As The Gunners face another tough challenge in their road to redemption, they also have to attempt to overcome their own actions. 3 red cards in 6 games, and 2 in their last 2, has spoiled their ability to find a groove.
Now they will have to face an Everton side that has had a few poor results, but many impressive ones during the early part of their season, without Granit Xhaka or Gabriel — who has been their best defender by quite a bit this season.
Gabriel saw a red card after he overcommitted himself to Theo Walcott and got beat. As Walcott attempted to skip away, and on goal, Gabriel gave him a tug of the shoulder and collected his second yellow card.
Arteta hasn’t seemed to find the magic recipe with his lineup yet this season and you’d imagine forcing him to cobble one together without top choices like Gabriel or Partey make that task considerably more difficult — if not impossible.
Before we get to my thoughts on that lineup, let’s talk about Team News.
Arsenal did not issue an official Team News as they normally do, and Mikel Arteta was rather cryptic in his press conference when he said, “We have a few doubts. Obviously we cannot tell you who but we have some doubts for tomorrow, yes.”
But Arsenal’s digital match preview did offer us this image as partial insight.
Obviously we knew about Xhaka and Gabriel’s suspension, and Partey still not having any timeframe surrounding his recovery, but Luiz and Martinelli may be up for debate.
Both were seen in the Arsenal training video and Martinelli did not feature in U23 match, which suggests that both could be available for selection. My guess is that Martinelli is nowhere near ready for 90 competitive minutes, but a spot on the bench is possible. Luiz on the other hand featured on Arsenal’s bench against Southampton and cam on in the 65th minute when Gabriel was sent off. I think it’s safe to say that he has a very good chance to feature.
To add to those chances, Arsenal’s U23 team played on Friday and the match featured William Saliba, Pablo Mari, and Calum Chambers — three people that could have been considered for a Gabriel, or even Holding, replacement.
When it comes to Everton, a lineup with a few changes from the Southampton matchup could be in store. This would allow Arteta to offer players like Maitland-Niles and Pepe to build some form of consistency, while keeping the left side connection of Tierney, Saka, and Aubameyang in tact.
A return to the 3-4-3 seems highly likely after given Partey’s continued absence and the the strength of Everton’s attack. Without Partey or Xhaka, the options within the pivot are actually fewer than one might believe. Ceballos and Elneny were far from spectacular against the Saints, but it offers a level of experience. If Arteta wants to get creative or different, he could presumably consider sliding AMN into the midfield and having Bellerin return to the right wingback role after serving his 1 games suspension.
Personally, I have a hard time believing that an Elneny-AMN pivot would be very effective when it comes to keeping possession, helping the ball through the lines, or offerings any type of line breaking pass ability, but it certainly would provide mobility and legs. I don’t believe it will be the direction Arteta chooses to go, but it’s worth mentioning.
Not the most different side after a poor performance, but for such a bloated side, Arsenal are void of truly tested options. Arteta needs to start finding ways to balance the youth and veteran players by offering opportunities to more youth players. Whether that is through the bench and substitutions or starting spots, minutes are key if he wants to find varying internal solutions.
Like the Southampton match, I expect this match to be one that Arsenal looks second best. It’s away, it’s a against a very in form team, and it’s a side with assets that Arsenal have struggled against. An imposing forward in Calvert-Lewin and a solid midfield to control the game. Under Ancelotti the team has been finding a real groove that Arsenal will have to disrupt.
If Arsenal can find some semblance of the efficiency in front of net that won them the FA Cup and Community Shield, we could see them put some real pressure on Everton. If not, it will be about weathering the early Everton storm, frustrating their attack, denying set pieces, and trying to pick and choose moments to keep the ball and make something happen.
Prediction: 1-1 draw.