baseline. A goal contribution of some kind would certainly ease some of the pressure on him though.
Then there’s the decision about how to play up front. I’d go with Gabriel Jesus for this one if he’s deemed ready to start. I think he gives the team something extra. As Arteta said on Friday, “He changed our world”, after his arrival from Man City. The big injury last season and the minor surgery this time around mean he’s not quite at 100% yet but with a North London derby on the horizon, that’s a game you absolutely need him for. So, it makes sense to me to play him today, get those minutes into his legs, and midweek versus PSV in the Champions League feels a lot more like an Eddie game than either this one or the derby.
Everton have new boy Beto to give our defence some problems, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin is available again, so they are not without threat – despite what their league position suggests. It’s very early in the season, and I don’t think it’s a true reflection of what they’re capable of. I doubt Mikel Arteta will let his players take anything for granted today, especially as he knows fine well how we’ve struggled for points there. I suspect those games feel a bit more personal considering his connection with Everton, and he will be absolutely desperate to put that record to bed today.
So, let’s hope the lessons have been learned from last season, and the season before, and the season before – but let’s also hope that if one of their players stands on the face of one of hours, the right kind of punishment is meted out. It’s gonna be tough, but then that should be no surprise to anyone.
Catch you later. Come on Arsenal!