Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Tactical Preview

You might look at the 5-1 score line from Arsenal’s woefully unsuccessful trip to Munich and conclude that the Gunners are a side in crisis. And you might be right. Though you might also look at the fact that Arsenal have won five straight in the league and sit second in the table – despite nearly being able to field full lineup of injured players. 

Despite what has happened in Europe, Spurs will be facing a side in Premier League form when they visit the Emirates on Sunday. Even with the slew of injuries, the Gunners are maintaining their passing-dominant style. They lead the league in pass completion rate (85.6%) and are third in the league in possession rate (56.2%). Only Manchester City has completed more short passes this season. In essence, Tottenham will probably concede a significant majority of the possession and look to create chances off the break. 

Arsenal’s injury woes continue, but Wenger’s side will be boosted by the return of Laurent Koscielny, who was kept on the bench against Bayern to be prepared for Spurs. Mikel Arteta has returned to training, and while a start is unlikely, he gives Wenger a good option off the bench.

Petr Cech will start in goal for the Gunners, with the defensive line ahead of him consisting of center backs, Koscielny and Mertesacker, left back, Nacho Monreal, and right back, Mathieu Debuchy. Debuchy comes in place of Hector Bellerin, who also sat out the trip to Munich through injury. This is a back line that, despite collapsing on Wednesday, has conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League (8).

Wenger has been deploying Francis Coquelin in the defensive midfield alongside Santi Cazorla. Cazorla is undoubtedly an offensive threat (he is second only to Mesut Özil in chances created per 90 minutes) and may be deployed further forward if Arteta is in the game. Coquelin, on the other hand, leads the team in tackles per 90 minutes and has a high interception rate, so expect Coquelin to provide the defensive cover while Cazorla gets forward.

Mesut Özil has been the hub of offensive production for the Gunners. The attacking midfielder leads the Premier League in assists (9). To put this in perspective, the players with the second highest number of assists are Riyad Mahrez and Wes Hoolahan, each with five. The German also leads the Premier League in chances created per 90 minutes (6). This is very, very impressive.

Alexis Sánchez will line up on the left side of the attacking midfield, though don’t expect wing-style production. The Chilean does not produce many crosses (and does not have any assists this season), but he has already scored six goals. Injuries have left Wenger to turn to Joel Campbell on the right wing for the last two matches, but Arteta’s return could bump Cazorla into this role – though this would probably happen later in the match. 

Olivier Giroud will start up top for the Wenger’s side. The Frenchman is fourth in the Premier League in goals scored (6), alongside Sánchez.

Coming off another Dembélé-driven win on Thursday, Spurs will have a quick turnaround, but a fairly simply one by Europa League standards in that no travel outside North London will be necessary. We’ll probably see a similar lineup to what we saw against Aston Villa. Dembélé should remain in the #10 role with Eriksen out left. Dier will probably be tasked with maintaining Özil, and I would expect Alli to start in the other holding role – but Mason is also a definite possibility. 

While Spurs are in form, this match will be a tough one. Playing a very good team away from home after a Europa League match is not an ideal situation and the Spurs Projected Goal Difference reflects that: -1.76 in favour of Arsenal. 

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