Tactical Preview: Arsenal — Spurs

Posted Nov 6, 2015 by Tyrrell Meertins
Sunday’s North London derby features the two in-form teams of the current Premier League campaign, as Spurs aim to cut the gap between rivals Arsenal to two points.
Tottenham Hotspur's forward Harry Kane (L) celebrates after scoring with midfielder Christian E...
Tottenham Hotspur's forward Harry Kane (L) celebrates after scoring with midfielder Christian Eriksen during an English Premier League football match against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich on April 12, 2014
Andrew Yates, AFP
Although Arsenal were victims of an embarrassing 5-1 midweek defeat to Bayern Munich, Arsene Wenger’s men have won five consecutive games, whereas, domestically, Spurs are unbeaten since their opening day defeat to Manchester United. This is the second meeting between the two rivals this season, as two rare Mathieu Flamini goals knocked Spurs out of the Capital One Cup in what was a fairly even match featuring weakened XI’s.
One of the key factors of the match involves the contrast between the fitness of the first-team players from both sides. Mauricio Pochettino should be able to select what’s close to his best XI with Ryan Mason, Son Heung-min, and Nacer Chadli available for selection, but the Spurs manager will likely stick with the team that defeated Aston Villa last Monday.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are missing several players to injury including Aaron Ramsey, Hector Bellerin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Theo Walcott, leaving the Arsenal manager short of right-sided options. Ultimately, this deprives Wenger of natural pace, and direct runners from midfield, limiting the element of surprising team decisions prior to kickoff.
Wenger will hope he can recall Laurent Koscielny to his back-four, as the Gunners desperately missed their star centre-back at the Allianz Arena. Mathieu Debuchy is also expected to receive another start at right-back, unless Wenger opts for defensive caution by fielding both Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal.
From a defensive standpoint, Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez were poor out of possession at Bayern, failing to track the runs of the opposition’s full-backs, and Pochettino may instruct Danny Rose and Kyle Walker push forward when possible.
Walker may be wary with surging into Arsenal’s third as he’ll be up against Alexis Sanchez – the Chilean manhandled Mateo Darmian a few weeks ago, and Pochettino may instruct Walker to sit deeper. Campbell and Debuchy struggled severely in Germany, with Rose eager to quickly turn defence into attack, Spurs’ best bet of troubling Arsenal rests in this zone.
However, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen are expected to drift centrally from wide positions, limiting the Arsenal full-backs’ defensive responsibility, and considering they both prefer to attack, Pochettino could opt for a disciplined direct option in Nacer Chadli. Francois Coquelin will face the task of tracking Eriksen’s movement in central areas, as the Dane represents a threat in transition and serves as Spurs’ sole legitimate creative outlet in attacking zones.
Mousa Dembele has scored three goals in his last three appearances and will help Spurs compete against an Arsenal side eager to dominate central areas, but must also prevent Santi Cazorla from dictating possession in midfield. Pochettino can equally turn to Son for his ability to evade tackles in transition, or the diligent Chadli, who offers discipline with his pressing and pace behind the back-line. In midfield, Spurs can now field the double-pivot of Eric Dier and Mason, as the latter returned from injury, and offers additional gusto in midfield, but Dele Alli’s successful partnership with Dier may keep the latter on the bench.
Arsenal’s attacking quartet picks itself due to injuries, but Spurs’ back-line will be pleased that several pacy runners will be unavailable. Olivier Giroud has been in terrific form, but Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld would prefer a physical battle against the Frenchman opposed to worrying about Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Walcott jolting behind their defensive line. In that case, Joel Campbell and Alexis could alter their position higher up the pitch to receive potential Ozil passes behind the defence or into the channels.
Elsewhere, Harry Kane appears to have overcome his brief drought to the start the season, scoring five goals in his past three appearances. Nevertheless, the England international’s overall play has been great this season — bringing his teammates forward with his hold up play, and creating goals when he dropped into the midfield zone to receive possession — and his ability to link play with Eriksen could pose issues against a depleted Arsenal back-line.
Perhaps the Capital One Cup encounter between the two featured weaker XI’s, but the fact that all three goals weren’t created through excellent buildups highlights the issue both sides encounter in open play. Arsenal is well-equipped to break teams down in transition, while Spurs equally possess issues breaking down organized back-lines.
Domestically, the two London clubs have been positive out of possession, but struggle when forced to dictate the game, but here, Spurs pose a legitimate threat due to Arsenal’s makeshift back-line and unfamiliar partnership down the right flank. The bigger Premier League matches have bucked the recent trend this season — caution has been displayed rather than open goal-fests — and with both sides excelling via transitional attacks, the fear of making a mistake could result in a slow-burning encounter.