FA Cup Tactical Preview: Arsenal v Tottenham

The pick of Saturday’s FA Cup third round clashes sees Tottenham Hotspur travel to fierce rivals Arsenal off the back of their 2-1 victory at Manchester United in the Premier League.

New Spurs manager Tim Sherwood will be relishing the opportunity to get another high-profile result, but Arsenal have won four of their last five at home to their north London rivals and have been in great form of late.

The Gunners go into the tie as favourites at 1.98 to win, whilst Spurs are outsiders at 3.80.

Possible line-ups


Arsenal are likely to be without forwards Olivier Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner, meaning that Theo Walcott could play down the middle with Tomas Rosicky coming in off the right. Kieran Gibbs is a doubt, so Nacho Monreal could continue playing at left-back. Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey remain missing through injury.

Spurs too have injury problems, with Paulinho, Andros Townsend, Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen all set to be unavailable. A similar back four to the one that faced Manchester United at Old Trafford is thus likely to start at the Emirates. Further forward, ex-Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor should be fit.


Spurs' newfound attacking threat

Sherwood has transformed Spurs into a side that now pose a serious attacking threat to their opponents. The fitness of Adebayor is a huge boost given his form of four goals in five games, with Sherwood again likely to opt for the progressive, yet at times counter-attacking 4-4-2 displayed in Manchester on New Year’s Day.

Roberto Soldado was the furthest forward Spurs striker there, with Adebayor dropping off to link the play and help in transitions. This almost made the formation switch between a 4-4-2 and a 4-4-1-1.

Christian Eriksen's play from the left-hand side was also interesting as he'd drift infield at times to link up with Adebayor and Soldado, allowing space on the left for full-back Danny Rose to move into. On the opposite flank, Aaron Lennon consistently held his position out wide in order to help stretch the play.

It is Adebayor who should be considered the key man though.

The Togo international will certainly be up for facing his former side, whilst as well as the fine header that opened the scoring against United, he also linked the play brilliantly, completing 93% of his attempted passes on New Year’s Day.

If Arsenal are to stop Spurs from scoring then they'll have to marshal Adebayor carefully as he looks to move into deeper areas and link the play.

The battle out wide

Both teams will set up with wide men who will play in different ways.

For Spurs, Lennon should stick to the right flank and give his side some real width, with Kyle Walker also getting down the right on the overlap. Lennon works hard to recover so will be looking to track the runs of Arsenal's marauding left-back, either Monreal or Gibbs.

This side of the field will be a key battleground. Santi Cazorla drifts infield from the left, meaning that Monreal or Gibbs will have licence to attack and provide width.

As we can see below, against Cardiff on New Year’s Day Monreal was getting up and down the left flank all afternoon in order to provide an outlet, whilst Cazorla drifted centrally.


On the flip side though, the Gunners get little cover from the attack-minded Cazorla, making them vulnerable in two-on-one situations down their left if Spurs can catch them on the break.


Much of Arsenal's wing play will come from their full-backs who will look to get involved when their wide men come into central areas.


Their injury problems mean that Walcott will probably start upfront given that Lukas Podolski was ineffective in this role against Cardiff. Walcott playing from the centre still means he'll peel off and move into the channels, but Rosicky – who is likely to play from the right – will not provide much width at all and will instead look to crowd the middle, again putting emphasis on the full-back to raid forward.


In his 26 minute cameo against Cardiff, Rosicky spent most of the time in behind the forward despite being stationed loosely from the right.



In turn, Bacary Sagna spent all game getting into very advanced positions down the right flank, similarly to Monreal on the other side, in order to provide an outlet ball for his teammates when things got overly crowded in the centre of the park. This battle out wide will be crucial in determining who wins, as both sides have the capacity to overload things in the centre of the park but also allow the play to drift wide through their full-backs.




With Spurs now finding their feet under Sherwood and Arsenal leading the pack in the Premier League this could be a fascinating FA Cup third round encounter between the rivals.

Having won at Old Trafford Spurs should go into this game without any fear, although they will know that they're going up against the top flight’s form side in Arsenal, who also have a good recent record at the Emirates against Spurs.

That record, plus the energy and emotion that Spurs spent in Manchester, can lead the hosts to a narrow home win.

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