Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Everton

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, March 1
9:05 a.m. EST, 14:05 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Andre Marriner
    • Assistants: Scott Ledger and Darren Cann
    • 4th Official: Robert Madley
  • Reverse Fixture: Everton 2 - 2 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 1 Everton
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 99 Arsenal wins, 59 Everton wins, 45 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-L-W-W
  • Everton's League Form: D-D-W-D-L-D
Arsenal's 3-1 loss to Monaco on Wednesday has left many questioning Arsene Wenger's tactics yet again. But, let me ask you: at home, in the first leg of a two-legged tie against a team with one of the stingiest defenses in the world, what are you supposed to do?

In my match preview, I suggested you have to attack. This is the game where you are more likely the score the precious few goals you need to win the tie.

Arsene Wenger's team selection and tactics did that. Monaco adapted, they knew it was coming. Of course they knew it was coming. And ultimately, the match was decided on three factors:

  1. Arsenal created more scoring chances than expected, but wasted nearly all of them.
  2. Arsenal's defense crumbled in "oh so Arsenal" fashion when under pressure.
  3. Monaco executed their game plan well, though not perfectly (Arsenal would not have had so many chances to miss if they had played perfectly.)
That's it. Arsenal's tactics were not wrong, they just didn't work. If Olivier Giroud hadn't been an omnishambles, we'd be having a different conversation right now. That means it's mostly #2 that should keep you up at night. But that's a discussion for others to have. Also, I firmly believe that things like this should not keep you up at night.

Anyway, Arsenal return to the league against an Everton side that have struggled domestically this season but are now the only English side left in the Europa League knockout phase (which might be a bad thing.) The Gunners sit pretty in third and control their own destiny, but anything can happen in the remaining 12 games, especially now that Liverpool and Spurs have crashed out of Europe.

Back to basics and all that. I would love love love to see a defensively calm and controlled 1-0 win on Sunday.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Ramsey (hamstring,) Debuchy (shoulder,) Arteta (calf,) Diaby (calf)

Oh, I'm sorry, is this distracting?
As I'm typing this, it's only 24 hours or so after "The Unpleasantness," so there isn't much in the way of team news (and there isn't any updated news for Everton, who are literally about to kick-off in the Europa League as I'm typing this sentence.) So, these next two sections are going to be... worse... than usual.

Now I'm thinking of ways of distracting you so you don't notice how bad it is...

Anyway... Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seems to be back! That was the only pleasant surprise of Wednesday. Jack Wilshere might make a cameo from the bench too. Aaron Ramsey will still be short and it's at least another month for Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, and Abou Diaby. Possibly forever for the latter.

As for the squad, your guess is as good as mine. Was Wednesday's performance enough for David Ospina to be dropped again? I have no idea! Will there be some rotation? Probably! Arsenal do have another midweek match coming against QPR, a team that'll be well-rested after having the weekend off.

Predicted XI: Hastily Constructed Brick Wall, Bellerin, Koscielny, A Rock, Monreal, Flamini's Sleeves, Coquelin, Three Alexis Sanchezes (Sanchi?), Omnishambles.

Everton Squad News

Out: Oviedo (hamstring,) Hibbert (muscle)
Doubts: Atsu (illness,) McGeady (knee,) Pienaar (match fitness)

Romelu Lukaku celebrates his 43rd goal of the tie against
Young Boys.
In injury news building up to Everton's match yesterday against Young Boys, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman both faced fitness tests as they returned from knee and ankle injuries, respectively. Osman made the bench, but Pienaar did not. Both featured for the reserves last week.

Christian Atsu missed out through illness and could miss Sunday as well. Aiden McGeady, whose name could only be more Irish if his middle name were Paddy (it's John, FYI,) did not play at all in the month of February with a knee injury.

Bryan Oviedo is expected to still be out with a hamstring injury, which he suffered in the first leg of the Europa League Round of 32 against Young Boys. Tony Hibbert is likely out with a muscle injury.

As you can see in the pictures, by this point of typing the preview I've gotten to where Lukaku scored eight more goals... After I typed that, he came out for the second half but limped off after three minutes... Hmmmmmmmm.

Predicted XI: Howard, Jagielka, Coleman, Stones, Baines, McCarthy, Besic, Barkley, Naismith, Mirallas, Lukaku.

