How Arsenal Will Line Up Against Everton

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IIDecember 7, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Nicklas Bentner of Arsenal celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Hull City at Emirates Stadium on December 4, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Arsenal will begin their most difficult and compressed stretch of the season on Sunday against Everton at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners are facing the Toffees at the worst possible time during what has already been an excellent first season for Roberto Martinez. After snatching a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford in thrilling fashion in midweek, Everton's confidence has probably never been higher.

They have largely ridden on the back of the human locomotive that is Romelu Lukaku, who will give Arsenal's defense just as much of a challenge as they received from Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Robert Lewandowski or Luis Suarez earlier this season.

And though they sit at the top of the table after an incredibly impressive first few months of the season, Arsenal might feel the need to conserve a little energy after playing Hull City in midweek and knowing that they will face Napoli and Manchester City in quick succession after this match is done.

It is therefore crucial for Arsene Wenger to pick the right blend of players that can cope with an Everton side that is its most dynamic and dangerous in years.

Though the Toffees are a considerably better side than Hull, Arsenal's scintillating 2-0 victory a few days ago gives Wenger the ideal blueprint for success.

Wojciech Szczesny, now one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and arguably in Europe, will get another well-deserved start between the sticks.

After Wenger confirmed that Bacary Sagna is still not fully fit, Carl Jenkinson will take his place at right back again. Normally, Jenkinson's starting would cause pangs of worry among Arsenal fans—and to be sure, he is considerably less consistently dominant than Sagna.

But his assist to Nicklas Bendtner against Hull highlighted a surprisingly composed and mature display from the developing Englishman.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Mesut Oezil of Arsenal celebrates his goal with Nacho Monreal of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Hull City at Emirates Stadium on December 4, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie Mc
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Everton will be a much greater and more important test of his ability to succeed at Arsenal, but Jenkinson has showed he can handle that level of competition on a good day.

There are almost certain to be no changes in central defense, as Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have still not wavered in their months-long, rock-solid partnership.

The duo form the perfect complement, and the fact that they both started against Hull when Wenger could easily and justifiably have rested one of them in favor of Thomas Vermaelen shows their importance to Arsenal's defense.

On the left, though, Wenger should take the opportunity to rotate in favor of fresh legs. Even though Nacho Monreal followed a masterful performance versus Marseille with another fine display in the Hull match, Kieran Gibbs is now rested and can dominate his flank like he has all season.

Because Arsenal have such tremendous depth at left-back, Wenger could just as easily swap Monreal back in for the Napoli game and play Gibbs next weekend at Manchester City without sacrificing quality.

Wenger's decision about who to start in defensive midfield is a bit more difficult.

Mikel Arteta, who would wear the captain's armband, provides calm leadership and extremely effective ball distribution. Hard-charging Mathieu Flamini gives Arsenal the raw toughness that they otherwise lack.

Benching Arteta, who has been so effective and consistent for so long, is quite a difficult decision. But it is one Wenger should make after Flamini worked hard to shut down Hull without Arteta at his side. His grit will be invaluable against an Everton side that likes to take the game to opponents and counterattack.

Aaron Ramsey will almost certainly start slightly ahead of Flamini after yet another unstoppable performance in midweek that included this absolute pearl of a through ball to Mesut Ozil for Arsenal's second goal.

One would think that the Welshman will need a rest at some point, but he keeps trucking on. If Wenger was going to give him a breather, the Hull game would have been the time—not against a swashbuckling side like Everton.

Mesut Ozil will, with almost equal certitude, be handed another start at the tip of midfield. Wenger's decision to leave him in for the full 90 minutes against Hull was peculiar, but he used all of his time on the pitch to treat Arsenal fans to his most luscious display of attacking fluidity in an Arsenal shirt.

Arsenal fans' appetites should be whetted by the fact that Ozil now seems to be jelling with his teammates and is therefore using his vision and ball control to split open defenses.

His newfound bond with Santi Cazorla, in particular, is massively encouraging. If and when the two fully synergize, they will create one of the most potent attacking forces in Europe.

So expect the little Spanish maestro to receive another start on the left of Ozil.

It's also time for Ozil to start playing with Theo Walcott, who has been sidelined by injury during most of the German's tenure at Arsenal.

Ozil's vision and ability to pick a pass combined with Walcott's blazing speed and goal-poaching ability should theoretically give Arsenal devastating width on the right flank, making defenses apprehensive about simply forcing the Gunners to play the ball out wide.

Yet, Walcott has not started in any of the games he has been fit for since returning to the squad. Arsenal need to stop playing with five central midfielders and add a completely different element like Walcott to the mix, especially against Leighton Baines.

One change that Wenger is certain to make from the squad that obliterated Hull in midweek is the swapping of Nicklas Bendtner for Olivier Giroud.

Despite his goal and all-around venerable performance, the Dane has not done remotely enough to earn himself another start in a much more difficult and consequential match.

Of course, there was virtually nothing Bendtner could have done to shove Giroud out of the way; everyone recognizes that Bendtner is merely a short-term, stopgap option and his time at Arsenal will soon be up.

Now the Gunners have the luxury of a rested and rejuvenated Giroud leading the line and bulldozing defenders.

If he can do better than Romelu Lukaku at the other end of the pitch, Arsenal will already be well on the road to victory.