Everton vs. Arsenal: How the Toffees Will Line Up in Premier League Game

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Everton vs. Arsenal: How the Toffees Will Line Up in Premier League Game
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Everton play their first home game of the 2014/15 season on Saturday, hosting Arsenal at Goodison Park.

The Gunners opened up with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace last week, while the Toffees had to share the points with Leicester.

A 3-0 win in last season's corresponding fixture confirmed Roberto Martinez's side as genuine contenders for a Champions League finish, helping the Toffees take fourth place with just five games to play. Despite the primitive stage of this current campaign, both sides will view Saturday's game as a crunch encounter.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

That 3-0 win, Everton's first in 14 meetings with Arsenal, also means the visitors have gone four games without beating the Toffees—their worst run in Premier League history. Should that stretch to five games this Saturday, it would become the longest streak in the Gunners' entire history.

 

Team News

Roberto Martinez provided insight into his team selection at his weekly pre-match press conference, via EvertonFC.com.

The Catalan gave an update on the fitness of Seamus Coleman and Darron Gibson, declaring his entire roster fully fitaside from Ross Barkley, Bryan Oviedo and Arouna Kone.

Barkley's status remains a little unclear, though Martinez provided a recent update on Tuesday, per EvertonFC.com:

The length that Ross will be out is a little uncertain at the moment and it could be anything between the eight weeks that we mentioned or a little further.

Until the end of the week, or probably the next 10 days, we won't know how the knee is progressing and how quickly Ross can be back.

The youngster's injury was spread around social media long before it was announced last week. Thankfully for Evertonians, the Liverpool Echo's Greg O'Keeffe quashed similar rumours surrounding Romelu Lukaku

 

Selection

With that team news considered, here's a look at Martinez's potential starting XI:

EFC vs. AFC - Football tactics and formations

Given the result in April, this is a game Martinez will consider changing his usual 4-2-3-1 shape for, in order to replicate that success. In terms of personnel, however, there shouldn't be too much doubt over his selection.

A fully fit Coleman returns to replace John Stones and upgrade the Toffees to a full-strength defence.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Gareth Barry and James McCarthy will then continue in central midfield, while Steven Naismith and Steven Pienaar will line up a little further forward. The only other change should see Kevin Mirallas return in place of Aiden McGeady to provide support for Lukaku.

Last season's momentous win was achieved on the back of a tactical reshuffle from Martinez, which may see this XI deployed a little differently. In that game, Naismith began in the middle, at times dropping deeper, with Lukaku (right) and Mirallas (left) both cutting in off a flank.

This proved a master stroke from Martinez, who caught Arsenal completely off guard. Given the Gunners' limited preparation timefollowing Tuesday's exertions in Turkeythe Catalan may once again opt to revisit this strategy:

EFC vs. AFC - Football tactics and formations

Above is the system Everton used during their most recent clash with Arsenal.

The same XI can still be used in this shape, allowing Everton to potentially use either formation during various stages of the game. In this approach, Pienaar would drop into a three-man midfield, filling the role played by Leon Osman and Ross Barkley in last season's fixture.

With Mirallas and Lukaku driving in, this left considerable space for Everton's full-backs, with Coleman and Leighton Baines both highly prominent in that game.

 

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Key Battles Out Wide

Part of the reason for last season's switch of tactics was the ease in which Arsenal's defence had previously dealt with Lukaku.

First, Laurent Koscielny in December, and then Per Mertesacker in March, had both nullified the Belgian with apparent ease. Koscielny was particularly efficient in December, preventing Lukaku from registering a single shot on target.

Which player not in this XI would you start?

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Martinez's change forced the Gunners' defence to deal with an entirely different threat: Instead of Lukaku the mover and link man, they got Lukaku the dribbler, running at them with pace.

He and Mirallas would drive in from the flanks, taking either the full-backs or central defenders with them. If they attracted the full-backs, it left space for Coleman and Baines out wide, but if they occupied the centre-backs, Naismith would then be given extra space in the middle.

Therefore, the role of Arsenal's full-backs against Everton's wide men will be key to the Toffees' success in this game. Nacho Monreal was especially exposed in last season's clash and the Toffees will be keen to regularly target his zone once again.

On the other side, Mathieu Debuchy has been adventurous during his first few outings as an Arsenal player, marauding forward at every opportunity. If he remains as bold, Baines and Pienaar will be keen to exploit any space left behind him, regardless of Everton's initial shape.

Prediction: Everton 1-1 Arsenal

 

Statistics via WhoScored.com.

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