Three Tactical points we learned from Arsenal v Tottenham

Spurs Tactical Analysis by Alfie Culshaw


Whilst Xhaka has rightfully been heavily criticised for his reckless challenge on Son resulting in Spurs winning a penalty and doubling their lead, I’ve been surprised by the lack of criticism for Sokratis, who made a similarly disastrous mistake. Many will say it’s because this Xhaka incident was hardly in isolation, and is part of a collection of high-profile errors from the Swiss, which is true, but Sokratis’ clumsy, rashness has sort of gone under the carpet. The Greek defender has displayed this ill-discipline on a number of occasions and this has cost us. On Sunday, he found himself in no man’s land when Lloris pumped the ball forward to Kane and decided to neglect his defensive positioning and impede Xhaka, who was trying to win the header. This would’ve been fine, and an example of commanding defending, had he won the header. Instead, a pathetic and half-hearted attempt to win it left him out of position and enabled Spurs to launch the attack. Add to this his lack of awareness from Leno’s parry to notice Eriksen sneaking in, and this was a really poor day for Sokratis.

Whilst Xhaka’s reckless nature and lack of concentration are certainly infuriating elements of his game that need cutting out, I’ve always supported him to an extent, due to what he adds to our side in possession. His expansive passing from deep areas and ability to retain the ball and help sustain attacks have made him vital to our side in recent years, despite all his flaws. However, with the acquisition of David Luiz, who possesses this ability to play these expansive passes from deep and get attacks going by coming into midfield, I’m starting to wonder if Xhaka is needed anymore. If we can take someone out of our side who is likely to make an error due to ill-discipline or immobility every other game, then obviously you’d like to do it. With Luiz possessing the attributes that make Xhaka valuable, maybe its time to opt for our more exciting, agile and young midfielders. Having said that, we know it won’t happen.

Emery opted to deploy a relatively workmanlike midfield 3 on Sunday, possibly opting to solidify us defensively to counteract the front 3 used. However, with the immobile Xhaka placed at the base of the 3, it almost worked to deter us defensively. Spurs carved through us easily on the counter time and time again in the first period, with Torreira and Guendouzi often finding themselves in unnatural forward roles. On top of this, there was no one to link the front 3 and the midfield, no creativity, no one getting in between the lines, essentially making the front 3 ineffective. Ceballos, Ozil or even Willock must be used to fix this, as shown when the former came on.

Anything else you saw? Tell me below….



  1. On the technical side of that game my personal view is that our side is still built to play with a 4231 formation with a DM / a B2B / number 10 between the the two wide players and a ST up top. I feel this offers more balance to the team which we lacked against Spurs.

    For the first half we should have gone with:

    AMN Sok Luiz Kola
    Guendozi Xhaka
    Pepe Ceballos Auba

    Unfortunately Torreira as much as I would like him to succeed mainly because of the underwhelming Xhaka, he seems to be out of form and the NLD is too intense he kept being knocked over and not in very dangerous places where we could profit from. I’m begging to wonder whether he will succeed in the PL with his frame. What this means is lets hope Guendo and Willock improve massively or we are stuck with Xhaka stating every game.

    Emery sometimes over thinks games, by the time we realizes the game is already lost.

    1. We need a physical presence in that Arsenal midfield.What I mean is a player that the opposition midfielders recognise they have to go through.
      It would take a massive improvement from Torreira to be that player as we need him to be.If he doesn’t succeed then Id say it’s a must that we get a new DM

      1. Your thoughts on Sokratis are fully justified.He is on a par with Mustafi and whilst Luiz was a talented centre back a number of years ago, he no longer is.Basically these three along with Xhaka are liabilities we can do without.

  2. On Sokratis, it looks like those who didn’t want us to sign him in the first place have been proved right.Why did we drop our pursuit of Diallo to sign him?Now I see why Dortmund’s defense has improved drastically after just a season after his departure.
    Xhaka imo is not needed in the team, moreso because he’s the DM.He’s not only expected to initiate attacks but to also shield the defense.Luiz is expected to be a defender first.All other things are plusses.Their roles cannot be equated just like that.
    As for the midfield I hope Emery starts Ceballos and Torreira more often because these two must develop an understanding quickly.

