Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Spurs

Tottenham’s latest visit to the Emirates has to potential to be an uplifting and revitalizing game but it can also, just as easily, pile on the pressure.

Wenger can pick a strong side for this one as the players have had a week to recover from the previous fixture. Koscielny and Gibbs will be given fitness tests and I have a feeling both will get into the starting line-up even if they’re on the edge. In the midfield Ramsey picked up an injury in the previous game so Song and Arteta are most likely to have Rosicky in front of them. Out wide Arsene will have to pick two out of Walcott, AOC, and Gervinho. All three have their sets of strengths and weaknesses and it’s tough to say who is better suited. I’d go with experience.

Preferred line-up,

Szczesny – Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs – Song, Rosicky, Arteta – Walcott, RvP, Gervinho.

Barring fitness issues, I guess the only real talking point in the side is the choice between Theo and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The thing is, it’s not hard to imagine either of them doing well but both have their set of limitations as well. A lot of Walcott’s game relies on the supply that he gets. When he sees a lot of the ball after a slow build-up and in a congested area his output is quite poor. But most people also realize he can be absolutely lethal if he gets the ball early or in behind. With AOC the positives are in his ability to dribble and take on opponents. But the youngster is still in a developing phase and his positioning, decisions on the ball, and tactical awareness aren’t always at the level needed. I guess Wenger just has to take a call based on what he has seen in training this week.

Tactically this should be an interesting game. Tottenham like to come out with high intensity for the opening 10 minutes or so. I expect them to press Arsenal higher up the pitch and in a fairly coordinated manner. The Gunners must avoid making individual mistakes under such pressure. On the other hand, such an approach will also provide openings for Arsenal to make the breakthrough as they will find more space.

If the game is level, or if they take the lead, after the opening salvo from Spurs, they’re likely to drop deeper and will then rely on counter-attacks and long diagonals. Sagna has done well against Bale in the past but the Gunners will have to track his movement, especially if he drifts inside. Van der Vaart is another player who has posed problems to Arsenal with his movement across the pitch after starting in a wide role on the Right.

The midfield has to find it’s rhythm and shape back. Arsenal went on a strong run after the defeat in the reverse fixture as the defence got excellent support from the three midfielders. It’s hard to say why that’s not been consistently visible since the turn of the year but it’s easy to predict Arsenal will struggle without getting their tactical cohesion back.

Tottenham’s full-backs have the pace to match Arsenal’s wingers but they can make mistakes if isolated. Recently, Arsenal haven’t moved the ball well enough or at the right speed to achieve that. Gervinho can also find a lot of joy between the lines if he picks his runs across the width of the pitch in an intelligent manner. Such movement is vital to Arsenal’s ability to open  opposition defences but hasn’t been seen often enough in the recent past. Again movement alone is never sufficient and those in possession must also display the ability to find the player getting into such spaces. Vision and execution too have been problem areas during the rough patch.

Many fans will also be looking for a much improved effort from Szczesny who hasn’t delivered a satisfactory performance on a consistent basis in the last few weeks. The youngster’s reflexes, positioning, and decision making will surely be tested in this game.

I will be very surprised if both sides don’t score in this game. Given Arsenal’s recent defensive efforts, anything less than two goals for Spurs will be an improvement. With that in mind Arsenal would need three goals or more to win this one. To be honest, it’s difficult to visualize that happening. The best I can see from Arsenal is a draw. The Gunners have the ability to win the game against such opponents but they’ve not performed at that level for quite some time now. Watching Arsenal getting back to form in the North London Derby can be one of the highlights of the season but only the optimists will expect that in this game.

My biggest wish from this game is to see a better collective defensive effort. Everything else can be built on that and the fourth place can be achieved. I really do want the Gunners to focus on that because in the recent seasons there have been far too many phases where one defensive frailty or another have cost the team crucial points and Cup ties. Similarly in reverse, strong runs have also been built on well-organized team efforts where the combined output is much better than the sum of the parts.

This game will also be a good test of the mental strengths of this side. This season they’ve achieved some remarkable comebacks and many consider the current squad to be stronger in that regard. In less than nine hours we will learn more.


49 Responses to Thoughts On Tactics And Starting Eleven Against Spurs

  1. SAM says:

    Recall the AV game. If the gunners play like in the Av game there is no reason why they they can’t win. Every gunner must play like a terrier and hunt down any Spurs player with the ball. Don’t give them the time and space.That is what other teams are doing to Arsenal.
    You look at Lennon and Bale. They are at their best when given space and time. You put two markers on them and they will be nullified.Of course that will give sothers space.For all the headline about Bale he can be neutralised if the gunners have a game plan.
    If the gunners score first they must retain their defensive shape otherwise it will be a Newcastle nightmare replayed wuth dire consequences for both Arsenal and Arsene.

