How Arsenal Ruthlessly Conquered North London- Tactical Points
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
What a first half! Arsenal's suffocating press and clinical attacking football overpowered the Spurs' cohort and gave the host's a well-deserved victory at the Emirates Stadium.
Xhaka not coming back into the starting eleven would have been the surprise rather than him returning. The experienced pivot is very much needed in derbies for that balance between the attack and defence.
Martin Odegaard set the tone of the press throughout the game. Whenever he pressed high, Spurs struggled to play out with Partey and Xhaka having a field day through picking off the loose passes and thus launching counterattacks. When the Norwegian dropped deep, Spurs could play out much easier and this happened far too often in the second half. Having a three-goal lead after 35 minutes will obviously have played a part in this shift.
Odegaard is becoming a crucial part of our build up play with every game but what is also obvious to see is there is still room for improvement in some respects and that shows why he was our top target this summer. He still needs to shield the ball better with his back to a defender and not telegraph his passes too vividly. However, at 22, there’s plenty of time for the rough edges to be refined.
Smith-Rowe and Saka on the left and right respectively with Odegaard in the centre is probably the most secure possession-centric attacking trio we have and the chemistry between them will be the future of this club from an attacking point of view.
With Hojberg occupied in regard to limiting the space for Aubameyang amid Spurs’ centre-backs and the other midfielders pretty much going AWOL, Arsenal just kept moving the ball as quickly as possible centrally to exploit the spaces and made their rivals pay clinically.
The second half started in the same vein as the first in terms of the press a combination of the team started dropping much deeper than necessary and Spurs moving into double pivot gave the visitors an avoidable foothold in the game.
Saka on the right is just so reliable with the ball and the threat he poses every time he receives it. Pepe’s unpredictability with his dribbling is both his strength and most frustrating weakness. However, with Saka, every situation looks dangerous and the opposing full-back is always retreating.
Spurs' Heung-Min Son has always been a menace with his pace and movement over the years, but the Korean seemed reluctant to attack Tomiyasu one-on-one. The Japan international’s blend of speed and aerial ability brings solidity to the right side of the Arsenal defence for the first time in years.
What has impressed everyone about Ramsdale over the 3 games isn’t his shot-stopping ability but rather his infectious energy, calmness on the ball, and crucially, communication with his backline. Leno is perhaps a more model professional in this aspect as he doesn’t get too animated in set-piece situations but Ramsdale seems to be rubbing off on everybody at the club.
Another skill honed from coming through the lower leagues and battling relegation is Ramsdale's long goal kicks. According to FBref, he averages 17 yards more of total kicking distance/90 than Leno in a 3-game comparison. It’s a small sample size to make conclusions from but the difference is pretty much the halfway line and the final third of the pitch.