The second North London Derby of the season sees us travel to the Emirates for Arsenal vs Spurs so we look at how to attack the Gunners.
Since misfiring on opening day the Gunners have been tough opponents to crack. They’ve shored up at the back and are scoring up front, making them extremely difficult to beat.
So, just how do you go about taking them on their patch? There have been a few clues and these should point the way to the Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs this time.
Where Arsenal concede chances
Along with ours, this season’s Gunners’ defence is amongst the most difficult to break down in the Premier League. There have been gaps though, even in the games they’ve won, and these need to be exploited.
The first area that Arsenal have conceded chances and goals from is to teams that can get beyond their full backs, pulling their centre backs in to areas that they don’t want to be. Both Per Mertesacker and Gabriel are tall and powerful in the air or ground challenges, but when attacked in space or pulled out towards the sideline, they are vulnerable.
Jamie Vardy’s goal to open the scoring in Leicester’s 5-2 defeat to the Gunners highlighted Mertesacker’s reluctance to get drawn out wide. Vardy had got in to the space left by Hector Bellerin and Mertesacker’s slow reaction saw the England international dart in and arrow the ball across Petr Cech in to the corner of the net.
Watford also gave the big German trouble. Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo both had chances from quick counter attacks, exposing his lack of comfort when being drawn out wide.
Mertesacker has a history of this because he is slow across the ground and to change direction. Gabriel is a similar player and Chelsea gave him trouble before Diego Costa got him sent off.
On the other side of the centre back pairing, Laurent Koscielny is very quick to go for the interception and more comfortable being dragged in to wide areas than his partner. He, however, can be done by a turn of pace when left in a 1v1 situation with open grass to cover. Dimitri Payet gave him trouble in West Ham’s 2-0 win on opening day at the Emirates. In our 1-1 draw with Arsenal last season, Nacer Chadli ran twice beyond him before opening the scoring.
The key in all of this is getting the ball up to the attacking players quickly in transition. Arsenal send their full backs forward and are prepared to leave their centre backs exposed. With ground to cover they are susceptible to giving up chances. Ross Barkley’s goal in Everton’s recent 2-1 defeat at the Emirates highlighted just this and Gabriel’s unwillingness to get out and challenge his shot early enough.
The second method of creating chances against Arsenal is from set pieces. The Gunners have always had trouble here with their zonal system and its been highlighted again this season. Kurt Zouma and Cheikhou Kouyaté have both escaped their markers to score from set pieces in the Premier League.
Although Arsenal have been better at keeping the number of chances conceded from set pieces down this season, when communication does go wrong, the old problems remain.
The Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs should see us look to rapidly break in transition to get at their centre backs as soon as possible. Set pieces, such as corners, have improved dramatically under Mauricio Pochettino and these have to be taken advantage of. Our routine of darting runners going towards the near post undid the Gunners on Harry Kane’s first goal in our 2-1 win at the Lane last season. That moment with Dembele’s flick on and Kane’s finish should provide a blueprint for use in preparing for Sunday’s match.
Restricting space between the lines
This is a given against any Arsenal side and especially at the Emirates. The Gunners live in the spaces between the lines and it’s up to the opposition to congest them.
Despite being obvious, not too many teams have done this well against Arsenal this season. West Ham did on opening day. The Hammers played in a diamond formation to get four men in to the centre of the park and fill these pockets of space. Slaven Bilic also went with three ball winners in his diamond with Reece Oxford, Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyaté given the job to frustrate, which they did well.
Liverpool were another team that also gave the Gunners a run for their money in their 0-0 draw at the Emirates. They went with a 4-3-3 formation, but also had a trio of ball winners in their central midfield. Emre Can and the industrious James Milner partnered Lucas, as they were ordered to clog and regain the ball in the centre of the pitch.
The Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs should see us look to do a similar job to the one that we did in the 1-1 draw last season. Etienne Capoue and Ryan Mason were barely 10 yards in-front of our back four all game as we took a very counter attacking approach. In recent matches, we’ve gone with the strong and powerful ball-regaining trio of Mousa Dembele, Dele Alli and Eric Dier in the middle of the park and the three should be perfect here.
Not sinking too deep
Playing a counter attacking game can be effective against Arsenal, but the temptation to sink too deep is one that frequently costs their opponents. We saw this in the North London Derby at the Emirates last season where we had executed almost a perfect game plan until we started to get nervous and drop back too far.
This let Arsenal back in to the match as we then left space, albeit in front of us, but closer to our goal. Santi Cazorla had time on the edge of the area to send the ball low and hard across the six yard box to the waiting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Whether Mauricio Pochettino decides to press high and hard like we did in Spurs 2-1 Arsenal at our place or play a counter attack like we did in the 1-1 at the Emirates, we cannot get caught dropping too deep.
Arsenal vs Spurs outlook
After losing in the Capital One Cup, we need to turn the tables on the Gunners. They will be ailing from their 5-1 thumping in Munich and we will have a day less to recuperate and prepare, so a solid tactical game plan is key for success.
Whether we decide to press or play on the counter, a powerful ball-regaining central midfield trio is vital. We then need speed on the field to get at the Arsenal centre backs in transition before they can surround themselves with help.
Spurs vs Arsenal prediction: Arsenal 1-1 Spurs.