Tac­ti­cal bat­tle ex­pected at White Hart Lane

CityPress - - Sport -

Arsène Wenger’s in­tro­duc­tion of a 3-4-2-1 sys­tem has seen Arse­nal record three wins in a row and move back into the race for a top-four fin­ish.

Per­haps see­ing the trend of lead­ers Chelsea and Tot­ten­ham in sec­ond, Wenger de­cided to re­vert to a back-three, and used the likes of Héc­tor Bellerín, Na­cho Mon­real, Alex OxladeCham­ber­lain and Kieran Gibbs as wing backs.

Bar­ring an ex­tra­or­di­nary col­lapse, this sea­son’s ti­tle may have been de­cided at the Emi­rates Sta­dium on Septem­ber 24, when Chelsea man­ager An­to­nio Conte switched from a back-four to a back-three.

A 13-match un­beaten streak fol­lowed and, with a four-point lead over sec­ond-placed Spurs, any­thing less than a vic­tory for the Li­ly­whites over the Gun­ners in north Lon­don may hand it to Conte’s side.

Yet, White Hart Lane has be­come a fortress un­der Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino as a re­mark­able 17-game un­beaten run tes­ti­fies: 16 wins and one draw, while rack­ing up 54 goals and con­ced­ing just 12.

Arse­nal’s sur­prise move to a back-three is a pos­si­ble sign they have seen Chelsea and Spurs’ suc­cess of the for­ma­tion, and be­lieve this may be the fu­ture in the Pre­mier League.

Match­ing up against Spurs’ 3-4-2-1 to­day seems to make sense for the Gun­ners as it af­fords them the op­por­tu­nity to go like-for­like in mid­field, and to ex­pose the de­fen­sive fal­li­bil­ity of more at­tack-minded wing backs such as Kieran Trip­pier and Son He­ung-min.

Son was a sur­prise pick at left wing back for Spurs in the 4-2 de­feat to Chelsea, and it was his in­ex­pe­ri­ence at de­fend­ing one on one in deep po­si­tions that saw Vic­tor Moses brought down in the box with Wil­lian con­vert­ing the spot kick. How­ever, Po­chet­tino has since hinted that he may fill the role again with Danny Rose doubt­ful due to in­jury.

It is hard not to ad­mire a sys­tem that al­lows full backs to op­er­ate vir­tu­ally as wingers, while giv­ing Spurs the chance to at­tack the fi­nal third with up to six play­ers at any one time.

Their for­ward bursts have freed up Chris­tian Erik­sen and Dele Alli to drift into those awk­ward po­si­tions to de­fend three­quar­ter spa­ces, in what are in ef­fect in­side for­ward po­si­tions be­hind Harry Kane.

In the same way, Wenger will no doubt be hop­ing the likes of Alexis Sánchez and Me­sut Özil can ex­ploit those same gaps be­hind, say, Olivier Giroud. Which­ever way it plays out, it is sure to be a fas­ci­nat­ing tac­ti­cal bat­tle in the fi­nal north Lon­don derby at the Lane.

In team news, Mousa Dem­bélé is doubt­ful for Spurs with an an­kle in­jury, while Rose could make his re­turn for the first time since Jan­uary.

Laurent Ko­scielny and Shko­dran Mustafi could also miss out for Arse­nal, though David Ospina may be fit to re­turn.

Other big games to­day see Sun­der­land face Bournemouth, know­ing any­thing less than a win will mean rel­e­ga­tion. Mid­dles­brough also have to beat top-four chas­ing Manch­ester City to stand a chance.

Swansea City visit fifth-placed Manch­ester United and are des­per­ate for a win. Ever­ton take on Chelsea at Good­i­son Park, while Wat­ford are at home to third-placed Liver­pool.

– TEAMtalk Me­dia

PHOTO: STU­ART MAC­FAR­LANE / ARSE­NAL FC VIA GETTY IM­AGES

FLY­ING TACKLE Shko­dran Mustafi of Arse­nal chal­lenges Vic­tor Wanyama of Tot­ten­ham in a Pre­mier League match. The two clubs meet again this af­ter­noon

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