Everton arrive at the Emirates for the afternoon’s late kick-off with Unai Emery hunting an elusive clean sheet and three points in the same match. There is a sense that this may become a media pre-occupation until the first clean sheet happens. It is certainly the benchmark against which a ragged defence is judged.
The solution comes only from the training ground. Transfer windows are nailed firmly shut and in any case, the ragged defence reflects a team disposition. As I’ve talked about previously, the whole team must chip in. Thursday night saw Vorskla capitalise on an individual mistake for their first goal and our inability to close out the game with no further damage.
They were goals, however, which were entirely different from the one conceded at Newcastle. That came from a more expected source, with the cross and ensuing header exposing our vulnerabilities at the moment. There doesn’t appear to be a magic solution to solving our problems. Dropping Bellerin for Lichtsteiner only brings a different type of individualism to the XI and the same with Koscielny.
There is as much for those in front of the defence to resolve as the back four and Cech themselves.
A solution presents itself in the form of Lucas Torreira. Having dipped our toes in the water of his appearances, we find we like the temperature. Unai Emery doesn’t feel the same despite the evidence of last weekend and Thursday confirming we’re a more balanced side with him on the pitch. Is it to appease others that the pairing of Guendouzi and Xhaka continues? Is Guendouzi the right player to have in the side with Torreira and Xhaka? Ramsey is more of a direct attacking threat than the youngster. There’s no easy solution; someone’s feathers will be ruffled.
Sam Without Dave, Eric Without Ernie
It could be that he feels one fudged solution in the side is enough. Fitting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette into the same XI requires one to feature out of their comfort zone. Naturally, we opt to use one of Europe’s most consistent goalscorers as a wide striker as opposed to a two-man attack.
That’s not the vogue in the modern game. Gone are strike partnerships, in are the lone wolves. No Di Stefano and Puskas, Keegan and Toshack, Bergkamp and Henry, Hales and Flanagan, Warboys and Bannister; no big man / little man pair to strike fear into opposing defences nor a duo whose names wouldn’t be amiss on the billing of the London Palladium or any other music hall in the country. Not now; the lone striker is in.
Which is fine when you’ve got a player suited to that role. Not so good when you’ve got two world-class strikers suited to that role. Something has to give. On and off the pitch because the unbalanced nature of the squad raises questions about the recruitment policy. I’ll ask them another day.
PEA is getting on with his role in the team which is more than he is doing with his country. Earlier this week, he apparently criticised the Gabon FA for appointing his father as national team coach. Sunday roasts will be interesting…
Not as interesting as the point made this morning in The Times. Emery has form in getting central strikers to move wide. David Villa at Valencia is the example chosen, with the striker observing:
“I was the club’s finisher but he [Emery] wanted me to combine more with the wingers, switch positions with them and go wide to ask questions of defences. It helped my game.”David Villa on Unai Emery, The Times, 23rd September 2018
And The XI Is…
There are few complaints so far about how the pairing works beyond the lack of natural width in the side. That manifests in Bellerin’s role on the right and the problem of a lack of cover which I keep banging on about.
Which brings us to the line-up. I know the change I’d like to see but won’t and there’s a question of whether Mkhitaryan deserves his chance ahead of Ramsey but I don’t think that will happen either. That’s not Ramsey bashing even if it seems I’m using every avenue open to get him out of the XI. It’s about the balance of the team in this instance.
Anyway, the line-up I’d expect to see is:
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Guendouzi, Xhaka; Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette.
The obligatory introduction of Torreira at half-time will come at Guendouzi’s expense. Unless Granit has a stinker.
Whatever the XI, enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. And hopefully, we’ll reconvene in the morning with three more points in the bag.