The second installment of Super Sunday was the North London Derby, to be played at the Emirates. This fixture is always exciting, and carries an edge, but today was a little extra special, as it was a clash of two teams that will surely be gunning for 4th place, and two teams that have had slightly different transfer windows.
Arsenal came into the game with a lot of familiar faces in the side. Koscielny was back from suspension and injury, but Sagna was missing and Jenkinson started. Gibbs was on the left hand side of the defence, and ahead of him was Cazorla, who was given a free role. In midfield, Arsenal started Wilshere, Ramsey and Rosicky, who was furthest forward in the triangle. Giroud was the lone man up front, with Walcott looking to use his pace to penetrate from wide areas.
Spurs started with their usual back 4 of Walker, Dawson, Verthongen and Rose. The trio in midfield was Capoue, Paulinho and Dembele, with Capoue sitting at the base of the diamond. Townsend started on the right wing, and Chadli on the left. Soldado was the striker up front.
Arsenal Attacking Play
AVB, as is well known, generally plays with a very high line to press the game and dominate the midfield area. Wenger countered this by having his team a lot of aerial balls over the Spurs defence to Walcott especially, because of the fact that he has pace to burn. Cazorla was given a free role, and he helped to co-ordinate play along with Wilshere, Ramsey, Rosicky and co. The midfielders played a number of through balls, mostly at Walcott, and even the goal came from this source, with Walcott getting in behind and crossing for an onrushing Giroud.
Spurs’ midfield was set up to dominate the game, but Arsenal were successful in winning that battle,due to the fact that Rosicky and Cazorla were able to provide width, vertical stretch, and good technique (and the amazing Aaron Ramsey). Despite having 44% possession, the Gooners created a number of good chances to score. Due to the high line that Spurs employed, Arsenal were able to get beyond them with alarming regularity, and the defence was often caught facing their own goal, which is never a good situation. It also led to a huge gap between the Spurs midfield and defence, which meant that they couldn’t really send their midfielders bombing forward, leading to problems in attack. Arsenal exploited the high line so well, that Spurs were saved by Lloris very often. The French keeper even made a memorable sliding tackle on Walcott when the Gooner was through on goal.
Spurs Attacking Play
Due to the fact that Cazorla was playing in a free role, Gibbs had little protection ahead of him, which is why Wenger brought on Monreal towards the end to protect that side. This meant that Spurs has opportunities down that side. They enjoyed a lot of space there, and put Townsend, who would cut inside, to keep Gibbs occupied, and Walker, to go down the right and fire in crosses. On his own, Walker had 7 cross attempts from the right hand side during the game.
In midfield though, Spurs probably missed a trick by playing Capoue as a defensive midfielder. They were often caught a bit short on men up front, and Soldado was left a little isolated. This meant that they had to go through the flanks, and that, as we know isn’t always a very efficient way to attack. This is reflected by the shots Spurs had. They had 14 attempts in this Premier League encounter, but most were from outside the box, and the ones inside the box were either blocked, or too weak to really trouble the keeper. The one shot that did was a Defoe shot that took a big deflection. Moussa Dembele too could have been used better. The big Belgian was playing in midfield, and his main task was to direct the play, and get the ball to the wide players, while Capoue broke up play, and Paulinho supported. The Brazilian was a bit off the pace, and therefore couldn’t provide the attacking presence. One feels that AVB may have done well if he had switched the roles that Paulinho and Dembele were playing.
Arsenal Full Backs Pushing Up
In the first half, Spurs found a lot of space for themselves in the wide areas. This happened because of the fact that Arsenal were playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. In such a formation, wingers tend to find spaces in front of the full backs, and try to cut inside and shoot, or play through balls from here. AVB was going for something similar, with his inverted wingers, and was working well to start with. Eventually though, Arsenal grew wise to this, and had Gibbs and Jenkinson push up a little closer to the wingers. This cut of the space in front of them, and forced them to go on the outside. While this wasn’t a problem pace-wise, it stopped the wingers from delivering good quality crosses to Soldado, as they were essentially playing off their weak foot.
Switch to 4-4-2
Towards the end of the game, when Spurs were chasing it, they decided to change over to a 4-4-2. Defoe was brought on, and he was playing just off Soldado. The purpose was to try and have him feed off what he might get from the crosses that were aimed at Soldado. In midfield, he combined the forward runs of Paulinho, along with the defensive stability that Capoue, and his eventual replacement Sandro add. Again, this didn’t really work well, because they couldn’t break through the midfield, with Ramsey and Flamini doing a very good job.
On a side note, Flamini who came on right at the end of the first half, performed admirably on his second Arsenal debut. He sat at the base of the midfield, and did well to handle the likes of Paulinho and Dembele.
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