Tottenham tactics: Arsenal vs Spurs preview

North London derbies don’t usually roll around this early, but today sees the first encounter of Arsenal vs Spurs with just as much on the line.

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

Spurs vs Arsenal’s midfield trio

Arsene Wenger uses his midfield trio to control possession and set the rhythm and tempo in games.

Usually he has the ever-reliable Mikel Arteta at the base. The Spaniard is not only adept at winning the ball back – he led Arsenal in tackles and interceptions last season – but is also highly accurate in initiating attacks.

In with Arteta are usually two playmakers. One who can not only pass, but also add a drive through dribbling the ball, like Wilshere, and one who can unlock defences, such as Cazorla.

Without Arteta this season, the Arsenal midfield hasn’t looked as strong in regaining possession. The Gunners won less than half of their tackles against Aston Villa (10 of 21) and also versus Fulham (10 of 24).

Whilst in possession Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla or Rosicky are good players, when they don’t have the ball, they struggle to win it back and can be overpowered.

In both our matches last season Arsenal often had 3v2 in the central midfield zone, allowing them to control it. This was particularly true when AVB went 4-4-2 with Adebayor and Defoe at the Emirates, but also when Gareth Bale was playing too high up in our 2-1 victory at the Lane.

This season Andre Villas-Boas has moved to a 4-3-3 with a strong, powerful central trio. Capoue, Dembele and Paulinho started against Swansea and all are ball winners. These three ensured we controlled the midfield zone against the Swans, winning 22 of 32 tackles. However, these three can also instigate attacks.

The midfield zone will be crucial and the Tottenham tactics should focus on dominating here once again. This will stop the Gunners creating at source and then feeding the ball to Cazorla and Walcott.

Cazorla and Walcott

These two really need no introduction with Santi Cazorla pulling the strings and Theo Walcott looking to run in-behind from his starting position on the right.

Whoever is in the advanced midfielder role, whether it’s been Santi Cazorla (vs Fulham) or Tomas Rosicky (vs Aston Villa) has looked for him in-behind. This has seen both players look to get Walcott in through the inside right channel.


Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky passes to Theo Walcott.

From here, Walcott can either get a shot away, look to look to play a cross or cut it back for a team mate.

Santi Cazorla is the focal point for pulling the strings for the attack. The Spaniard was often deployed out on the left last season, but he is at his best when playing in the hole.

When central, he can affect the game across the whole pitch, as he is effective at drifting between the lines. However, with Arsenal attacking predominantly down the right, his natural tendency is to drift out to this side and combine with Walcott.


Santi Cazorla passes received, Fulham vs Arsenal.

The Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs here will see a busy day for Etienne Capoue.

The Frenchman will have the job of stopping Cazorla in a battle of size and strength against quick feet. Capoue was solid last week against both Michu and Jonjo Shelvey in the advanced midfield role. However, both the Swansea players operated very centrally and Cazorla’s lateral movement across the park will give him more to deal with.

Olivier Giroud

With three goals in three games, Olivier Giroud has hit the ground running this season.

The Frenchman’s role is quite simple; he plays very narrow and looks to link the play. Then he moves in to the box looking for either a through ball or more likely a cross. He is very adept in the air, but Arsenal actually hit him with a lot of low-driven crosses, as was highlighted on his goal against us last season and for his opener against Villa.


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finds Olivier Giroud with a low cross.

This wasn’t the only cross he received in the loss to Villa, as Arsenal looked to hit him with pull backs from the left and longer crosses from Walcott on the right.


Olivier Giroud passes received, Arsenal 1 Aston Villa 3.

The Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs here needs to see us restrict the Arsenal service from getting in-behind in wide areas to supply the crosses.

Danny Rose will have a job on Theo Walcott, but can match him for pace and should look to push him back by playing high up like he has been.

On the other side, Lukas Podolski is out of the game, which removes some of the crossing threat from this flank. This could see Santi Cazorla or Aaron Ramsey deployed on this side.

Cazorla likes to come inside and will be a threat to only play through balls rather than cross. Wenger has also used Ramsey here but for more defensive purposes. The Welshman playing on this side would indicate that he is wary of the threat posed by Kyle Walker and Townsend or Lennon.

Out of the pair, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andre Villas-Boas go with Lennon to retain the width on this flank. This would be done to try and create 2v1 situations, as opposed to Andros who cuts inside.

Arsenal concede through the centre

The Gunners can be got at through their left back area, but over last season and now this, going through their centre backs has been the way to expose them.

In Spurs 2 Arsenal 1 at the Lane last season, we took advantage of Mertesacker and Vermaelen by threading passes through them.

First Gareth Bale was put in to beat Szczesny 1v1.


Arsenal get caught through the middle by Bale.

A couple of minutes later, it was Lennon’s turn to accelerate on to the through ball.


Aaron Lennon gets in-behind this time.

This season not much has changed.

Gabriel Agbonlahor twice went through gaps between Mertesacker and Koscielny to earn two penalties in Villa’s 3-1 win at the Emirates.


Gabriel Agbonlahor twice opened Arsenal up through the centre.

Antonio Luna added a third, as he raced in-behind through the middle with Arsenal over-committed chasing an equaliser.

The Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs on Sunday should focus on threading the ball through behind the centre backs for a runner once again.

Arsenal vs Spurs outlook

Nothing beats a north London derby against Arsenal and the key to victory here is overpowering their midfield trio.

Once in possession, we should be looking to hit runners in-behind their defence. This is something I’ve often talked about us attempting to do this season. Whilst it was extremely effective in Tbilisi 0 Spurs 5, in the Premier League, we’ve created numerous chances this way, but are still yet to score from open play.

Our last two trips to the Emirates have finished on the wrong side of a 5-2 score after taking a lead and then losing a player to a red card. This Sunday should be different.

Arsenal vs Spurs prediction: Arsenal 2 Spurs 3

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2 Responses to Tottenham tactics: Arsenal vs Spurs preview

  1. Chris 1st September 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Good stuff as usual – with the benefit of hindsight, I think we can say yep, it was that low cross after getting in behind that got us. And we totally lacked anyone who could drive through their centre to attack their goal.

    Can it really be that Dembele, who was so solid for us last season, is now the liability? Perhaps he should never have been asked to play in that advanced role, and can go back to playing defensive midfield again…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st September 2013 at 9:55 pm #

      Thanks, we did set that low cross up a couple of times, especially in the first half – Soldado had a great first time effort that was blocked.

      Not sure that Dembele is now a liability. He is sruggling at the minute i agree, but with three ball winners in there, the midfield is being so congested as he likes to dribble and there’s not really the space and time to do it – Today there were 6 bodies in that area and not really the time or space to run with it at your feet. Eriksen may help as he’ll play higher up than Paulinho is in the advanced role, thus elongating that central area. If Eriksen does come in, Dembele will have competition for his place from Paulinho though, as he’ll be in the contention for that role with Capoure or Sandro operating behind.