Arsenal take on Everton at Goodison Park in Saturday’s Premier League clash.
Regarding criticisms that can be directed the way of Mikel Arteta and Arsenal, take your pick. There are umpteen angles of scorn from which one can vent, but perhaps the air of predictability is worst of all.
Knowing how teams will play and set up isn’t necessarily bad. Take Liverpool, who are are so assured at what they do. Does it matter that the opposition can prepare accordingly? Not in the slightest, because the Reds are oozing quality in each department and boast the players capable of adding unpredictability to the predictable.
Arsenal can’t get away with such luxuries because their formula falters. The players aren’t performing anywhere near the standard demanded at this club, or indeed that they personally can produce. Continuing to persist with thus method breeds the same result, and the changes off the bench do little to alter the course.
Heading to Merseyside, for the first time this season clubs can have nine substitutes to choose from. It’s still only a maximum of three that can be used, but we already know that Emile Smith Rowe is with the travelling party, and possibly even Gabriel Martinelli as well.
Ridiculous red cards have hamstrung Arsenal in matches and forced a different approach, but keep eleven men on the pitch and Arteta now has far more variety on his bench to pick from.
Everton will be prepared for the side-to-side overloads on Saturday. They won’t be prepared for Arsenal trying a vastly different angle in the latter stages, perhaps even by flinging Smith Rowe on in a central area.
Alexandre Lacazette, Willian and Joe Willock were the only attacking options against Southampton, one who’s had one shot on target all season, one who’s been dropped into midfield to accommodate for this lack of goal threat and one who has question marks over his capability to perform in this division.
Added options, even if just two more, mean Arteta has added wiggle room and needn’t be bogged down by his staunch stance in refusing to drop senior players from matchday squads. He must utilise what’s been granted to him. Not fall into the same trap.