Tactical Battles That Will Shape Arsenal's Clash with Everton

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2013

Tactical Battles That Will Shape Arsenal's Clash with Everton

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    Everton travel to Arsenal this Sunday in a clash between two of the Premier League's hottest teams of 2013.

    The Gunners sit top, after an inspired start to the season, but kick off a challenging run of fixtures by welcoming the Toffees to the Emirates Stadium.

    Everton have started well under Roberto Martinez and will arrive full of confidence following their memorable 1-0 away win at Manchester United.

    Here's a look at some of the key tussles set to determine this game.

Gareth Barry vs. Mesut Ozil

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    Where have we seen this before?

    Aside from 25 minutes at the end of Manchester City's Champions League clash with Real Madrid last season, the last time these two met was World Cup 2010.

    Gareth Barry was left rather humiliated on that occasion, left for dead as Mesut Ozil launched several incisive breaks for the victorious Germans.

    Fast forward to the present day and each have been key figures for their new sides, integral to the impressive starts of both Everton and Arsenal. 

    Who emerges best out of their direct clash will have a large bearing on the result.

    If it's Barry, then Arsenal will lose an element of their fluidity. Their passing won't be as slick as Ozil is cramped for room and sees his input become sparser. It would also lead to several breaks from the Toffees with Arsenal players caught up field.

    However, if it's Ozil then Everton are in danger of being overrun in the final third. Without a protective shield, the likes of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin will be pulled around leaving ample space for the Gunners to exploit.

    The Toffees would also lose their own dictator on the ball and would struggle to retain possession.

    This promises to be the marquee clash of this game.

Bryan Oviedo vs. Arsenal's Right

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    From Leighton Baines' little-known deputy, Bryan Oviedo has suddenly surged towards public attention with a goal in each of his Premier League starts this season, none more notable than his winner at Old Trafford.

    However, despite his impressive attacking contributions, questions remain around the defensive side of his game.

    Manchester United will regret not testing his technique more rigorously and Arsenal's attack has better pace and movement to worry him positionally.

    Whether Theo Walcott makes a return or the likes of Jack Wilshere plays in a narrower role, Oviedo is likely to experience a more thorough examination at the back.

    The Costa Rican's passed every test thus far and if he leaves the Emirates unscathed he will have all but proved his defensive pedigree.

James McCarthy vs. Aaron Ramsey

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    Another key midfield joust sees Aaron Ramsey line up against James McCarthy.

    Everton's new signing dominated Manchester United's midfield but must now contend with the Premier League's form player in Ramsey.

    The Welshman has been irresistible this season, scoring eight and assisting five in the top flight—just under half of the Gunners' 29 goals. He's also registered more tackles (61) than any other player in the Premier League, demonstrating his all round proficiency. 

    As with Barry on Ozil, McCarthy will be tasked with disrupting his opponent at every opportunity. He must hassle him, look to reduce his space and attempt to win the ball with Arsenal out of position.

    The Gunners' system will be fluid meaning both Barry and McCarthy must remain positionally disciplined and know when to track runners.

    If the Irishman can win this battle he will prevent Arsenal's interplay reaching maximum potential while allowing Everton several penetrative breaks themselves.

Tim Howard vs. Wojciech Szczesny

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    No goalkeeper comes into direct confrontation with another, but who impresses most out of Wojciech Szczesny and Tim Howard is important.

    Howard was inspirational against Manchester United and central to the win; any average performance would have ended with a loss for the Toffees.

    He saved several shots from areas Manchester United would have expected to score from, and has been in formidable form of late, keeping a clean sheet in five of his last six games.

    Everton's winner against United came from a similar position that Howard made a key save from, highlighting its importance.

    Both Howard and Szczesny have been two of the leading goalkeepers in this season's Premier League. Arsenal are the only side to concede fewer goals than the Toffees and while the American is likely to be the busier goalkeeper, Arsenal's No. 1 must remain focused throughout and match his opposite man's performance level.

Steven Pienaar vs. Carl Jenkinson

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    McCarthy, Jagielka, Oviedo and Howard were among those rightly lavished with praise having starred in Everton's 1-0 win over Manchester United.

    Steven Pienaar's performance has been less heralded, but the South African was typically essential and behind most of Everton's attacking forays into United's half.

    With Bacary Sagna likely to miss out, the South African will fancy his chances of bettering Carl Jenkinson at right-back.

    If Jenkinson does indeed start he will be viewed as the Gunners' weak link in defence and should expect heavy traffic down his channel.

    Pienaar, Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley will regularly interchange to create overloads, several of which may occur down the Toffees' left. When Pienaar drifts into central areas himself, Jenkinson must remain conscious of his whereabouts. 

    At the same time, Jenkinson can blunt Everton's attack if he keeps Pienaar tracking back and the Gunners on top of Oviedo.

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