Arsenal and Mikel Arteta must prove lessons learned as Everton and Sean Dyche come to town
Arsenal kicked off last month with a defeat at Everton — and Mikel Arteta is determined to ensure there is no repeat tonight.
It is just 26 days since the Gunners lost 1-0 at Goodison Park and they begin a busy March with a home game against the Toffees.
Arsenal are two points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, and they play their game in hand tonight. Victory would stretch their lead to five points and ensure momentum stays with them in the title race, ahead of a favourable run of fixtures.
Everton were swept aside 2-0 at home by Aston Villa on Saturday, are desperately short of goals and again without the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Including tonight, Arsenal face three of the Premier League's bottom four in their next five games. Arteta will not allow his squad to be complacent, though, and their recent defeat against tonight's opponents should ensure they do not take them lightly.
Arsenal's season was wobbling when they lost on Merseyside but they have bounced back since then by winning back-to-back games to swing the title pendulum back in their direction. Now they have a chance to get revenge on Everton, in a fixture that was postponed in September following the death of the Queen.
Last month's meeting was Sean Dyche's first game in charge of Everton and the Toffees produced a performance right out of his playbook. The defence and midfield sat deep to frustrate, while in attack they looked to counter by going long and direct. They maximised set-pieces and the only goal came when James Tarkowski headed in from a corner.
Tonight is an opportunity for Arsenal to show what they have learnt since then.
"With Sean it's quite clear what he's done and where the success they've had is coming from," said Arteta. "We have to look at certain matches, what they do and try to get the right tactics to beat them."
Arteta has a miserable record against Dyche. The Spaniard has won just one of his six games against him, previously coming unstuck against him when he was in charge at Burnley.
Arsenal's defeat at Everton came during a run of four games without a win when they struggled to break down defences sitting deep. Since then, the Gunners have improved and shown signs they are finding a way to unlock stubborn opponents.
Against Leicester on Saturday, Leandro Trossard was deployed as a false nine and his movement caused the Foxes problems. He created the winner when he drifted out wide, pulling centre-back Harry Souttar out of position and creating space for Gabriel Martinelli to run into and score.
Trossard has given Arsenal a new dimension to help them cope with the absence of Gabriel Jesus, who has been out with a knee injury since the World Cup. Eddie Nketiah has been leading the line but the January arrival of Trossard has put his place under threat.
Arteta will have to rotate his side over this busy period, when Arsenal play six times in 19 days, and the selection headaches will please him. The challenge is picking the right team to break down their opponents, which has not been easy against Dyche.