It’s the one we’ve been waiting for since Emmanuel Adebayor self-destructed at the Emirates, as this weekend sees the Spurs vs Arsenal North London derby rematch.
Just as it was this time last season, the game could prove pivotal for both sides Champions League hopes. Spurs will go seven points clear of Arsenal in the Premier League with a win, or the Gooners could pull to within a point if they take the spoils.
So, what should we be looking out for in Spurs vs Arsenal this time?
Spurs formation and ball in-behind
Changing the formation might seem like a no-no given our current run of form, but in the last North London Derby Andre Villas-Boas went with two up top. Emmanuel Adebayor partnered Jermain Defoe and whilst the Togolese man was playing high, Defoe was coming short, then looking to run in-behind.
The pair combined beautifully to put us one up, as Defoe pulled Per Mertesacker out from the back, then sped away to gain a pass from Jan Vertonghen. His shot was then palmed in to the path of Adebayor to make it 1-0.
The pass to get Defoe in wasn’t Vertonghen’s first of the day, as it was a ploy he’d tried several times already.
Andre Villas-Boas is not afraid to tinker with the line-up or formation, so don’t be surprised to see him go with some similar Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Arsenal here.
The Arsenal left
The choice of players down the Arsenal left may well dictate who emerges from this game victorious.
Going forward, Arsene Wenger has a decision to make whom he opts for. Does he go with Santi Cazorla who brings passing and shooting, but likes to come inside and offers very little width or defence? Aaron Ramsey, who is a better defensive player, but again offers little width? Or does he choose Lukas Podolski? The German will offer the most width of the three and is very attack mined, but a defensive liability.
Arsenal went with Podolski in the match at the Emirates. They did this to get a central passing trio of Arteta, Wilshere and Cazorla to play through balls in behind our high line. Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski were providing the targets from wide.
They tried this tactic prior to Adebayor’s sending off with little effect, but afterwards were able to score three before half time by dominating in this zone.
Arsene Wenger has liked to get the more physical presence of Abou Diaby alongside Arteta in recent matches with Jack Wilshere just in front in his 4-2-3-1. This would mean he would have to make a choice between Cazorla, Ramsey and Podolski for the left-sided role.
The Arsenal left back – Nacho libre?
Arsene Wenger’s choice of left-sided midfielder may also be dictated by the play of new full back Nacho Monreal.
Earlier in the season the Arsenal left back position was a weak spot for their side with Arsene Wenger trying numerous players here. Nacho Monreal has steadied the ship somewhat defensively, but he also offers an attacking presence going forward, as he overlaps to put in crosses.
If Wenger wants to attack, he will probably continue with Cazorla. If he wants some more steal in the side, we may well see Aaron Ramsey with Monreal overlapping and the Welshman covering his runs.
Arsenal concede chances from their left
Despite installing Nacho Monreal at left back, Arsenal are still conceding chances from this zone. This is due to having a lack of cover from the left-sided midfielder, as Santi Cazorla has been playing there.
Aston Villa were able to create a number of chances through the Arsenal left last weekend, as were Sunderland the match before.
The Arsenal back four have come under plenty of scrutiny this season. Despite keeping two clean sheets in their last three Premier League matches, they are still error prone.
Their defence has committed 36 errors so far this season, the most in the Premier League. Whilst they’ve also given up 15 goals from these defensive mishaps, again leading the division.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Arsenal this weekend should focus on pressuring their defence, looking to force a misplaced pass or a turnover from a tackle. The Gunners have lost 206 defensive challenges this season, only Sunderland (219) and Norwich (225) have been worse in the Premier League.
Although the Arsenal left side will be a vital area in Spurs vs Arsenal, Jack Wilshere will be their key player.
The England international covers the ground and provides a thrust from deeper areas, as well as clinical passing.
The match at the Emirates was soon after his comeback and we did a decent job at containing and forcing him back, despite us playing for 72 minutes with ten men. He did try to play a number of diagonal through balls though and we have to wary of that threat with our high line here.
Last week, Aston Villa didn’t really scheme for him and he was allowed to get on the ball in the final third and pick his passes, especially through the inside left channel.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Arsenal here should focus on pressuring Jack Wilshere as he looks to receive the ball. He is arguably at his most dangerous if he is allowed to make quick surging runs with it and supply an incisive pass.
Spurs vs Arsenal outlook
Another North London derby that has a great deal riding on the outcome, which Andre Villas-Boas now truly understands is “a game full of emotion” that he is aiming to win.
“We are focused on trying to win because it’s important to establish our position in the Premier League. Our objective is to gain the most amount of points as we can. Against Arsenal, we have the chance to move further away from them and put ourselves in a more comfortable position.”
Spurs looked to make a fast start at the Emirates and I can see us trying to do the same here. This will put pressure on the Gunners to come out and play, leaving space in-behind for Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon to counter-attack.
Although the focus will be on Bale and Arsene Wenger has said he doesn’t have any special plans for him, Aaron Lennon could well be a key figure for Spurs. Our right side, the Arsenal left, will be a vital battleground if Arsene Wenger goes with Cazorla or Podolski in front of Nacho Monreal.
Theo Walcott will be a threat down the right, but Benoit Assou-Ekotto should be better at handling him than Kyle Naughton was at the Emirates.
North London derbies are usually high scoring affairs and this one should see us winning by the odd goal in three.