Tactics and Desire: What Arsenal Must Do to Beat Tottenham
Tomorrow will see yet another North London Derby take place at the Emirates stadium. In the corresponding fixture last season, Arsenal ran out 5-2 winners in a quite extraordinary match. The Gunners went on to overtake their arch rivals and win third spot.
This season, however, there is a sense that things might be a bit closer than last time around. Tottenham will be out for revenge, and it is up to Wenger and his men to maintain dominance in North London. Although tactics and planning almost always seem to go out the window in such high profile derbies, there are a few things that Arsenal can do to give themselves a shot at victory.
1. Return to a pressing game
In the opening half hour or so against Fulham, and indeed in the second half of last season, the Gunners employed a high-pace pressing game when off the ball. This, to my mind, is the most effective way for Arsenal to go about their game. Pressing high up the pitch rushes the opposition and forces mistakes, and will do so tomorrow, given the Tottenham players' inevitable nerves.
It also fits in best with Arsenal's line-up because it gives the opportunity to nick the ball, and thus break out at pace, something which suits the likes of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Pressing will also help to nullify Gareth Bale, who can't be given time or space to run at you. Stop Bale, and you've gone a long way to stopping Tottenham.
2. Boss the midfield
With a likely Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla line-up in midfield, Arsenal will know that they have to boss the middle of the park in order to utilize their best combination of players. Sandro is in fine form for Tottenham, and will have to be run ragged for Arsenal to be able to control the game and ultimately, win. To do this, Cazorla will have to be given freedom to express himself.
This is the job of Arteta and Wilshere, who need to distribute the ball quickly and efficiently.
3. Play the game, not the occasion
All too often, Arsenal players get caught up in the moment of big games, and therefore don't perform to their maximum potential. This cannot happen tomorrow. For many of the players, tomorrow will be their first taste of a North London Derby. So, it is up to the Vermaelens and the Artetas to keep cool heads and lead the way.
Last season, players were accused of not showing enough fight or spirit. That is what tomorrow is all about—spirit. Arsene Wenger has got to inspire his players to play with drive and desire. Or else, Arsenal will lose, simple as that.
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