Current Form

Young Boys clearly stole their kits from Dortmund.
This, by the way, was Lukaku's 44th goal of the tie.
Arsenal are having one of those seasons where every incremental gain they manage in terms of form over the course of a two- or three-game winning run gets canceled out by one disastrously abject performance, such as Wednesday night. Before Wednesday, Arsenal had won 15 of their last 19 matches across all competitions. Now, the general vibe is that they are a team of human garbage that have lost one of their last one and should be fired out of their own cannon into the Sun. Not that I'm exaggerating for comic effect or anything...

So, let's talk about Everton, shall we? Many of their fans may think they are a team of human garbage that have won once in the league in 2015 and should be fired out of the cannon I mentioned before into their own sticky, sticky toffee. I have totally gone too far with this joke. Better reel it in...

To be honest, of course I cannot actually speak on behalf of Everton supporters about their clubs form, but the Toffees are just six points clear of relegation. In 12th place, they have yet to win on the road this season against a team that is above them in the table. They have won just two of their last 14 league matches.

A large portion of Everton's struggles this season have come down to the ol' European hangover. The Toffees have taken eight of a possible 21 points (38%) from weekend matches that followed Thursday night Europa League matches, and six of those eight points were earned against Burnley and QPR. Compare that to Arsenal's 14 of a possible 24 points (58%) from their weekend matches following Champions League games; they've lost only two of the eight, both away from home.

Arsenal have earned 61.5% of possible points in the league overall this season, so their success rate following European matches is not significantly worse than their season average. Everton's season average is actually worse overall, at 36.8%, which could imply that the fixture congestion is having a lingering effect.

Match Facts

Olivier Giroud applauds the fans after the 2-2 draw in August.
You can see in his face that he's in pain, while he walks
around on a leg that's broken.
The reverse fixture, played back in August during the second week of the season, started out much like last season's match at Goodison Park, as the Toffees jumped out to a 2-0 lead through Seamus Coleman and Steven Naismith. Arsenal left it late, but an 83rd minute Aaron Ramsey goal and 90th minute Olivier Giroud goal earned Arsenal a gutsy point. The luster was lost a bit, however, as Giroud broke his leg on an innocuous attempt to block a clearance and the Frenchman went on to miss three months.

Last season, Arsenal and Everton played twice at the Emirates. In the league match, Arsenal led 1-0 through Mesut Ozil but conceded an equalizer just four minutes later and were resigned to a 1-1 draw. In the FA Cup, Arsenal won 4-1 with goals from Ozil, Mikel Arteta from a penalty he had to retake, and two from Giroud off the bench.

Everton are winless in their last 20 trips to the Emirates/Highbury, dating back to January 20, 1996. They have drawn each of the last two league meetings in North London, however, and four of the last eight.

The Referee

"Is that the right guy...??? Yeah, totally. Nailed it."
The referee is West Midlands-based Andre Marriner. Arsenal's recent history with Marriner is pretty well known after he sent off the wrong man in the 6-0 loss at Chelsea last season. Arsenal have seen Marriner once this year for the 1-0 win over Southampton in early December. Kieran Gibbs remained on the bench for that one, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was removed for Olivier Giroud in the 65th minute.

Three days after that match at the Emirates, Marriner took charge of Everton's 1-0 loss at Manchester City, his second Toffees match of the season. In October, he was in the middle for their 3-1 win over Burnley at Turf Moor.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): West Ham United v. Crystal Palace; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Swansea City; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Sunderland; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Aston Villa; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Hull City; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Southampton; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Sunday (very early): Liverpool v. Manchester City; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur; Wembley Stadium, London (League Cup Final)
  • Not Playing: Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and exhibits the properties of not only particles, but also waves. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat where he posts with a frequency of [m0c2 / h] / sqrt (1 - [v2 / c2]), where c, of course, is the speed of light.

Arsenal 1-3 AS Monaco: We've Gone and Arsenaled it Again

Earlier today, I thought to myself: "How would I describe this performance if I could only do it in one phrase?", as I toyed with the idea of a one-line report. The best I could come up with was "Helen Keller running an obstacle course".

(Side note: Let's all spare a thought for one of our Arsenal NYC brethren today. As the Ticket Liaison for our fine group, I can tell you that someone paid for a ticket, a flight to London, a hotel...all of it to watch this shower of shit. I am absolutely gutted for him, that's for sure. On the other hand, he's also going to Everton so I hope for his sake that we smash the Toffees.)

I was quite nervous about this one heading in, precisely because so many thought it would be a walkover. Well, we have now shipped six goals in two games, at home, against Anderlecht and Monaco. Once again, our guys turned up in hubris and arrogance, assuming that they would win simply because their shirts had a more impressive name than the opposition's.

As it turns out, Monaco are a much better team than Anderlecht, and we got what we so thoroughly deserved. Again.

