Arsenal strolled into Goodison Park in February expecting that merely turning up would be worthy of three points.
The Gunners had enjoyed a 14-game unbeaten run in the Premier League after being beaten by Manchester United in October, with their form on either side of the World Cup break placing them at the summit of the table. Life was great, and victory at Everton was expected to be a formality given the Toffees’ woes.
However, little did Arsenal know that they would be the latest to succumb to the phenomenon known as the ‘new manager bounce’. Emboldened by Sean Dyche’s arrival, Everton continued their fine run on home soil against the Gunners by beating Mikel Arteta’s side 1-0.
The visitors, who were limited to their joint-fifth lowest xG in a single Premier League last season, looked dishevelled from the outset. With Dyche opting for a 4-5-1 out of possession, Arsenal were physically outmatched in midfield, while wide players Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka were outnumbered by the backtracking Toffee wingers.
Crucial to Everton’s success with the ball was Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Oh, how simpler would life be for Everton fans if he could just stay fit!
Nevertheless, it appears that, for once, the Toffees have conducted some shrewd work in the transfer market. With Calvert-Lewin enduring more injury woes at the start of 2023/24, Everton brought in two forwards, one of whom is bound to have a big impact on Sunday (and key in keeping them up)with DCL a doubt.
Arsenal must be prepared for Beto threat in Sunday’s game
Beto was excellent at Udinese during his two seasons at the club, notching double-digit Serie A scoring hauls in both. However, it’s not necessarily the striker’s goalscoring prowess the Gunners should fear on Sunday. Instead, Dyche will expect Beto to perform the role Calvert-Lewin borderline mastered in this fixture last season.
The striker will be crucial in ensuring Everton stay in the contest by winning the long ball and running the channels, thus disorienting Arsenal’s defence. We can expect the visitors to dominate Sunday’s game from a territorial perspective, but the hosts will have their moments and Beto will be the man they turn to on the counter-attack given his freakishly athletic profile for a man of his size (6’4).
Calvert-Lewin’s capacity to hold the ball up when Everton went long all while dragging the Arsenal centre-backs into wide areas ensured the Toffees were regularly able to enjoy periods of serenity. It wasn’t a relentless Gunners assault and William Saliba, in particular, struggled to cope with the Englishman that day.
Beto provides a similar threat, although he isn’t quite as prolific in the air as Calvert-Lewin. Nevertheless, with Dwight McNeil potentially returning to the XI and starting down the left, the new Everton striker will fancy getting a chance or two with his head.
In Beto, the Toffees have another striker seemingly tailor-made for Dyche. His one Premier League outing so far was hugely promising, and he got off the mark with a fine finish in the Carabao Cup against Doncaster. He’s a proper centre-forward, and he’ll be looking to state his arrival in the English top flight against supposed title contenders on Sunday.
It’s bound to be a cauldron on Merseyside for Arsenal as they attempt to rid the demons of recent times at Goodison. If they are to claim their first win at Everton since 2017, containing and taming summer arrival Beto is imperative.