The Big Match Tactical View: Arsenal v Everton

Sam Allardyce has lost his last eight visits to the Emirates
Sam Allardyce has lost his last eight visits to the Emirates
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are set to make their home debuts - will will they be upstaged by the returning Theo Walcott? Michael Cox looks at the tactics and Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown...

"Perhaps Everton's main threat will be Theo Walcott, returning to his former club. He'll be up against Monreal, who has enjoyed a fine season and has found a nose for goals recently, but isn't the quickest defender and might be vulnerable to Walcott's acceleration."

Arsenal v Everton
Saturday 17:30, BT Sport 1.
Match Odds: Arsenal [1.33], Everton [12.0], The Draw [6.0]

Aubameyang to start?

Arsenal have fond memories of this fixture - they're unbeaten in 23 home matches against Everton stretching back to January 1996, and also lifted the Premier League title following wins over the Toffees in 1998 and 2002. Having suffered a disappointing midweek loss to Swansea, however, this is far from a foregone conclusion.

The good news for the Gunners, of course, is that they could have two players making their full debuts in this Saturday evening kick-off. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was introduced from the bench in midweek but is likely to start here, probably in place of Alex Iwobi, while his old Dortmund teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might be thrown straight into the action.

There have been plenty of questions about how Arsene Wenger will accommodate Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette in the same side, but it's worth remembering that Lacazette has managed just one goal in his last 11 games, and appears somewhat jaded and lacking sharpness. He may benefit from a spell on the bench, with Aubemyang leading the line.

Arsenal likely to use 4-3-3

It's likely to be three from those four players starting, then, in the 4-3-3 system Wenger has favoured in recent weeks. Mohamed Elneny has established himself as a regular, playing the holding midfield role but also dropping back into defence, which gives Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey freedom to charge forward. Jack Wilshere was absent in midweek through illness and seems unlikely to start here - if he does, it could be in place of Elneny, with Xhaka dropping deeper.

The four-man defence of Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal should continue here, but there have been defensive problems recently. Koscielny looks increasingly immobile and Mustafi makes too many mistakes when moving high up the pitch to win possession quickly. Goalkeeper Petr Cech, too, made an uncharacteristic blunder at Swansea.

Everton to play on the break

Sam Allardyce was once famous for upsetting Wenger and Arsenal, but his away record at the Gunners is as bad as Everton's - three points from 13 games, and none from the last eight. He's likely to use a counter-attacking approach here.

Perhaps Everton's main threat will be Theo Walcott, returning to his former club. He'll be up against Monreal, who has enjoyed a fine season and has found a nose for goals recently, but isn't the quickest defender and might be vulnerable to Walcott's acceleration. Yannick Bolasie, on the opposite side, will enjoy a good battle against the speedy Bellerin.

Cenk Tosun is likely to lead the line - he's yet to make a major impact since his arrival from Besiktas. Gylfi Sigurdsson will offer support breaking forward from midfield, although he's not the best counter-attacking player, and might be more of a threat from set-pieces.

Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye seems the most obvious defensive midfield combination against an Arsenal side that might feature both Ozil and Mkhitaryan popping up in central positions between the lines, with Wayne Rooney and Tom Davies likely to miss out.

At the back there are several question marks. Seamus Coleman returned in midweek might a second game so quickly might be beyond him, so Jonjoe Kenny would return. On the opposite flank Cuco Martina played well in the 2-1 midweek win over Leicester but still seems vulnerable on the left flank, while centrally Allardyce has used a number of partnerships this season. Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka will probably start here - Aubemeyang or Lacazette will probably look to run the channels and test them for speed.

I fancy Arsenal to take three points here, but with questions over their shape, their defence and the level of cohesion in the attacking third, I can't take [1.33]. Instead I'll back Xkaha to be booked at [3.6] - I think he'll be forced to break up counter-attacks, and has a tendency to commit silly fouls.

The Betfair Trader - Alan Thompson

Arsenal's two league games after this are Tottenham at Wembley and then Manchester City at home and so this looks like an absolute must-win game for Arsene Wenger especially after another terrible result on the road. That midweek capitulation at the Liberty Stadium has left the Gunners eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. The Gunners should go into this game with a degree of confidence, however, as they are a different proposition at The Emirates, picking up 29 points from 36 available this season.

The Gunners are desperately short in the match odds market, trading at [1.33]. They are of no interest to me at that price but you can see why they are in that bracket, facing an Everton side that has won one away league game all season and haven’t won away at Arsenal since 1996.

Everton ended a seven match winless run in midweek to consolidate their place in the top half of the table. I am sure Sam Allardyce will want to keep that momentum going but will set his side up to try and frustrate the home team and a draw would be seen as an excellent result. So the longer he can keep the Gunners out the more the already very unhappy fans will add to the pressure that will build on the home side.

Ultimately, I don’t think Allardyce will get anything from the game but I am not sure Arsenal will get it all their own way. I am going to split my stake and back Draw/Arsenal in the Half Time/Full Time market at anything above [5.0] and also back Arsenal to win to nil at better than [2.2]. It’s a bet where both can win but also offers a bit of a safety net.

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