Tottenham travel to the Emirates Stadium unbeaten in 10 Premier League games, having won five of their last seven.
Since an opening day defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, Spurs have been quietly working their way up the table. Chelsea’s misfortunes mean the top four is a real possibility for Mauricio Pochettino’s side this year. A win against their fiercest rivals will boost those chances even further, so here are five things Tottenham must do to beat Arsenal.
Create chances for their talisman, Harry Kane
A rather obvious starting point, but one worth pointing out nonetheless.
After a slow start to the season, Kane’s return to form has added another element to an already impressive Spurs side. When the goals did temporarily dry up for the England striker, his attitude and work rate - coupled with his ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play - meant his place in the starting XI was never really under threat.
With four goals in his last two league appearances, Kane will be hoping to emulate his match-winning performance against Arsenal back in February. To do this, he’ll need some assistance.
Despite his ability to create chances for himself through sheer effort, the 22-year-old is more likely to get on the scoresheet when those behind him are producing too. Erik Lamela provided the assist for Kane’s late goal against Aston Villa on Monday, while Christian Eriksen was the difference when Kane bagged a hat-trick at Bournemouth a week earlier.
Give Christian Eriksen the correct role
Tottenham’s creative catalyst Eriksen was superb in Spurs’ 5-1 thrashing of Bournemouth last month, producing the pass that led to the awarding of a penalty as well as beautifully assisting Kane for his second goal of three.
Since returning from an early season injury, the Dane has proven his capability in playing both centrally and from the left of an attacking midfield trio. Generally it doesn’t matter where he is situated as long as he can drift into the centre, where he is most effective.
Against Arsenal, however, it is crucial Eriksen is given the right role to suit the visitors’ game plan. If he is deployed on the left, he must be given strict instructions to track right back Mathieu Debuchy so that Danny Rose isn’t left exposed to the overlap.
There’s no doubting Eriksen’s attributes are more suited to a free role, where he can be left to roam behind Kane and get dangerous shots away when he can. Mauricio Pochettino will do well to establish a system in which Eriksen can cause havoc in the final third while simultaneously dropping deep to provide defensive cover.
Get the best out of Eric Dier and Erik Lamela defensively
Christian Eriksen won’t be the only one with added defensive responsibilities against Arsenal. On the other wing, Erik Lamela must be aware of Kyle Walker’s vulnerability at right-back. Thankfully, Lamela is better suited than Eriksen in this regard. He must, however, cut out the numerous fouls he commits week in, week out, especially with the competence of Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez from set pieces.
Another inevitable Arsenal threat will be Mesut Ozil, which is why Spurs will require a big performance from Eric Dier in defensive midfield.
The England under-21 international has been a revelation in his new role, putting in countless man of the match displays since familiarising himself with the duties of holding the midfield. Dier is a master of ushering attackers into non-threatening positions, something he will have to do twice as well against the in-form Ozil.
Press Arsenal at the right times
Even after over a year in the job, Mauricio Pochettino is still uncomfortable with deploying a constant pressing game at Tottenham. Perhaps it will come one day, or maybe the Argentine has tweaked his tactical philosophy since leaving Southampton. Fittingly, one of the best examples of Spurs’ facility to press was in this fixture last season.
Nacer Chadli’s goal was the result of Tottenham pressing Arsenal high up the pitch; the Belgian finished neatly after Eriksen and Lamela combined for the assist.
That day, the Gunners were some distance away from their current fine form, and so on this occasion it is important Tottenham press only when it’s a viable option. Arsenal have the propensity to exploit the high press with their renowned passing game, so Spurs must stay alert.
Don’t ‘do a Spurs’
The White Hart Lane faithful are all too familiar with their side snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but perhaps times are changing.
In their first home game of the season, Tottenham were cruising against Stoke City before typically throwing away a two-goal lead, dropping two points in the process. Ironically, that draw marked the start of the club’s current unbeaten run, which has stretched to over a quarter of a league campaign.
Spurs fell back into old habits in their last league match against Aston Villa, failing to add to a 2-0 advantage and allowing their opponents a way back into the game all too easily. The welcome difference? Tottenham scored the fourth goal instead of conceding it.
If this team can utilise their newfound robustness in the derby, who’s to say what they can achieve?