Arsenal travel to Goodison Park on Wednesday evening to face an Everton side that sit just one point and one place above them in 5th position in the Premier League. The ‘six-pointer’ clash could shape both team’s seasons.
Here is a look at where the game will be won and lost...
Distin/Heitinga v Giroud
The most pressing matter for David Moyes will be the threat of Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud and the Scot will likely task Sylvain Distin, or alternatively Johnny Heitinga with the responsibility of ensuring the Frenchman has a quiet game.
Spear-heading the Arsenal attack, Giroud is the focal point of all the attacking endeavors of this team – with Walcott fit and Podolski likely to accompany him on the opposite flank, Arsenal have a strong and intelligent target in the box to fire crosses at.
Distin will have to nullify the aerial threat of Giroud by getting in front of the striker when crosses are delivered from the flanks, and equally he’ll have to be hot on his heels in case Cazorla attempts any cheeky passes over the top or through-balls dissecting him and his central defensive partner Phil Jagielka.
Fellaini v Mertesacker
At the other end, Arsenal’s defensive frailties are due a tough test and will likely be exposed, in the form of Marouane Fellaini. Per Mertesacker, as the tallest of Arsenal’s centre-backs will have to stick to the Belgian like glue.
Fellaini not only offers a threat on goal but his ability to link the play in attack can be devastating if it’s not met with intelligence and physical supremacy, especially in the air.
Coleman v Podolski
Young Seamus Coleman will likely line up against Lukas Podolski – the young Irishman has impressed since his break into the first team but he’ll need to be aware of Podolski’s threat coming inside from the wing. Luckily for Coleman, he has the pace to keep the German in check but his ability to get forward for the Toffees, an area where he has proven himself an asset, will be reduced significantly by the necessity of keeping tabs on the Arsenal man.
Osman v Cazorla
Santi Cazorla is the nucleus of Arsenal’s game – But he was completely taken out of the game when the Gunners travelled to Old Trafford. If he’s given space and time on the ball, Arsenal will win the game. Synonymously, if he’s hurried and hassled into submission, Arsenal can’t function. This will be the job of both Leon Osman. His ability to isolate the Spaniard and, most importantly, remain on his feet for 90 minutes, will be crucial.
Baines v Walcott
But the most exhilarating battle of the game will likely be a spectacle to behold as two Englishmen – two of the most in-form players of the moment go head to head in a battle of speed, trickery, and intelligence. Either Leighton Baines or Theo Walcott will win the match for their sides in this game.
Walcott’s back in the side after recovering from a shoulder injury and he’ll have to put in a good shift defensively – if he doesn’t Baines has the ability to punish him either by sending direct balls into Fellaini or by cutting inside to get his own shots away.
Any laziness or lapse in concentration from Walcott could lose Arsenal a very important game. Baines will know his job – Moyes’ will have instructed him to focus on his positioning in the game.
He cannot allow Walcott to get in behind him. The whole backline will have to push up to catch him offside, if they make a mistake, he’ll leave them for dead with his pace. And with Walcott’s ability, confidence and form, he only needs one chance.
If Baines can deny him space and let him know early on that he’s not going to get any time on the ball whatsoever, Walcott could have one of his anonymous games.
Who will win tomorrow's game?
image: © wonker