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Tactical Points from Arsenal's NLD defeat

By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)

An age-old Mourinho sucker-punch which continues to create surprises despite how obvious

and mundane it has become:


- Partey was certainly a big boost in midfield in such a big game but the bigger surprise

for me was the inclusion of Xhaka despite the promise of a Partey-Elneny partnership at

Old Trafford.


- It was all about guarding the counterattack- there is no other gameplan for a Mourinho

team. Get bodies around Kane when he receives the ball and keep track of Son’s

movement in behind the defence.


- On the couple of occasions that Spurs entered into the final third in the first half, they

scored. These tactics were as predictable as it gets when facing a Mourinho team, yet

it seemed to a rendition of Wenger’s games against Mourinho. Commit bodies

forward, not close down the focal threats, and get smashed on the counter-attack. This

naivety is something we have never seen under Arteta in any of the big games but the

desperation to score proved to be very costly.


- Other than a handful of moments, we were always in control but the build-up was

always too predictable. Xhaka hugging that left side every chance he gets meant the

attack was always oriented towards that flank but the predictability made it too easy

for Tottenham to handle.


- Lacazette as an attacking midfielder seems to be getting him involved in the Europa

games but he never seemed to have a good grasp of the role he needed to execute

here. It didn’t help that he was essentially man-marked by Hojbjerg but he had to show

for the ball more.


- Most of the play was always about going from side-to-side and trying to create

overloads mainly because there was no one coming in to receive the ball in the central

areas and link up with the likes of Saka and Auba- this is the role Lacazette was

tasked with.


- While most of the build-up play was slow and devoid of urgency, there were a few

occasions where overloads were created and we seemed to get into promising

positions but the cutbacks and crosses seemed to lack the quality to trouble the

opposition.


- The other issue with the slow build-up was that Saka and Tierney seemed to

always get in each other’s way when the ball was moved from side to side and the

lack of coordination seemed to slow down things even more. Towards the end of the

second half, Tottenham essentially had two players to support the full-back which

crowded out Saka and Willian and they needed someone like Lacazette for another

passing option to create opportunities, but the emphasis seemed to be more on bodies

in the box and this made things stagnant and forced the team to keep going

backwards.


- Perhaps someone like Willock or Maitland-Niles could have been brought on to make

these kinds of auxiliary runs to open up some spaces and make things more fluid.

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