Before every Arsenal fixture, we'll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners' next opponents.
North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur visit Emirates Stadium in the FA Cup third round on Saturday evening, to find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Simon Johnson.
Tottenham’s playing style has undergone a significant change under Tim Sherwood, and this should be a very different encounter to Arsenal’s 1-0 Premier League victory in September.
Whereas Andre Villas-Boas insisted upon heavy pressing and a high defensive line in a 4-2-3-1 system, Sherwood has gone back to basics with an attack-minded 4-4-2. His initial team selections were extremely adventurous, especially in midfield, although in the last couple of matches there’s been more caution about the side.
"Sherwood’s first central midfield partnership was the highly attacking combination of Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele"
The tactical interest with Tottenham starts in goal, where Hugo Lloris is one of the most distinctive goalkeepers around. He’s extremely proactive, starting in a very high position and regularly charging off his line to make interceptions, both on the ground and when collecting the ball aerially. This might be less obvious now Spurs aren’t so committed to defending high up the pitch, but any Arsenal through balls will tempt the Frenchman forward.
Sherwood’s first central midfield partnership was the highly attacking combination of Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele, although he’s since turned to Paulinho or Etienne Capoue. With the Brazilian injured, Capoue should partner Dembele.
Sherwood has generally favoured a direct winger on the right – the return of Aaron Lennon was important in the absence of Andros Townsend – and more of a drifting creator on the opposite side, either Gylfi Sigurdsson or Christian Eriksen. Sigurdsson is the greater goal threat, but Eriksen can play the killer pass.
Up front, the new manager’s favoured combination is Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado, although the ex-Arsenal man is an injury doubt this weekend. With Jermain Defoe also out, this could mean by Erik Lamela or Nacer Chadli playing as a forward - they would drift into wider positions and leave Soldado as the central striker.
SIMON JOHNSON, EVENING STANDARD
I think Tottenham's attacking mentality has been the improvement they've made since Sherwood took over. Under Villas Boas, they had a very cautious game plan because they played just one striker and they struggled to score goals. But from the moment Sherwood took control he's played two forwards.
What Arsenal fans will be taking notice of is the form of Emmanuel Adebayor, he's back in the first team and scoring goals on a weekly basis. Their whole mindset is much more positive than the months before.
"Spurs have reverted to a 4-4-2 formation since Sherwood took over and I don't see why they will change that system at the Emirates"
There haven't been too many stand-out performers for Spurs this season. Paulinho is probably one that you can pick who has produced a number of consistent performances - but he will be injured for the game on Saturday and that's a blow for Spurs. Dembele has his moments and has the ability to dominate games but Adebayor is certainly the man Arsenal need to watch out for.
Spurs have reverted to a 4-4-2 formation since Sherwood took over and I don't see why they will change that system at the Emirates. They've got nothing to lose in an FA Cup game against their fiercest rivals, and it would be strange for Sherwood to go defensive now, particularly after such an fantasic win at Man United.
I can see it being a very open game, I know that Arsene Wenger usually likes to rotate his squad for cup games which means they might be a bit more open at the back. That may encourage Tottenham to go for it but of course if they go full out on the attack that will leave gaps for the Gunners to exploit because they are not blessed with a huge amount of pace at the back.
It should be a very exciting game and I expect it to live up to its bill as being the tie of the round.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.