Arsene Wenger and Roberto Martinez go head-to-head on Saturday as Arsenal play Everton in the FA Cup sixth round. Wenger, one of the most respected and experienced managers in the Premier League has a few things in common with Martinez who is perhaps the best representative of the new breed of young, tactically astute modern day coaches.
Despite the difference in size between the clubs, both managers share a similar vision in terms of the brand of football they employ which centers around possession and fluid movement. Wenger’s sides in particular have always been renowned for their domination of possession supplemented by intricate passing and this season hasn't been any different.
Meanwhile, after working miracles at Wigan Athletic, Martinez has transformed Everton into a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League as their performances this season have exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Both managers have employed a similar formation this season and it has proven to be successful to an extent. Arsenal remain in the hunt for the title and Everton are still in the race for a coveted Champions League spot.
Wenger and Martinez have utilized large target men to spearhead their attacks in the form of Olivier Giroud and Romelu Lukaku. Both strikers' hold up play has allowed the midfield behind them to flourish.The performance of the full-backs of both sides in attack has been another key aspect in their success. With the tendency of the wingers to drift inwards, the overlapping runs of the full-backs have allowed both teams to stretch play which affords them the opportunity to exploit any gaps that may present themselves through the middle or the option to deliver crosses in.
The Arsenal duo of Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna have been excellent going forward. The Frenchman in particular has impressed this season with his consistency following two major injuries in the last two years.
Everton have Leighton Baines and Séamus Coleman providing the extra width in attack. Coleman especially, has been a revelation under Martinez. Having been given the license to join the attack at will, his marauding runs down the right have been crucial for The Toffees so far as already has 6 goals this season.
Considering the attacking nature of the full-backs, the two players fielded in the midfield double pivot assume important roles. The signing of Mathieu Flamini for Arsenal and Gareth Barry and James McCarthy for Everton is a clear reflection of the importance of the two positions as they're often made to cover for either full-back.
As the crucial FA Cup fixture beckons, both managers will want to lay their hands upon the prestigious trophy, albeit for different reasons.
The failure to win any major trophies for nearly a decade has been a black mark in Wenger’s career and he will be desperate to end his side’s barren run.
Following his FA Cup heroics with Wigan last season, Martinez will be hoping to repeat the feat with his new club who haven't won any silverware since they last won the trophy in 1995.
Both sides have met only three times in the history of the competition with Everton holding the upper hand with two wins. The last time the two teams met in 1981, it was the Toffees who emerged victorious.
The onus will be on the managers to produce the goods and ensure that their sides progress to the next round. Whoever succeeds, the tactical battle between the two bosses with be intriguing.