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Barclays Premier League

Arsene Wenger's hidden gem

Arsenal
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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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 By John Cross

Wenger preparing for acid test at Everton

The FC crew discusses the biggest Premier League games heading into this weekend, culminating with Monday's matchup between Manchester City and Liverpool.

Arsene Wenger will be desperate to show that Arsenal have learned from the mistakes of last season when they face Everton on Saturday evening and that's why Roberto Martinez's men will be such a good early test for this side and their ambitions.

Back in April, Arsenal were battered 3-0 at Goodison Park and it looked as if Wenger's men might miss out on the top four, with Everton pipping them to fourth place. It was one of the most painful defeats of last season in a campaign where Arsenal also were swept aside at Chelsea and Liverpool. They were railroaded, battered, overrun and exposed as Everton tore through Arsenal's midfield and Wenger's defence buckled as well.

- Dall: Lessons to learn
- Miller: Everton vs. Arsenal: 5 questions
- Mangan: Flat Arsenal seek a spark

It was perhaps those three defeats which, in my view, showed that Arsenal need a specialist holding midfielder and I was convinced they would sign one. Maybe, just maybe, with Mikel Arteta's injury, they may yet still do that. But we will soon see whether Arsenal have learnt their lesson from last season.

We will see whether they are stronger, resolute and determined to stand up and be counted.

Arsenal have bought well this summer with Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and David Ospina. But I still think they could do with more in attack, a midfielder and a new centre half. But while those positions remain perhaps under discussion as Wenger has just over a week to do some deals, the more important factor will be Arsenal's backbone.

They were brilliant at times last season. But the way that Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton set about them showed that clubs still see Wenger's men as an easy touch and that they can be vulnerable. You may remember Romelu Lukaku was played wide to try to get at Nacho Monreal, who caved in under pressure.

Arsenal had a few injuries and were patched up but it wasn't about that. It was about steel, determination and the spine of the team being strong enough. They did have some opportunities themselves and yet, once again, were not ruthless to take them. Maybe Sanchez can offer that even though he has yet to play through the middle in a competitive game.

Olivier Giroud is a good striker, but is he quick and prolific enough at the top level? I also still think they need top quality cover at centre half. But more than anything else, they need a midfield anchorman -- someone who can offer protection and leadership as well as shielding the defence.

Wenger clearly doesn't see it as a priority to sign a holding midfielder, otherwise he'd have signed one. But we'll soon see whether they needed one after all. This is a bit of an acid test for Arsenal, to see whether they have improved and learnt from their mistakes. It's a shame Arteta is out injured but maybe that's a chance for Mathieu Flamini in defensive midfield. It should give Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the chance to play as his pace and power made a difference against Besiktas in the week.

This has been a difficult start for Arsenal, with European engagements also a distraction. But Goodison Park will be their focus and will tell us everything we need to know about Arsenal's new players and their spirit.

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