Despite Arsenal's flat draw against Besiktas in midweek, the Gunners have nothing to complain about in the Premier League. They will look to keep up their 100 percent record for one more game against Everton.
The Toffees are always a tough test, especially at Goodison Park. The match is made much more difficult for Arsenal by the fact they are missing several of their best players through either delayed preseason preparations (the German contingent) or injury.
Theo Walcott and David Ospina were already out, but Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta have gone and crocked themselves within the first two games of the new season. Though typically Arsenal-esque, it leaves Arsene Wenger with a worryingly thin squad during a very difficult beginning of the season.
Arsenal have looked extremely sluggish and imprecise during their first two games. They seem to lack any creativity and ability to intelligently move, which can spark creativity. No one looks close to full fitness, while other teams zip around them threateningly.
Everton did not start their season as well as Arsenal did last weekend, drawing with newly promoted Leicester City 2-2. Crucially, however, the Toffees have had an entire week to rest and build their fitness in training, while Arsenal have had to travel across Europe and back to slog through a Champions League qualifier.
Wenger will have to think about who he will select to be in his starting XI with extreme care. Here is one likely lineup:
Notice a key absence in defense: Though Per Mertesacker and his compatriots are now eligible for selection (after less than two weeks of "preseason" preparations and no games) it is hard to believe Wenger will thrust him back into the fray against an opponent as good as Everton.
Mertesacker does not have to worry about losing pace or stamina, but Roberto Martinez's side play very quickly and Romelu Lukaku must be diligently watched all game. A marginally fit defender who has not played a competitive match in months should not be seeing his first action now.
Perhaps he could do a job off the bench if necessary, but Calum Chambers has been excellent in his first two official appearances for Arsenal.
Mesut Ozil cannot be much fitter than Mertesacker, and his role requires much more proactive running, a deft touch and an understanding of a game's pace that allows him to thread precise passes. All take some time to reacquire, and putting him right back into the cauldron of Goodison Park is not a good idea at all.
Aaron Ramsey is certainly not a poor replacement, and the Welshman will be able to play with abandon knowing he will be afforded an entire week to rest due to his suspension for the second leg of Arsenal's Champions League qualifier.
Jack Wilshere, who has been criminally underrated in his first two games of the season, will probably get a chance in the central pivot role Ramsey usually occupies when Ozil is fit.
Wilshere must take this chance to impress the manager because it is difficult to find a place in the team for him when Ramsey and Ozil are both playing.
Finally, Mathieu Flamini rounds out the midfield by replacing the injured Mikel Arteta. One wonders when—not if—he will receive a yellow card, and whether he will be able to distribute the ball and hold possession as well as Arteta does.
Because Yaya Sanogo has not displayed the quality to usurp Olivier Giroud, only one change needs to be made to Arsenal's forward three. It is, however, exceedingly important and impactful.
Sit Santi Cazorla on the bench and replace him with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Cazorla has been atrocious in his first couple games, continuing a worrying pattern that emerged last season. He seemingly does not care he is being played as a left winger and constantly drifts inside to occupy an attacking midfield role. Sometimes he even shows up on the right wing.
Hopefully Cazorla does not do so on Wenger's instruction, and this tendency can be shaken on the training ground. It robs Arsenal of any outlet—let alone pace—on the left side, allowing defenses to consolidate and clog the few spaces the Gunners are left to exploit.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, by contrast, was quite zesty against Crystal Palace and Besiktas. He is much more positionally disciplined and provides speed as well as dribbling skill and the ability to have a crack at goal.
If Arsenal are robbed of attacking diversity, as they have been, this match will be another frustrating slog.
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