Premier League Tactical Preview: Spurs v Arsenal

All eyes will be on White Hart Lane this Sunday, as in-form Spurs host archrivals Arsenal. With Tottenham third and Arsenal fifth in the Premier League, this game will have huge ramifications for the chase for a Champions League place. Arsenal are slight outsiders at 2.95, with Spurs are marginal favourites at 2.35. Spurs have lost their last two league fixtures against Arsenal, but did win last season’s clash at the Lane 2-1. They come into this fixture having won three on the spin, and are unbeaten in eleven Premier League fixtures.

Probable line-ups

Spurs will probably play the same 4-2-3-1 formation that got them three points against West Ham. Gareth Bale, Lewis Holtby and Aaron Lennon will support Adebayor, whilst Scott Parker and Mousa Dembele play at the base of the midfield. Long term absentees include Sandro and Jermain Defoe.

For Arsenal Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs are doubts which will likely see Nacho Monreal play at left-back and Carl Jenkinson come in at right-back. Arsenal opted for Olivier Giroud up top against Aston Villa, with Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott in support. We could see a repeat on Sunday, although Lukas Podolski is pushing for a return.

Can Arsenal contain Gareth Bale?

Gareth Bale has been in incredible form this season, scoring 15 league goals including two that helped Spurs beat West Ham on Monday. In fact, Bale has scored six goals in his last four Premier League games and there is probably no player in English football in better form right now. If Arsenal fail to contain him, it will cost them the game.

Bale will probably play loosely behind Adebayor, although he does tend to interchange with Holtby and drift left. He is very difficult to mark in this role. Bale can drag the opposition right-back inside, creating space on the overlap, and also takes up the sort of position that will require interventions from Mikel Arteta. Bale is equally adept at going on the outside of his full-back at pace and firing quality deliveries into the box.

Bale's average position (no.11) against West Ham was very advanced - and very central. We can also see Lewis Holtby (23) is playing tucked, covering the left and the central areas. This is something to watch: one would expect Holtby to cover for Bale if he surges forward, whereast Lennon (7) typically holds his position as a wide right player. Jenkinson will have a huge task on to contain Bale and Holtby on his own, meaning the central midfielders must share the man-marking responsibilities. With Adebayor struggling to fire up top, stopping Bale can mean stopping Spurs from scoring.

The midfield battle

The loss of Sandro has been a blow for Spurs, given that Parker hasn't been at his best since returning from injury. Parker will have to be on top form against Arsenal, a side who like to dominate possession in the midfield.

Arteta, at the base of the midfield, is Arsenal’s most influential player, and as such Spurs might chose to sit Holtby on top of him to disrupt his flow. Arteta actually completes more passes per game than any other Premier League player (86.8), which demonstrates how crucial he is to Arsenal’s possession game. Cutting off his ability to link the play will draw Arsenal into a more direct game and possibly mean that the likes of Wilshere will have to come deeper to show for the ball.

Arsenal play with three central midfielders (assuming Cazorla plays in a wider role) whilst Spurs opt for two holding players with Holtby/Bale in front to link with the striker. Dembele’s role in midfield transitions is crucial for Spurs in this regard, whilst Parker will sit deep and look to watch Cazorla as well as the forward runs of Wilshere. Bale might need to go wide at times or risk over-crowding the Spurs midfield.


Spurs will go into this game high on confidence, whilst Arsenal know that they have to win. The Gunners' form has picked up domestically; despite getting knocked out of the FA Cup and being on the brink of a Champions League exit, they have won their last three Premier League fixtures. If they can stop Bale, they will go some way to stopping Spurs - and will take a big step towards Champions League qualification.

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