Upcoming matches against Tottenham conjure up a unique reaction, a simultaneous feeling of overwhelming nausea and excitement. The only thing I feel it is comparable to is first talking to a girl you “like” during your adolescent years–that perfect blend of anxiety shaped by the possibility of enduring both agony and ecstasy.
It needs to be said that despite being “Scum”, Tottenham are a very good team and have been for a few years now. The regimented system established by Pochettino is predicated on dominating the center of the pitch, pushing their back line high, and providing a platform for their front 4 to interchange and express themselves.
Our last meeting in November saw us well-deserved winners. Both of our goals may have come from contentious calls, but even the vast majority of Spurs fans would agree we deserved all 3 points on the day. We won by playing direct, bypassing the midfield, and building play on the flanks.
All Arsenal fans know we’ve been great at Wembley, having won 9 straight, but Tottenham have also quietly turned Wembley into a fortress. After dropping points in their first 3 games of the season, they haven’t lost since, going 8-2-0 in the league and 3-0-0 in the Champions League. Their only loss coming to Chelsea on the 2nd week of the season.
Below are my quick keys to beating Tottenham in Saturday’s North London Derby:
- Dominate in Wide Areas:
There is an extra 440 square meters of space at Wembley compared to the old White Hart Lane, Arsenal need to use it to the maximum. We have the technical, footballing advantage and need to get our playmakers into space instead of trying to pass through the middle.
Pushing them back and making them defend in wide areas, especially their CM’s, will help open up the game in the middle for the likes of Ozil, Ramsey, and Mkhitaryan. Long balls into channels and cross field diagonals should be commonplace.
2. Win The Battle in Central Midfield:
Arsenal lack natural ballwinners and specialist DM’s, so they need to have a team approach to defending. This means being aware of defensive distances in the midfield as well as between the midfield and backline. Against Everton we excelled at ball recoveries, even those you would not class as having natural defensive instincts: Iwobi (8), Xhaka (5), Ozil (5), and Mkhitaryan (4). Furthermore, Mkhitaryan was especially good ranking 2nd on the team in both tackles (4) and interceptions (3). Below shows Ozil defending and Iwobi with the ball recovery leading to the release of Aubameyang:
3. Show Diversity In Attack
Arsenal need to strike a balance between sitting deep and pressing high. Sitting deep and defending is certainly not our forte but Tottenham struggle to break down compact defenses. By being solid in back it can help us release Aubameyang on the counter attack as well. Secondly, Spurs are susceptible to pressing teams. Dier, Alli, Wanyama and Sanchez can all act as pressing triggers and turned over as they look to play out of the back.
4. Contain the Handshake Master:
Tottenham’s identity revolves around the establishment of a stable platform for their front four to express themselves. They dominate the center of the pitch, push their defense high and look to get their front four interchanging. Other than the obvious Kane overreliance, Son has been vital to all they do in attack this season. He can appear as a left winger, left wing back, 2nd striker, and even a number 10 at times. He’s an absolute tool when celebrating though. I’ll leave you with this, as if you needed more to despise “that lot”
5. Pretend it’s the FA Cup Final!
We’re pretty good at those! COYG!
Follow me on Twitter @dfresh10
31 year old based in the U.S. I am an elementary school teacher by day whose passion for teaching is only rivaled by a love for the Arsenal. I release a weekly piece each Tuesday that is oftentimes analytical but sometimes eccentric. Founder of the U.S. supporters group Syracuse Gooners (www.cusegooners.com). I enjoy interacting with any and all Arsenal-based opinions on Twitter. Have a younger brother who chose to support Spurs. Fielding suggestions for ways to disown him.