    • Dhruv says:

      I hope the team forgets the two losses against Milan and Sunderland and gets into this match fresh with an intention to win. Spuds match is always special. I recon Walcott will be important if Rosicky can find him in space. 3-2 to Arsenal!

  2. Gunn says:

    Why choose Walcott ?
    Because AOC “is still in a developing phase and his positioning, decisions on the ball, and tactical awareness aren’t always at the level needed.”… as if Walcott’s positioning, decisions on the ball n tactical awareness is better!
    Walcott seems worse than AOC in these respects although the latter lacks the experience.

    • santori says:

      I don’t know why people seem to think Chamberlain is already better than Walcott.

      Granted he may be better developed at this stage of the career and have more potential, but he has a lot to learn.

      Sunderland were toying with him at times in the FA.

      OTOH, I do believe Walcott has an agenda to prove his critics wrong.

      Tactically, Walcott over-processes where as Chamberlain works on natural instincts.

      That said, I would pick Walcott to start just that he has more experience working defensively with Sagna and they will need to work in tandem to shut out Bale (Spurs right side)

      But Chamberlain should come on at some point as the game stretches.

      Also less we forget, yes the little Russian is off to the shop window but there is also the Israeli who has been looking sharp in the reserve match.

  3. seedick says:

    no win for arsenal. its a really v poor team + we hv lot of players who cn score on goals or concede pnalty…

  4. Femzo says:

    Something a lot of people dont realise is that Walcot helps a lot in defence and, against an expolsive player like Bale on the flanks Sagna will definetly need all the help he can get ,besides if that decision turns out to be a disaster ,The OX can always be injected in the second half

  5. Okiradu Ekiring says:

    My main problem with arsenal is attacking side and it comes from the middle.Arteta is good but very slow.

  6. plz wenger dnt use ramsey 4us

  7. Judith Le'Strange says:

    I hope we can up our gam from the previous two where we were thumped well and truly. The defenders have got to be especially inspired today especially if they know anything about grudge matches and this is one of our defining moments as if we fail to win yet again or even come away with a draw we are still in fifth place and will only be in the Europa cup next season if we’re lucky and the only trophy we will win once again is the wooden spoon!!!

  8. oputa bartholomew says:

    Our attarkers should also learn how to position themself infront of goal so as not to lost any chance GOODLUCK MY DEAR GUNNERS

  9. Gordon Stokey says:

    If there was ever a game for AW to abandon his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, which plays like 4-2-4-0 (I.e. 2 midfielders and 4 forwards behind a non-existent lone striker) it is this one. Bale and Van Der Vaart can be allowed no space whatsoever on the flanks and the full backs will need all the help they can get. If I were Wenger (and I am not, as hie is a purist rather than a tactician), I would play 4-4-2 with a midfield 4 consisting of Song and Arteta in the middle. If Santos were fit, I’d play him on the left wing and Rosicky who can get stuck in, on the right. I would then play two upfront and here you can have RvP and a choice of Walcott or Gervinho in support. If Santos isn’t fit, then Gervinho or Walcott must be played on the wing and told to stay there, or at least okay the role Wiltord used to in that position.

    • santori says:

      NO time for experiments and players in unfamiliar roles.

      They hav got to drill, do their job and do it right.

      If anything, we need to be wary of our shape and pull ourselves back effectively when defending.

      It’ll be an open game which will afford us chances.

      Bear in mind that we have only scored one less goal than Spurs who are ten pts above us. The diff lies in the defensive record albeit we have let in one less than them at home. Statistics I know but we are not as uncompetitive as many would suggest (just on the road)

      • Gordon Stokey says:

        442 was the formation deployed in first half of league cup versus Man City, where arsenal tore them apart. In second half, we reverted to 42(3+1)0 and got turned over in midfield

  10. mansour hassani says:

    aoc is the best to start da game nt walcot y da moment we have to sell him

    • santori says:


      Chamberlain is massive potential but Walcott is still tactically more experience.

      It depends what kind of game he brings on the day.

      Bear in mind as well that Walcott and RVP do very well together and we may have some opportunies on the break if we can transition into attack quicker.

      In this respect, Rosicky may be crucial in helping us spread play between wings mmore effectively where Ramsey has been more ponderous.

  11. Awuzieke lyke Owerri lmo state, Nigeria says:

    For Arsenal to get something out of Spurs encounter, i advice they play out there heart. Never allow Bale and Lennon the space to run wit d ball. Arsenal should adopt massive attack and massive defence approach. The predicted starting eleven is perfect.