I mean, just look at the team that Arsene picked today. Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud, and Santi Cazorla all started. It was left to Francis Coquelin alone to protect the back four, and he was left to chase shadows as Monaco picked us apart down the wings all day. Just like Bayern did the last two years. Just like Milan did before that. The fullbacks may as well have been auxiliary strikers for how far up they were. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker got caught out more than once beyond the halfway line, rushing into low-percentage challenges.

We never learn. Or, more appropriately, Arsene never learns. He tore into his players in his post-match presser, but he was curiously silent on who exactly should have been expected to prepare them to play differently. It's a puzzlement, yes?

I don't know why people thought this was going to be a walkover, anyway. We had been on quite the run of form, on paper, but further scrutiny shows that it is more of an indictment of our opponents than anything having to do with us. We were aching to be turned over by the first decent team we played, in retrospect (the Manchester City result aside, and that is looking increasingly like an anomaly).

The match was almost comical in how closely it followed the Arsenal First Leg in Europe cliche, as it earnestly followed the dance steps painted on the floor. Start out semi-quickly? Check. Miss a bunch of easy chances? Check. Get hit on the counter? Check. Get hit on the counter again? Check. Panic and bomb everyone forward, making a bad situation worse? Check.

I know..let's play a game! I call it: "Who was the single worst Arsenal player out there today?"

Some are going to go with David Ospina, but that isn't quite right. His paper-mache wrist on the third goal was utterly dreadful goalkeeping, but there wasn't much he could do about the other two. Seriously, the bend and the dip on the first one was bad enough, even before the deflection. No one saves that, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a doofus. Still, I knew I was always right about Wojciech Szczesny emphatically being our best goalkeeper, and I hope comes straight back into the team now. We move on.

Despite only coming on as a sub, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has to be up for consideration as well. To his credit, he did score a lovely curling peach of a goal when presented with more time and space then Neil deGrasse Tyson could shake a stick at. However, his brain-dead giveaway on the halfway line led to the backbreaking third goal. Of course, 1-3 is far worse than 0-2, so really he was a net negative on the day. Oh, but there are better options for sure, though.

What, then, of Olivier Giroud? Even though he is our only target man of note, he was still unceremoniously hauled off on the hour mark. I still think he's a damn good player on his day, but he was a special kind of awful on this occasion, somehow contriving to miss three glorious chances. There was a weird symmetry to it too, as the chances got easier as they went along, his attempts increasingly more pathetic to meet the challenge of not scoring. He would be a good shout, but there are still further depths to plumb, my friends!

If it were up to me (and it's my report, so it is indeed), I'd call it a two-way tie between Koscielny and Mertesacker. What the BFG was doing on the second one, I have no idea. I don't know what happened with those two today, but they both displayed the positional awareness of a tranquilized tree sloth. Given that we were basically playing a formation with a keeper, those two, Coquelin and six strikers, we needed restraint and discipline from them. As senior players and seasoned internationals, we needed them to show leadership when the rest of the team was panicking. Instead, they were frankly the worst offenders of decapitated-chicken syndrome, and man, has it cost us large.

Still, if we expand it to non-players, then of course Arsene is more culpable than the rest put together. The whole litany probably doesn't bear repeating - I'm sure you all know it by heart by now - but all of the old favorites were there. Our gameplan was overly aggressive, there was no Plan B, there was no adjustment when it was clear that they were killing us on the wings, on and on and on. So naive. So stubborn. So arrogant. The fact that he has the gall to call out the players is just the icing on the cake - if those weren't your tactics, then...umm...what exactly do you do here, mate? Sure, if Ollie had one of his Dr. Hyde days it might have been 2-2, but who else in world football at our level would be happy with even that?

That is why I do not have the old anger any longer at results like this, or against those barbarians from down the Seven Sisters Road. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, so why would I expect Arsene to change now?

But hey, it's not so bad. We only have two more years of this, amirite?

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings: 

Ospina 5, Gibbs 6, Koscielny 4, Mertesacker 3, Bellerin 6, Coquelin 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 5), Cazorla 5 (Rosicky N/A), Welbeck 5, Ozil 5, Sanchez 5, Giroud 3 (Walcott 5)

Man of the Match: What a player Monaco have in this Anthony Martial. Strong, lightning-fast, gets in good positions, has drive and urgency...something tells me that he won't be a Monaco player for too long.


Sean Swift is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner, and is unbelievably thankful that Carey Price has ensured that one of my teams is not a maddening, schizophrenic train wreck.