FA Cup Tottenham tactics: Arsenal vs Spurs preview

After a fantastic victory at Old Trafford, the big games continue to come thick and fast. Next up is a trip to the Emirates as we get our FA Cup campaign underway with Arsenal vs Spurs.

Another North London derby gives us the chance to right the wrongs of earlier in the season. That game saw us dominant in possession, but fail to break down an Arsenal side content to sit deep and hit us on the counter. Santi Cazorla was the main problem with his through balls in to the space behind our high back line.

So, what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs this time?

Arsenal set up and style

Arsene Wenger lines his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with the key area being his choice of midfielders.

At the base he usually lines up with Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard is excellent at winning the ball back, but is also the player used to dictate the tempo of the game by being the first pass in to midfield from the defence.

Alongside Arteta, Wenger has a number of options depending on how aggressive he wants to be.

Aaron Ramsey frequently gets the nod, but he won’t feature here due to injury. Wenger can also use Jack Wilshere. Whilst he offers dribbling, driving runs with the ball from deeper, he is less of a defensive option. Wenger does opt for him when he wants to get more playmakers on the field against weaker opposition, but is unlikely to go with him operating from this deep here.

He also has the choice of Mathieu Flamini. The Frenchman is a much more defensive player who often sits deeper than Arteta, but provides greater solidity and a screen for his centre backs.

Ahead of his pivot, Wenger has different uses for his three advanced midfielders depending on whom he selects.

Firstly, he can go with a number ten and two pacey attackers flanking him. This is done when he wants to get speed on the field and usually sees a player such as Cazorla or Ozil flanked by Walcott and Rosicky.

Secondly, and much more likely, he can use two number tens who drift across the field and switch positions. This pair are deployed along with Theo Walcott’s pace out on the right. This often sees Ozil and Cazorla in these roles, but has also featured Wilshere as well.

The reason for this is that Arsenal attack heavily down the right flank. Wenger urges Bacary Sagna, who is a threat to cross, to push on in support of Theo Walcott, who is a threat to run in-behind. As a result, most of Arsenal’s scoring chances are generated from this side.

Stopping Arsenal at source

With all of the abundance of attacking talent that Arsenal have on the field, the key to stopping them is to get to Mikel Arteta and stop him dictating the tempo.

The Spaniard often receives the first pass out of defence and he is tasked with moving the ball forward. This might not be considered a major factor, but if allowed to do this, then he can run matches from his deeper lying position.

Against Cardiff last weekend at the Emirates he was given the time and space to do this, often shifting the ball out to Sagna and Walcott down the right. He played 94 passes, more than any other Arsenal player.


Mikel Arteta passes played: Arsenal 2 Cardiff 0.

But the effect of getting a man on Arteta early, such as Ross Barkley was doing in Everton’s recent trip to the Emirates, makes him less effective.


Mikel Arteta passes played: Arsenal 1 Everton 1.

This tactic was denying Arteta time, space and often receiving the first entry pass from defence.

This stopped him from dictating the tempo and Everton were effective at creating turnovers, as we’ll see next.

Man Utd have also had success against Arsenal, often tasking Wayne Rooney with picking up Arteta.

The Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs would see us do well to deploy a player to do this, most likely the support striker in our 4-4-2 formation. This would require a huge amount of discipline from whoever gets the nod.

Press the Arsenal right, squeeze the centre

Everton’s performance at the Emirates was one of the best this season by any visiting team.

The Toffees were excellent at getting to the Gunners and winning the ball back early through their use of a bridge press.

Roberto Martinez sends his four front men to close down (Lukaku, Mirallas, Pienaar and Barkley), whilst the rest drop off and defend deeper.


Everton ball recoveries against Arsenal.

They also sought to keep Pienaar and Oviedo out wide to deal with Arsenal attacking down their right, the Everton left. This meant that the Toffees frequently won the ball back in advanced areas and stopped the Gunners raiding down their favourite flank.

Chelsea stifled the Gunners in a slightly different way.

The Blues were seen as quite negative, but they too pressed Arsenal high up on their right side to stop them raiding down their favoured flank. Jose switched to a 4-3-3 to achieve this, but it also meant that he packed the middle of the park to outnumber Arsenal in here too.

