Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Arsenal preview (h)

The big games continue to come thick and fast, as we return to Premier League action with the North London Derby next on the radar, as its Spurs vs Arsenal.

The Gunners have taken the first two meetings at the Emirates, but this will be the first at White Hart Lane this season. So, what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Arsenal this time?

Stopping Arsenal at source

Arsenal have an abundance of attacking midfield players, but the key to stopping them is to get to Mikel Arteta and deny 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.

A key to playing him can be seen from two contrasting teams. One who had a plan for him, the other didn’t.

Cardiff gave Arteta time and space as he was allowed to shift the ball out to the right in the opposition’s half, Arsenal’s favoured side to attack. He played 94 passes, more than any other Arsenal player and the Gunners ran out comfortable winners.


Mikel Arteta passes played: Arsenal 2 Cardiff 0.

Contrast that with Everton’s control of Arsenal in their Premier League clash at the Emirates; a game the Toffees should have feasibly won. The effect of getting a man on Arteta early, such as what Ross Barkley was doing, makes him much less effective.


Mikel Arteta passes played: Arsenal 1 Everton 1.

This tactic was denying Arteta time, space and often stopped him from receiving the first entry pass forward from defence. This meant he found it difficult to dictate the tempo and Everton were effective at creating turnovers.

The Tottenham tactics for Arsenal vs Spurs would see us do well to deploy a player to do this and would require a huge amount of discipline from whoever gets the nod.

Press the right, squeeze the centre

With Arsenal attacking down their right, whilst also using Arteta to move the ball forward, teams that have success against them have pressed these areas.

Roberto Martinez had Barkley on Arteta, but they also kept Pienaar and Oviedo out wide and pushing forward at every opportunity. This was to deal with Arsenal attacking down their favoured right flank, the Everton left.

Chelsea stifled the Gunners in a similar 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, and stop Arteta.

Chelsea won the ball back often in the centre, but also out on 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 pushing Arsenal back down their right is also needed. The selection of personnel on our left will be key.

Stopping Arsenal between the lines

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

This occurred in the FA Cup match at the Emirates, which finished Arsenal 2 Spurs 0 as Sherwood played in to Wenger’s hands. The new manager went without a defensive midfielder, whilst also using Christian Eriksen to drift in from the left.

This was a mistake on two counts. Firstly, it meant that Danny Rose was often left exposed to Arsenal attacking down their favourite side. Secondly, it also let Arsenal get between the lines without us having a defensive midfielder.

Santi Cazorla thrives in this area and Arsenal frequently filled it during the game.


Gnabry and Cazorla get in-between the lines.

The same trio of Gnabry, Cazorla and Walcott were behind our midfield and on our defence all match.


Arsenal get three players behind our midfield.

Arsenal’s abundance of playmakers sees them live between the lines, but Arsene Wenger has serious injury worries.

Ramsey, Wilshere and Ozil are all out, as well as Theo Walcott who was often their target to run in-behind on to their through balls. This leaves just Santi Cazorla to float in-between the lines and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Lukas Podolski to run in-behind.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Arsenal need to see us use a defensive midfielder. Cazorla is Arsenal’s only real threat to play through balls due to the other playmakers being out injured. Sandro is imperative, but may not be fit for this match affter coming off with a groin injury against Benfica.

Where 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.

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

The reason for this is that both Koscielny and Vermaelen come towards the ball. They attempt to get in front of their opponent to intercept, so you can take advantage of their impetuous nature. The full back 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. This leaves the channel open.

Manchester City were ruthless at going through this channel to create shots or to get in-behind and square passes in their 6-3 demolition of Arsenal.


Manchester City chances created against Arsenal.

Liverpool combined both methods in their 5-1 destruction of Arsenal at Anfield.

The movement of Suarez and Sturridge dragged Koscielny and Mertesacker in to areas they didn’t want to be. This was seen as early as the first minute when Mertesacker fouled Suarez after being pulled out to the touchline, leading to Liverpool opening the scoring from the resulting free kick.

When they got up towards the area, Liverpool went through the channel between the left centre back and his full back. Suarez setting up Sterling for 3-0 and Coutinho’s pass for Sturridge to make it 4-0 were both prime examples.


Liverpool chances created against Arsenal.

With both Gunners left backs (Gibbs and Monreal) facing late fitness tests, the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Arsenal should focus on going through here even more. Both Koscielny and potential stand-in left back Thomas Vermaelen are defenders that go for interceptions and come towards the ball, meaning they can be exposed. This channel should be ripe for rich pickings.

Spurs vs Arsenal outlook

Each manager’s selections will be vital here. Arsenal have an injury problem in their squad, with many of their key midfield players out. Tim Sherwood also has to deal with the repercussions of a Europa League match that saw several of our players come off or receive knocks. The team news that up to seven could be out, including Adebayor, Walker, Sandro and Dembele is not good.

Slowing down and stopping Mikel Arteta is key, as is pushing Arsenal back down their favoured right side.

A 4-3-3 formation has often given the Gunners trouble. Liverpool, Bayern and Chelsea have all used it successfully against them this season, whilst we did well with it despite losing 1-0 in our first trip to the Emirates. It can be used to push them back down their right through having a wide forward, whilst also keeping control in the middle.

This will be another tight affair, but we have an excellent chance if we play our cards right.

Spurs vs Arsenal prediction: Spurs 2 Arsenal 1.

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3 Responses to Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Arsenal preview (h)

  1. Belgian Hotspur 16th March 2014 at 7:27 am #

    Great analysis, a win today would be great. Personally think Mousa’s fitness is key. As you mentioned, we need to press AFC’s left and if Gibbs isnt fit, I’d like to see Andros wide right, he does a fair share of defensive work and can give the Spaniard a nightmare and force Koscielny to move out of position and help Nacho, especially as they dont really have a DM to track midfield runners. Think we need Paulinho and Mousa to play in a slightly attacking role protected by Sandro. Eriksen will have to comoensate and play wide left. Eriksen’s tendancy to come infield will help clog the midfield and stop Arsenal playing their passing game. Alternatively, we can shift Andros to the left, CE CAM and Mousa on the right to help protect Naughton too. Ade(if fit) has a tendancy to run the channels, particularly the left, allowing Eriksen to go infield untracked by Sagna who has to worry about Ade or else forcing Per out of defence, exactly what we want. Either way, it will be tight, form doesnt matter in a game of such importance, the team with more desire and passion wins. My Team Would Be:
    Walker(Naughton if no tfit) Kaboul Vertonghen Rose
    Mousa Paulinho

    Townsend Eriksen

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th March 2014 at 12:31 pm #

      Good shout, i think Eriksen should play centrally here as Arsenal attacks down their right. If he drifts in from the left, we might well get caught 2v1 against Rose. This is something which happened often in the FA Cup loss at the Emirates with Eriksen also playing in from the left.

  2. salu 16th March 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    We will always be in Arsenal’s shadow :(