  12. arna says:

    Hope Kozzer do play. However, I don’t think it will be wise to play Gibbs. We can’t take the risk of getting him injured once more when he is clearly not physical at full potential. Besides with possibly Gervinho in front of him, he won’t get too much support as well. My preferred line up will be:


    yennaris kozzer vermaelen sagna

    arteta song rosicky

    Ox RVP Gervinho

    But i doubt Wenger will play Yennaris coz he love his incredible Djourou too much.

    The Gunner in me say we’ll win this match.

    • santori says:

      Might as well play Gibbs now. This game is as big as any.

      In fact, we need to push through 3 big games in succession (Liverpool next and Newcastle). We must win them all plus not to mention there is that reverse fixture with Milan where we shall win 5-0. (RVP hattrick, Walcott and an Ibrahimovich OG):D

      Am I being over optimistic I ask you?;)

      In any case, Santos is fast on the mend. If Gibbs can stand, I say play him!

      • arna says:

        Its nice to see u being optimistic. In Arsenal We Trust! If the players play with their heart everything is possible coz we do have some fantastic players in our squad.

  13. Borntobeagunner(btbag) says:

    Well done Desi, well observed i must say, your tactical points are crystal clear and obviously is the case with the team play. The result will depend on zeal, commitment and mind grudges, i cant see a clear predicted result here but all i know the spurs are much in trouble as arsenal might be. Those bearing grudges against ramsey should save it for another day bcos he is injured for todays match. From naija fan

  14. santori says:

    We’re going to have to play out of our skins. Song will need to be massive and RVP will have to knock’em in.


  15. chrispur says:

    Can’t wait for this game, its nice to be even money away at the death star, but at the same time a nervy fixture for the spurs..

    I look forward to one of the most intense derbys in modern football

    COYS !

  16. SA Gunner says:

    I think we can win this, I have seen us being able to put in good performances against the likes of City, United (at home), Chelsea and even the Spurs match at WHL. The key here as Desi mentioned is to make sure our shape is retained and most importantly we limit the space for them to work with, as they will do with us.

    They will indeed be looking to show us they are better and we can use this to our advantage with the potential spaces it will create. They are not a better outfit than United this year, forget the pundits proclamations, so I dont expect them to come and put in a better performance.

    But most importantly, any obvious results are thrown out of the window because this is a derby… remember that.

    Id start with Walcott and replace him with Chamberlain in the second half.

  17. chrispur says:


    i can’t wait for arsenal to double up on bale, it will allow others, lennon, VdV and of course our striker…. to do damage.

    plus there is no way your defence will keep him quiet for the whole game x

    • SA Gunner says:

      Chris, where was Bale in the games against City and Liverpool recently? It seems that he tends to go missing in the bigger ones… And this is the biggest game for his team this season, so I watch with interest. But make no mistake we will be watching him.

      I would issue out a similar warning to you friend, beware of the best striker in the world coming up against your defense today.

      Looking forward to this one

      • James says:

        City when he scored a goal of the season contender and nearly set up the winner for Defoe…?

      • Spudgun says:

        O dear,did you not see the goal he got at city? And at Liverpool he could have won the game late on,it’s over live with it.

  18. kafuuzi jackson karugaba says:

    I believe if we lose this, we shall lose all self respect as a team and most probably finish in the tenth position on the table.
    We badly need to beat Spurs in order to build momentum and keep fighting for the champions league position.

  19. GunZ BlaziN says:

    double up or triple up on bale, does it really matter, all our players just need to give it their all, the last few games have been so poor and such little effort has been shown, arsenal is about fighters and to prove doubters wrong, Up Gunners

  20. Kayciey says:

    Wenger keep thinking that the game is stagnant and keeps selling players year in year out. The team can never win anything that way. He sold cole, adebayor, toure, clichy, nasri, vieira, hleb, anelka. He replaced them with ramsey, gervinho, chamakh, rosicky, diaby, park, denilson, bentner. Now you know where the problem is…….AFC management is poor. The entire management, coaching and the board should resign or better be sacked. The fans should stop attending these matches. Then and only then will the fortunes change. In the meantime, prepare for spanking by spurs……….how things change….the reversed role.

    • SA Gunner says:

      @spudgun and @james

      Games you no doubt won as a result? Ill ask again, where was he for you.

      No doubt I must credit your best season in 50 years, fantastic achievement, and you have outperformed us in all aspects in the league this year. But to think you are FCB coming to the Emirates to walk over us is a bit much I feel. Heck even Barca came to the Emirates thinking they were Barca and they realised they made a mistake.

