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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.