Chelsea won the ball back often in the centre, but also out on their left, the Arsenal right, as they generated the much better scoring chances in the match.


Chelsea ball recoveries against Arsenal.

The Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs should see us look to do something similar.

Getting a man on Arteta helps, but getting bodies in the middle of the park to create turnovers is also needed. So far we’ve seen our midfield four play very narrow and that would be effective in doing this.

The Problem is then to get a presence to push Arsenal back down their right. A 4-3-3 formation would be a better option to do this. However, I can’t see Tim Sherwood going for that tactic with his preference for 4-4-2 and open, attacking football, which could also leave us vulnerable between the lines.

Arsenal between the lines

Tim Sherwood has brought a very attacking presence to his selections. This has seen us start to score more goals, but has also left more space between the lines of defence and midfield.

We saw this in Southampton 2 Spurs 3, where Adam Lallana was able to get on the ball and pull the strings for the Saints, creating one goal and scoring another. Man Utd were also able to exploit this space as they got Rooney and then Kagawa in to this zone on New Year’s Day.

With Arsenal’s abundance of creative number tens who can drift in and out of this space, we could have some major problems if we continue to play this open.

Mesut Ozil will hopefully not be risked for an early return here, but he is excellent at getting free across this space. The German international showed this recently in Arsenal’s home match with Hull.


Mesut Ozil passes received, Arsenal 2 Hull 0.

Santi Cazorla, who has a knack of having good games against us, is also a major threat to drift in and out of this zone. He is also able to switch positions with someone like Ozil as they dovetail across the park.


Santi Cazorla passes received, Arsenal 2 Cardiff 0.

When either of them are on the ball, they are a threat to pick out a through pass for someone like Walcott running in-behind. This is where the Gunners are at their most threatening and the Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs needs to see us tighten up the space between the lines.

Etienne Capoue did an excellent job of filling this space before being withdrawn against Man Utd. This was part of the reason why the Red Devils came back in to that game after he went off. His name must be on the team sheet on Saturday.

How Arsenal concede chances

Arsenal concede chances in one of two ways. The first is to pull their centre backs, most notably Per Mertesacker, in to areas they don’t want to be.

Laurent Koscielny is a defender who likes to come towards the ball and go for interceptions, whereas Mertesacker wants to play deeper. The reason for this is that he doesn’t have great speed and is a read and react style of defender.

With two forwards on the pitch, the player being marked by Mertesacker needs to drop off and come deeper. This forces him in to a decision of whether he comes out to cover or not.

This was the way in which we exposed him last season at the Emirates, as we took an early lead before Emmanuel Adebayor’s sending off.

Jermain Defoe brought him short so that a ball could be hit over the top in to the area behind. Defoe span and ran in to the space and although his shot was saved, Adebayor hoovered up the rebound.

The second way to create chances is by attacking the channel between the left centre back (Koscielny or Vermaelen) and his full back (Monreal or Gibbs).

The reason for this is that both Koscielny and Vermaelen come towards the ball. They attempt to get in front of their man to intercept, so you can take advantage of their impetuous nature. The full back (Monreal or Gibbs) is the outlet on the left as the player in front of them is usually drifting in field, so they can be caught forward supporting the attack.

Manchester City were ruthless at going through this channel to create shots or to get in-behind and square passes.


Manchester City chances created against Arsenal.

On our last trip to the Emirates, we also fashioned a number of opportunities through this channel, just not enough to take advantage.


Spurs chances created against Arsenal.

The Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs this time should look to see us try to draw Mertesacker out by the player being marked by him coming short. We should also be looking to get a player like Lennon or Soldado in to the channel between the left-sided centre back and full back.

Arsenal vs Spurs outlook

Each manager’s selections here will be interesting as on one hand they would like to rest players, but on the other won’t want to lose to the old enemy.

Emmanuel Adebayor has been excellent since his return and the team news that he is fit is a huge boost seeing as he is vital to Tim Sherwood’s 4-4-2 system.

We will need to stop Mikel Arteta dictating the game from deep by getting a man on him when we lose possession. Having bodies in the middle of the park, as well as pressing the Arsenal right to push back Walcott and Sagna, is also a must.

We’ll also need to tighten up between the lines, but attacking the space between their left-sided centre back and full back will point the way to goal.

Arsenal vs Spurs prediction: 2-2.

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