The newly begun EPL campaign continues this weekend for the Gunners as they take on Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday. Fresh off a flawed but thrilling opener against Crystal Palace, Arsenal is looking to sharpen its play against an opponent that has provided some difficulties in recent meetings. Here are a few thoughts ahead of Saturday’s match.
To begin with, it’s important to note that Arsenal is apparently getting its trio of German stars back. According to an article in The Independent, Arsene Wenger had elected to sit Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker, and Lukas Podolski in order to give them all an extended break following their deep World Cup run. However, the break supposedly will not extend to Saturday’s fixture with Everton, meaning we should see them back in action. Naturally, it would be good to throw Ozil into the mix right off the bat. The midfield looked somewhat soft at times against Crystal Palace, and the team needs Ozil to excel in a way he didn’t quite manage consistently in 2013-14. However, supporters should be patient. The Germans will be active once more, but it appears likely that Wenger will incorporate them gradually.
Aside from the return of the three Germans, the most interesting factor ahead of Saturday’s match is how the Gunners will approach it mentally after taking a 3-0 beating at Goodison Park last April. This is not the sort of defeat one forgets quickly, and Arsenal would do well to remember what hurt them, rather than simply gun for revenge. Specifically, this may mean doing a better job of containing Romelu Lukaku, first and foremost. Betfair football writer Michael Cox makes a simple but vitally important observation in his frontpage preview of the match: Wenger must avoid allowing new right back Mathieu Debuchy take the same sort of beating Bacary Sagna received in this fixture a season ago. Debuchy, as we well know, is a promising defensive player and should serve the club well in the long run. However, in the early going, he’s shown he’s still learning to play with his teammates. In particular, Alexis Sanchez, who on his own has looked quite strong, may need to be prepared to provide more support coming back if Lukaku is unleashed on the left side as expected.
Really, the defense as a whole should be the primary concern for Arsenal supporters. It’s not just because of the 3-0 defeat that will be on everyone’s mind, but because this is where the club looks most vulnerable. We posted just this week that Wenger has essentially acknowledged a need to strengthen the back line, though he was careful not to call the situation an emergency. Everton may not be the ideal opponent given this reality. The club can score goals in a hurry when playing well, and it should play with a poised and experienced attack as it’s utilizing essentially the same lineup that played the majority of 2013-14.
The goals, for Arsenal, should come. Sanchez has shown flashes of brilliance and Ramsey looks to be fully healthy, and with Ozil coming back the club will have plenty more options than last year’s version, which relied far too heavily on Olivier Giroud. But on Saturday, the focus should be all about defense. It should also be a nice opportunity for Arsenal to make a strong statement and show some improvement.