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THE North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham is one of the most eagerly awaited fixtures in the Premier League calendar.

This season sees both teams playing exciting and attacking football and challenging towards the top of the table.

Arsenal have continued to evolve under Mikel Arteta and he has been backed by significant transfer spending with the likes of Jurrien Timber, Kai Havertz and Declan Rice arriving this summer.

Spurs, on the other hand, reacted to the loss of European football by appointing Ange Postecoglou, who has seen them go from strength-to-strength despite the loss of talisman Harry Kane.

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This derby promises to contain bundles of passion, but it will also be an interesting match from a tactical perspective.

Both Arteta and Postecoglou are coaches who have very modern principles behind the way that they want their teams to play.

This will very much be a match that is won or lost based on which team can impose their gameplan on the other and which team has to adjust in game.

We examine three of the key tactical battles that we are likely to see at the Emirates this coming weekend.

Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka are two of the most important players for Arsenal’s game model under Arteta.

Captain Odegaard and Hale End product Saka have formed an impressive partnership towards the right side of the pitch.

Odegaard, on the other hand, will drop to help with ball progression in his own half but when the play develops the he will make regular runs to attack the space created by Saka’s positioning.

Odegaard looks to exploit space made by Saka holding width on the right flank.
When Saka receives the ball wide on the right he is a genuine threat due to the variety with which he can conjure attacking plays.

He can drive inside or outside in possession but he has also developed his on ball ability and passing range from his younger days when he mainly looked to dribble the ball.

His game is now built on intelligence and ability to understand when to run and when to combine.

Spurs’ attacking style under Postecoglu – dubbed Ange-ball – is unlikely to change against Arsenal.

That means the game will be open – which plays into the Gunners’ hands.

This is where the combination between Saka and Odegaard becomes key.

Odegaard regularly makes movements beyond Saka to attack the space created by the fullback being pulled out giving Saka the freedom to drive towards goal or to play the pass around the corner before moving to give the next option.

Saka’s attacking versatility means the opposition have to engage the ball which creates space for other Arsenal forwards
This season the players on the left side of the tactical structure, who will be directly facing Odegaard and Saka, for Spurs are new.

Micky van de Ven will play as the left-sided central defender in a back four while Destiny Udogie has been used at left-back.

They are the two players who are likely to be most stressed by the movement and rotations of Arsenal in the attacking phase.

Spurs will need to ensure their two deeper midfielders, likely to be Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr, are switched on when it comes to tracking runs from the midfield and crashing back to block space.

Another interesting aspect to this derby will see respective Spurs and Arsenal new-boys James Maddison and Rice go head-to-head.

While Rice was an expensive addition when he was signed from West Ham, it is possible Maddison will go down as one of the bargains of the season having joined Spurs for £46million.

Maddison has seamlessly settled into Postecoglou’s system and his performances, as the 10 behind the striker, have been one of the keys to Spurs enjoying an unbeaten start to the season.

When Kane decided to leave Spurs for Bayern Munich they lost their top scorer and most consistent and capable creative player.

Maddison has taken over as the chief creator for Spurs and his positioning and ability to receive the ball in space before driving at goal or threading through balls through the defence has stood out.

Maddison’s ball-playing is a key weapon for Spurs, with this example showing Son receiving the ball as Maddison makes a run with no marker.

In this match the battle of wills between Maddison and Rice will be decisive in claiming victory.

Rice is used to being able to dictate the tempo from the midfield area, but with Maddison constantly looking to drift into dangerous spaces he may have to adjust in order to counter the threat.

If Spurs look to drop Maddison deeper in the North London Derby and not allow him to find space further forward he will become less effective and if Arsenal look to use Rice as the conductor at the base of the midfield then Maddison will have space to exploit.

One of these two managers is going to have to make an adjustment and that could have a significant impact on the game.

The movement, positioning and passing of Maddison, as well as the goal threat he poses from outside the area, have been key for Spurs so far this season.

For Spurs to come away from the Emirates with the points this weekend the performance of Maddison and his attacking impact are going to be pivotal.

Spurs will have to ensure they are able to get Maddison on the ball in the final third and in and around the Arsenal penalty area if they are to win this match.

The double pivot in the Spurs midfield
Yves Bissoum and Pape Matar Sarr offer stability in their Spurs double pivot.

When a new manager comes into a club it can often mean a second chance for players who were not in the previous manager’s plans.

This has certainly been the case at Spurs where Postecoglou has chosen to use a 4-2-3-1 system with a double pivot of Bissouma and Sarr becoming vital cogs.

Both Bissouma and Sarr failed to impress the coaching staff at Spurs last season, seeing their game time limited.

Now, five games into the season, the double pivot of Bissouma and Sarr has looked crucial in Spurs’ early season success.

The pair are strong defensively but intelligent with their positioning and their use of the ball in the attacking phase.

One of Bissouma or Sarr drop in to give Spurs an extra passing option when building from the back.

They seem to know when one of them can break forward with the other, always providing balance to the team and proving key to helping Spurs build-up from the back.

The positioning, movement and use of the ball from them has been crucial in giving Spurs a platform from which they can attack.

We know that Arsenal will line up in a 4-3-3 and the comparison in the midfield to Spurs 4-2-3-1 means that the two midfielders will be positioned differently.

Will the two Arsenal central midfielders be able to pressure and disrupt the Spurs double pivot enough to prevent them from being able to play?

Two deep midfielders means Spurs have the freedom to press forward into higher positions to threaten the opposition goal
The Spurs midfield of Bissouma, Sarr and Maddison will provide the threat in this game for Arsenal.

If they are allowed to dominate the central areas and play through those central areas then Arsenal will find it difficult to impose themselves on this game.

What does all of this mean?
Spurs will come into this game fresh from a week of preparation while Arsenal have played midweek in the Champions League against PSV – thrashing them 4-0 at the Emirates.

You would think this would mean Spurs are well-positioned to adjust tactically to take away the threat of Arsenal but this is not the kind of manager that Postecoglou is.

Instead, expect to see both teams looking to attack and play on the front foot from the start of the game.

 

 

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