Darron Gibson won't be lauded on a weekly basis, but the ex-Man United man is key for the Toffees, writes Alex Keble...
With growing calls for Roberto Martinez to play more directly in an attempt to create more goalscoring opportunities, the long-awaited return of Darron Gibson could not have come at a better time. The midfielder's cameo against Leicester City, in which he sprayed a series of long balls over the top for Romelu Lukaku, presented an alternative approach for Everton to take. Against an expansive team like Arsenal, it could be very successful.
Gibson made eight long passes in just half an hour, marking a significant departure from Everton's usual approach (Gareth Barry, at just 5.3 per 90 minutes, plays the most long balls at the club).
These passes were not aimless lumps to a targetman, but carefully considered through-balls (Gibson posted a 92% pass accuracy) that released team-mates to run into spaces behind the Foxes defence.
His novel approach did not represent a departure from the short passing build-up play that Martinez demands of his team, but rather created more space in the final third for quick one-twos, helping intelligent pass-and-move football return to Everton's game.
Gibson was expansive in his passing, and provided well for Lukaku up front.
Compared to most teams visiting Goodison, Leicester defended high up the pitch, leaving spaces behind.
Arsenal will certainly play with similar expansiveness, and will need to work hard to close down central midfielders capable, and now willing, to play through-balls over the top. As such, Alexis Sanchez's superb hounding and harassing from the front will be a crucial element of their defence on Sunday.
Sanchez's work ethic will be needed to pounce on Everton's midfielders before they can deliver direct passes.
Arsenal's defence is not the quickest, and Everton must capitalise; if they don't, an increasingly reliable Gunners team will likely punish them.