FOUR straight wins – you can’t begrudge the high spirits at Arsenal.
After a shaky start under Unai Emery’s regime, the Gunners are in decent form again.
Though one suspects that the current swagger at the Emirates is largely due to Arsenal being level with Tottenham in the Premier League table.
Last week’s match against Newcastle United was also a confidence boost – with the team finally showing some grit as they dug in against the Toon’s pressure and won 2-1.
Friday morning’s win against Ukrainian side Vorskla Poltava was extra sweet considering Emery’s record in the Europa Cup competition – he won it three times with Sevilla.
No one expects Arsenal to win the English Premier League this year but the Europa League, now that is a different story.
It was also great to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang get his mojo back with his double strike after an ineffective start to the season. Aubameyang was cup-tied from Europa League football last season having played at Borussia Dortmund before joining the Gunners during the January transfer window. He made the perfect announcement of his return to the European stage with his performance on Friday.
Then there was Bernd Leno who finally made his debut since joining from Bayer Leverkusen. He could not keep a clean sheet in their 4-2 win against Vorskla, but showed promise in his distribution from the back as dictated by Emery’s new system. Still, Petr Cech is likely to return in goal against Everton.
Everton have a less than sterling away record against the Gunners – they have not won in that part of North London since 1996 – the Merseyside club will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing home defeat to West Ham United last week.
If they play deep and compact, like many others who try to exploit Arsenal’s new system, they have a chance to stop the Gunners from creating anything convincing. This tactic helped Vorskla stall Arsenal in the first half, forcing them to pass the ball around and running up dead ends.
The only problem, for opponents is that this new Arsenal seems to have more bottle and are not likely to crack under pressure like in the past.
But Everton will likely come at Arsenal more aggressively than the other teams the North London club has faced in the last few weeks, so perhaps it’s time for Emery to start Lucas Torreira in place of Matteo Guendouzi.
The French upstart has been a brilliant spark in the Arsenal side but his excitable runs and undisciplined positioning have left the Gunners’ already shaky defence a lot more insecure.
Torreira’s defensive discipline and tenacity can provide the calm and stable cover needed in the Arsenal back line.
Because, boy, do they need it.
The back four still seem to lack understanding and are error prone, especially Shkodran Mustafi.
And while Granit Xhaka, the current midfield anchor for the Gunners, seems to be growing with each game this season, his lack of mobility and carelessness in possession have cost the team.
Torreira can be the yang to Xhaka’s yin, and provide the cover the Swiss needs to support the Arsenal front line with his expansive passing play.
The clincher? The Uruguayan’s own dogged play can be a game changer for the Gunners.