Everton’s 3-1 win over Burnley on Monday night will have been of great interest to Mikel Arteta.
Of course, the Spaniard takes his Arsenal side to Turf Moor on Saturday afternoon hoping to build on last weekend’s 1-0 win over Norwich City which finally kick-started their Premier League campaign at the fourth attempt.
And there was plenty for Arteta to mull over during an entertaining clash at Goodison Park.
Not least some of the heavy tackles dished out by the Burnley players, with Gary Neville raising his concern after insisting James Tarkowski’s tackle on Richarlison should be eradicated from the game.
“This for me has no place in football. If it had been given a red I don’t think you could complain if you’re Burnley and I don’t think we would have complained,” the former Manchester United defender argued on Sky Sports. “I think it’s reckless, I think he knows he’s going to do him and knows his follow through could hurt him.
“I think it does endanger him, and I think Tarkowski goes to do him, as in leave it on him.
“I think this is a tackle referees are going to Stockley Park to assess the lighter touch and technicality of the game, first one maybe yellow – I don’t think they’ll get their knickers in a twist on that one – the second one I don’t think has a place in the game.”
Richarlison would ultimately have the last laugh as Everton came from a goal down to claim all three points and keep pace with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table.
Thanks in part to a tactical masterclass from Rafa Benitez.
Whilst the Toffees were already on level terms when the Spaniard made his change just after the hour mark, what followed was a devastating five-minute spell that ought to have offered some encouragement to Arteta in terms of his team selection thinking ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Burnley.
Described by the Liverpool Echo as a ‘match-winning change’, Benitez withdrew defender Ben Godfrey for midfielder Andre Gomes which enabled him to ditch the 3-4-3 system that wasn’t working in favour of a 4-3-3 formation.
Within four minutes of the change, Everton were 2-1 up, 60 seconds later they had a third and there was even time for Abdoulaye Doucoure to have a goal ruled out for offside.
Although Gomes didn’t play a big role in either goal, him being the extra man in midfield made all the difference against Burnley’s 4-4-2 formation.
Such was the manner of Burnley’s capitulation during those five minutes, it could be great news for Arteta.
The Gunners boss has already made it clear that his long-term plan at the Emirates Stadium is to adopt the same formation that Everton used to great effect against the Clarets.
“We want to move to a 4-3-3 but for that,” said Arteta in December 2020. “You need a lot of specificity in every position but now in five or six positions, we don’t have it.
“The aggressiveness, the effectiveness, the amount of steals we make in opposition half I think we have been very steady against some big clubs.
“I think that what we miss is in the opponent’s area and the last part of the pitch. We have to find the key in the attack, that last decision, that last pass, that last cross to create a goal situation, a goal, a shot, a corner, etc.”
Following a £150million summer transfer spree that saw as many as six new faces arrive at Arsenal, it’s safe to say the pieces are finally in place for Arteta to move away from 4-2-3-1 to his dream 4-3-3.
Interestingly, fans were given a glimpse of Arsenal’s best lineup in the latter formation when Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe replaced Takehiro Tomiyasu and Albert Sambi Lokonga in the 62nd minute against Norwich.
It meant the trio in the engine room for the remainder of the game was made up of Partey as the sole holding midfielder with Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard just ahead of him.
Similar to the Toffees, that alteration allowed Smith Rowe to buzz around further forward, whilst Partey’s crisp passing from deep eventually lead to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring the winner.
Now, a midfield three of Partey, Smith Rowe and Odegaard is certainly very attack-minded and Arteta may have been having second thoughts about deploying the system from the start on Saturday.
But after seeing how much Burnley struggled against the 4-3-3, the Arsenal boss could be more willing to make a bold decision to ensure his side make it back-to-back wins.