  3. 1)
    Yes, Socratis left his position and that started the problems that led to their first goal. But both AMN and Luiz were too slow to see the problem and finally Leno spilled the ball. The first goal was a compilation of errors involving 4 players. So the talk of not using errorprone players is a bit more complicated than not using Xhaka and Socratis

    Yes, Xhaka’s challenge was stupid a should have been avoided. But Son shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. He was, b3cause AMN got passed by a mediocre dribbler like Winks, who easily got to our goalline, where he passed to the unmarked Son.

    If we are to play PAL in front we need a midfield that are a bit more defensive. Those 3 will offer great attacking possibilities, but very little defensively, until they all learn high pressing. So I actually think the midfield could look like that against top teams, if we play PAL. Guendouzi will then be the creative element in midfield. Not as creative as Özil or Ceballos, probably, but with 2 other “workers”, he is in more free role, and that certainly helped him become MOTM

    finally, I noticed a determined Arsenal fighting back with an attitude, we almost haven’t seen for years. It was very much symbolized by Aubameyang going into the goal after he hd scored to get the ball quicly to get as much time as possible to score a winning goal. Not so long ago, we saw Giroud and teamates wasting time celebrating a late equalizer against a bottom team, like we had won the league, when we really should havedone everything to get a winning goal. We now have more players and a coach with a winning mentality.

  4. All in all, we are on the right path. We are buying the right players. The unrelenting pursue of Saliba, Tierney, and also the bid for Upamecano show that there are real plans to sort the defence with young, talented, long term options

  5. The first goal was a collective mistake. First, Sokratis didn’t win the header and by the concept of “challenge and cover”, his partner Luiz should have covered his position. But he didn’t, instead he challenged Son who bypassed him easily, and that created a big hole in our defense. Lamela cleverly ran toward the empty space, AMN followed him like a good fullback but couldn’t block the shoot.
    Leno should have done better, and where the hell were our 3 DM leaving Eriksen a.k.a. the opposition number 10 unmarked like that??

    The second goal, Son exploited the space between the lines. It’s a sign of weak coordination, that kind of space should never be allowed. Xhaka panicked and made a really dumb tackle, he was lucky he got away with only a penalty. It was a potential red. Imagine playing with 10 players and 2-0 down in the NLD, that is the magnitude of Xhaka idiocy.

    In the end, Laca and Auba bailed us (like always) and Emery is still clueless.

  6. The technical part of the game is that Tottenham set up to expose the vulnerability of Emery’s mentality of not respecting what the opposition can do when they catch us on the counter attack, POS brilliantly set his team up to defend against us and play a long ball to Son and Harry Kane, He knew it will work 85% of the time. The wisdom of Emery is to make that easy by exposing our defence. This man can never learn. From last season he knew this players and yet his tactics are to expose them to the very things that will make us complain about them.

  7. As many have said, the Greek wrestler and Chambers have partnered well together. So why not play Luis in the dm role where we can use his passing range and as a natural defender he should shield the back 4.
    This would allow us to play guendouzi and cabellos together to control and create in that midfield.
    Think this would be worth a run out.

  8. Unai Emery tried to play the Liverpool pattern. But what he didn’t realize is that we do not have midfielders with the same engine and pace as Henderson, Winhadam, and Fabinho. Worst still, Lacazzete who is a core striker does not have the skillset and link up ability of Firminho as a false 9 who comes deep to get the ball and initiate the attacks. Unai Emery was just copying another team without taking into considerations these qualities from the players. Our best formation with the players we have is 4-2-3-1.






  9. ————-———————Leno———————————-





  10. I have always rated Chambers at right back than Mainland Niles. He is a better defender though not as mobile as M Niles. In my opinion I think Arsenal best formation is still
    4-2-3-1 with the players we have. Except if the coach can master 4-3-3 like Liverpool.

    In 4-2-3-1


    Chambers -Luiz- Holding- Kolasinac

    ……….Toreira Xaka……





    …Chambers Luiz Holding Kolasinac…

    …Toreira Guenduoz Ozil/Ceballos

    …..Pep. Lacazette Auba….

  11. I think Emery can try 3 4 1 2 formation leno, chamber,sokratis,luiz. amn torreira,guendo,sead, laca, pepe, auba,

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