The Big Match Tactical View: Tottenham v Arsenal

Mesut Ozil dropped deep to dictate play against Everton last week, and may do the same here
Mesut Ozil dropped deep to dictate play against Everton last week, and may do the same here
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Arsenal won the reverse fixture 2-0 in November - can Spurs get revenge? Michael Cox looks at the tactics and Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown...

"One problem for Mauricio Pochettino is that his side have played two matches since Arsenal were last in action."

Tottenham v Arsenal
Saturday 12:45, Sky Sports 1.
Match Odds: Tottenham [2.1], Arsenal [3.7], The Draw [3.9]

Familiar Spurs v new-look Arsenal

Tottenham start this match as strong favourites - but Arsenal convincingly won the reverse fixture 2-0 despite little sign they'd be capable of outplaying Spurs, and will look to do the same thing here as they attempt to make up ground on the top four.

This is a new-look Arsenal, of course, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang making excellent full debuts in last week's 5-1 thrashing of Everton. Mkhitaryan started on the left flank but drifted infield and created two goals from the right flank, including one for Aubameyang, who generally played in inside-left positions, and tested the opposition defence with his speed in behind.

That's likely to be the major factor in this game. One of the most notable features of Tottenham's game is their aggressive defensive line, which was so effective in the recent victory over Manchester United. Mauricio Pochettino's side are capable of playing deeper, something they'd done more this season, but they're likely to start this match at a high tempo - they'll want to improve upon last weekend's sluggish start at Anfield.

One problem for Pochettino is that his side have played two matches since Arsenal were last in action. Whereas Arsenal were last in action a week ago, Spurs played in an extremely draining 2-2 draw at Liverpool, perhaps the most high-tempo game of the Premier League season so far, and then had Wednesday's FA Cup replay against Newport. It may have been a simple victory with a virtual reserve side, but it's not ideal preparation.

Sanchez or Alderweireld?

In terms of team selection, Pochettino's biggest dilemmas are in defence. Toby Alderweireld made his long-awaited return from injury in Wednesday's win over Newport, but it remains to be seen whether he'll be capable of playing two games in such a short space of time. Davinson Sanchez might be favoured instead, and while the Colombian has largely been impressive this season, errors have crept into his game recently.

Whether it's the recovering Alderweireld or the inexperienced Sanchez, Aubameyang will surely make runs into that zone, rather than up against Jan Vertonghen.

Pochettino also has decisions to make at full-back. Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier started the league games against Manchester United and Liverpool, with the latter very prominent against United. But this might be a game for Danny Rose and Serge Aurier, who offer more speed.

Pochettino could also elect to bring in Victor Wanyama here, after his recovery from injury and stunning goal at Anfield last week. A fearsome midfield of he and Eric Dier may be the order of the day against Arsenal's multiple playmakers, but since Wanyama started against Newport, it will probably be Dier and Mousa Dembele.

Spurs used a diamond last week at Anfield, but improved when switching to the 4-2-3-1 and that will surely be the system here: Dele Alli the number ten, Son Heung-min wide-left, Christian Eriksen a narrow right-sided playmaker and Harry Kane leading the line. With six goals in six matches, he loves north London derbies.

Wenger may strengthen midfield

Arsene Wenger is unlikely to make many changes from the side which thrashed Everton, although in recent years he's often opted for a slightly more cautious approach away at Spurs, sometimes ditching 4-2-3-1 for 4-3-3 in order to accommodate an extra central midfielder.

In theory, he could drop Alex Iwobi for Jack Wilshere or Mohamed Elneny, aiming to provide extra support in central midfield and help Granit Xhaka, who seems to struggle in high-tempo games.

That would leave Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil supporting Aubameyang from wide, which would provide plenty of potential for through-balls, but neither are particularly good at tracking opposition full-backs, and aren't great goalscoring threats on the break.

4-2-3-1 might be more likely, with Iwobi retaining his place. But Arsenal risk being overrun, especially if Aaron Ramsey, fresh from a hattrick, makes lots of storming midfield runs and leaves Xhaka exposed.

The defence, too, is a worry: Arsenal haven't kept a clean sheet in eight league games. Laurent Koscielny looks increasingly sluggish and Shkodran Mustafi too impetuous. It's hardly the most outlandish bet, but I'm going to back Harry Kane to open the scoring at [4.6] - he might find a surprising amount of space against these Arsenal centre-backs.

The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

The stakes are high for both in this critical North London derby, Tottenham are currently four points ahead of their neighbours who sent a strong message across London with their 5-1 demolition of Everton last week. With Chelsea's dip in form the top four has become a much more achievable position for both these sides and although no further incentive is required for this match, they will both know the importance of a victory.

Spurs secured their place in the next round of the FA cup with a couple of first half goals against Newport County in midweek and were able to rest some of their quality squad for this game, with one eye on Juventus in the Champions League to come also. The hosts are now unbeaten in their last 11 competitive games, winning seven and they have beaten Arsenal in their last two at home, albeit at White Hart Lane.

At the Emirates Arsenal are certainly a formidable outfit, however, on the road it's a different matter. Arsene Wenger's side have only won one of their last eight in all competitions when away from home and at around [3.78] in the Match Odds market (I had them at [4.0]) they are a bit short in my opinion.

I had Spurs odds-on for this, and so at around [2.08] they look a solid bet to me, a win here would put a big nail in their rival's top four credentials at the same time as moving themselves into a Champions League slot putting even more pressure on Chelsea's game on Monday night.

If you wanted to enhance the Tottenham win odds, they have been starting well in games, and have been winning at both Half Time and Full Time in five of their last six home Premier League games, they can be backed in the Half Time/Full Time market at around [3.5].

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