How Arsenal deservedly won the North London Derby- Tactical Points
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
Comfortable for 80 minutes, nerve-wracking for the rest of it but hey, it wouldn’t be an Arsenal game without some avoidable drama, would it?
Tottenham’s biggest threat is the pace of Bale and Son on the counter-attack. This has been very successful recently, especially in the first half of games. Arsenal struggled with Son’s movement in the away fixture, so restricting the passes from Kane and Bale and tracking Son’s movement was key to neutralising them.
Spurs’ lazy pressing meant Arsenal were able to play out from the back with much more ease than in recent games, repeatedly targeting Doherty on the right side. Smith-Rowe’s smart runs combined with simple balls into the channel were enough to get in behind and open up a normally compact Spurs defence with regular ease but a combination of poor cut-backs and mis-kicks meant there was nothing to show for it. Bale not tracking back allowed Tierney to be his usual self.
The combination of Partey and Arsenal’s centre-backs dominating aerially made sure Kane hardly ever touched the ball for most of the game. Their direct style of play flows through him and his assist record this season is proof of that so minimising his impact prevented Spurs from progressing out of their half. Cedric and Tierney were always tight with Bale and Son, whilst Xhaka marking Ndombele forced the Frenchman into harmless areas stopped them in their tracks completely.
Lamela’s introduction into the ‘Number 10’ position allowed them to progress the ball better and keep possession for relatively longer periods but Arsenals’ superior work rate snuffed out any danger.
Two big takeaway points from this performance are Odegaard’s work ethic and Smith-Rowe’s ball retention. There were questions about the Norwegian’s fitness when he signed but his work rate has been consistently impressive as the minutes have gone up. Smith-Rowe, on the other hand, gives a different dimension to Arsenal’s attack, with his close control in tight situations helping the team enormously.