      This is a derby, we are going to be hard to beat friends, don’t be surprised if you lose today.

      • KK says:

        Where do they say Spurs are going to walk all over you? You asked a question about Bale which they tried to answer….You can ask the same question about your top players in recent matches. Where was the ‘acclaimed’ best striker in the world against Milan and Sunderland?

        I’ve been watching the NLD for the last 30 years and as a Spurs fan I know nothing is ever easy in this match. I wouldn’t expect for one moment that we can just expect to turn up and turn you over.

        This match is a matter of pride for both clubs and is one of the most important for both sides in a number of seasons. Defeat for Arsenal will be a hard one to take for you as fans as it will only confirm what you suspect, that we are currently a better side, A defeat for us will be a reality check and the realisation that a 10pt lead is not that big of a gap that some of our fans seem to think. Although a defeat is not the end of the world for us, it will put some doubts into the fans and players thinking and with games to come against Man U & Chelsea next month it will be interesting to see how we cope.

        Personally I’d be happy with a draw today.

      • SA Gunner says:

        Have a look, terms to the effect of Its Over and the Arsenal defence will not be able to hold Bale makes me think about the notion that many of your co-supporters seem to think in one specific way. Where that is your right I’m merely saying that it won’t be as easy as you may think.

        No confirmation needed for many of us. I myself know that Spurs have been better than Arsenal this year. However I agree with you in one area, it won’t be an easy match, much like the last one between us wasn’t. This is going to be a real interesting match and test of the real quality of Tottenham this year, and that of the ailing Gunners of London. But it will keep us entertained no doubt

    • manama says:

      U r merely moaning,moreso in d wrong place.go 2 LE GROVE and join his anti arsenal bandits and wt desi,we look 4 d way foward.nice write up desi,wud start chamberlain,d last 2 matches hv bn difficult nt 4 only him bt d whole team.hope 2day goes our way.alwayz love the arsenal.

  21. Gerry Lennon says:

    I think your team sels is probably right. I just hope that there is enough on the bench to make a difference late on. To that end I would like to see the following:
    Yennaris – a must if Gibbs is struggling for pace late on. Also, good for shoring up the defence if say, Song gets sent off(Mike Dean is the Ref after all)?
    Ozaykup – Surprise if he is in the starting line-up, but he is a quick passing, forward thinking midfielder.Great to have him there if we are chasing the game. So with him and AOC coming on together theycould make quite an impact?
    Along with the usual suspects, of course.
    I don’t think it will be 1-nil to the Arsenal, but right now I would settle for that.

  22. Ado nigeria says:

    I hop djouro wil start, he is good aerially- at dats le prof view. Or why contract extentn?

  23. frick frick says:

    If arsenal’s midfielders can provide rvp with the right thru balls then we could possibly see a very exciting match. He is a big game player and this is possibly the biggest game in arsenal’s season.

  24. olatanimola says:

    gunners most win today pls wenger dont use ramsey

  25. Ade David, a Nigerian Gooner says:

    Just back from the church where I prayed that my darling team should win today.. Desi, this is thesame line up I picked yesterday in one of the Arsenal blogs that I passed comment. The argument was why Theo over Ox? Thesame reason that you gave. Theo has the experience and pace. The style of play of T/ham suits him. Ox may come in at the later part of the game. Anyway, the coach knows what to do. I dont believe that T/ham will come out in 1st 15 minutes of the match. They will like to wait and let the Arsenal brings the game to them. Whatever approach they may bring, I expect us to beat them. Officiating is another issue. Epl officials are always bias against Arsenal. If they are fair we shall carry the day. Up Arsenaaal.

  26. Ade David, a Nigerian Gooner says:

    Oh oon Santori I love you. I love the Arsenal in you,confessing positively. Many people had already written us off in the Champion league. If Milan could scored 4 goals in their home, what stops us from scoring 4 or 5 goals. Lets wait and see.

  27. Ade David, a Nigerian Gooner says:

    The line up is out. Benayoun starts ahead of Gevinho. Ox on the bench too.

  28. SA Gunner says:

    @chrispur @james @spudgun where are you fine gentlemen now?

    Never forget that a derby match is never as straight forward as you think.


    You were spot on mate, hard game. You guys took good advantage of us on the counter, credit is due there. Unfortunately for you when it was odds even again and you guys had to come out and play did you surprisingly fold so easily, even if you were chasing the game.

    Be careful of public opinion, especially when it comes to these sort of games. It is not as straight forward as you may think.

  29. Ade David, a Nigerian Gooner says:

    Beautiful win. We are closing the gap. Our boys should build on this win

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