How Spurs can shackle high flying Arsenal

by Marc Sibbons

Friday, November 19th, 2010

From a Spurs point of view, Saturday lunchtime’s match against their great rivals is by far the biggest game of the season so far. Both teams are high in confidence following impressive wins in the last outing with Spurs securing a high scoring 4-2 home win against Blackburn and Arsenal grinding out a gutsy win against Everton at Goodison Park.

With the signing of Rafael Van Der Vaart and the rise of Gareth Bale, some fans will say that this is Tottenham’s best chance of overcoming Arsenal on their own turf, but how many times has this been said in the past with no return? the facts don’t lie. Spurs have now gone a miserable 17 years without a win at Arsenal, with last seasons 3-0 loss at the Emirates proving to be a painful reminder for the Spurs faithful. However, optimists such as myself believe that come 12.45pm on the 20th November 2011, Spurs are more than well equipped to beat statistics and come out on top of the much anticipated North London derby.

So, how are Spurs going to tackle the high flying Gunners in their own back yard? and is the squad capable of mounting a serious challenge this time around? The answer to the latter is yes, but the former is far more complicated. Going into Saturdays game, Arsenal sit comfortably in second place in the table where their young squad continues to quietly grind out results on a weekly basis. Impressively they hold the best away record in the league, and are certainly proving to be a force to be reckoned with during this campaign.

First an foremost, Spurs need to play with a mix of intensity and passion that a derby match craves. We need to be employ the same tactics we had in conquering the mighty Inter Milan at The Lane on that memorable night in order to overcome a team that are odds on favourites.

My biggest worry is our ability to cope defensively against an outfit that is scoring for fun this season. The expected back four of Hutton, Kaboul, Gallas and Assou-Ekotto will have to be at their best to eliminate any threat of the Arsenal front line. Samir Nasri, Marouane Chamakh and Cesc Fabregas are in the in-form players we have to be wary off when not in possession of the ball. These three players will inevitably make forward runs throughout the match and test our resolve defensively. Containing the midfield is crucial, but not always as easy at it sounds.

Redknapp will surely identify this threat and look to cut of the supply line of Arsenal’s midfield in which they counter attack so impressively. The loss of Tom Huddlestone is a big blow for Spurs, who would look to execute the key defensive role. Wilson Palacios or even Sandro will now be in line to fill the void. If we can contain their midfield and gain an upper hand in terms of possession than we stand in a good chance of winning the game.

I would have thought Redknapp will be sticking with the tactic of Van Der Vaart playing off a lone target striker. Crucially, VDV needs to find space in the ‘hole’ in order to be at his imperial best for Spurs. If he does find the space and continues his recent form, Spurs can certainly cause Arsenal’s back line problems. He will have to overcome the rejuvenated Alex Song, who is likely to be the man in charge of marking VDV.

The wide areas of the huge Emirates pitch also needs to be penetrated;  the right sided Aaron Lennon is expected to be available whilst the in form Gareth Bale holds the key to getting behind the Arsenal rearguard. Bale in particular will look to get to the by-line past full back Bacary Sagna and put in teasing balls for Peter Crouch or Roman Pavlyuchenko, in which he is certainly capable.

The returning Jermain Defoe will probably start on the bench, but provides Spurs with an excellent option to nick a goal in the final 20-30 mins if need be. Defoe also offers the possibility of changing our formation by sacrificing one of the five midfield players for two strikers up top; effectively becoming a standard 4-4-2 formation or the diamond variation of this tactic.

Tottenham will ultimately look to Both Newcastle’s and West Brom’s impressive feats of coming away from the Emirates with 3 points this season, so why can’t Spurs? With respect to both of those clubs (who are exceeding everyone’s expectations this term), they are mid table clubs at best that many would have tipped to be slaughtered by Arsenal. As always, the expecting Spurs fans will crave 3 points against their neighbouring rivals, and who is to say this feat isn’t possible if they play their card’s right on the day.

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  • torontogooner

    You want to play a possession game with arsenal??? that doesn’t sound too smart. I give you guys a lot of credit because you have a good squad and i know this will be a tough match for either team to win outright but i think arsenal will take one 2-0

  • goonerjon

    How come Lennon and Defoe had no chance of palying at the weekend (Redknapp exclusive) and now they are both up for it….Harry the dodgy chancer leading you sad fans wherever he says….new stadium yeah..but where? Robbie Keane great player? Pavlyuchenko…will someone make up Harry’s mind is he great or crap? Crouch…same thing…you sad,sad,people…..

  • Marc Sibbons

    I said we need to control the possession or Arsenal will hurt us with their counter attacking football. If Spurs can stop the likes of Fabregas, Nasri and Wilshere playing the ball around then we will have a good chance. This is of course going to be a massive task, but something we are capable of. Whether we pull this off is another question. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Spurs lost but i am hopeful we can at least get a draw.

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