In this analysis, we will be observing the tactics of Mikel Arteta and José Mourinho in their recent Premier League clash. Spurs eventually won the game by 2-1 following an 81st-minute header by their centre-back Toby Alderweireld. This tactical analysis will look to the tactics of both teams on and off the ball and what worked and did not work for both sides.
Tottenham Hotspur lined up in a 4-3-3 formation but shifted to 4-4-1-1 formation very early the game. Jose Mourinho made two changes to the team that played against Bournemouth in 0-0 draw, Lucas Moura replacing for Steven Bergwijn and Davinson Sánchez replacing Jan Vertonghen.
Arsenal, on the other hand, lined up in a 3-4-3 formation and shifted to 3-2-5 formation with possession. Arteta made the only change to the team that played in 1-1 draw against Leicester City, with Nicolas Pépé replacing Bukayo Saka at the right-wing.
Lack of pressure from Spurs
As mentioned earlier, Spurs shifted to 4-4-1-1 formation very early in this game, they offered very less resistance during the build-up play of Arsenal, allowing them to easily play out from the back. Spurs used only Harry Kane and Son to press Arsenal’s backline, the spurs midfielders weren’t tightly marking Arsenal’s double pivot Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka.
In the image below, we see an example of this, here, Sead Kolašinac can easily play the ball to Ceballos or back to his goalkeeper, one important thing to note is that Spurs midfielders, Harry Winks and Lo Celso are not moving up to press Arsenal’s midfielders. Therefore, Arsenal created 5v2 situations during the build-up from the back.
The image below highlights one more example of this, Arsenal keeping a back-line of 3, two midfielders dropping deep to create a 5v2 situation and now Arsenal can easily build their play from the back as there is very little of no resistance offered by the Spurs players.
Arsenal’s Wing Play
For the majority of the game, Spurs defended in a deep 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 formation with a very little gap in between the lines and also cutting off the central passing lanes. Arsenal were forced to build their attacks through the wings. 49% percent of Arsenal’s attack came from the right side and 29% from the left side.
During the attacking phase, the front-3 would get narrow to create the space on the flanks for the wingbacks to exploit. The image below, highlights this tactic, here, Spurs are defending in a 4-4-2 formation and cutting off the central passing lanes, the front-3 got narrow and that has created the space on the flanks for Arsenal’s wingbacks to exploit, therefore, Ceballos is forced to play the ball to his wingback Kieran Tierney. One important thing to note is Moussa Sissoko wasn’t helping his fullback in the defence and thereby Arsenal often created 1v2 situation on the flanks.
In this another example, we can see that the Arsenal’s wing-backs provided the width, Spurs defending in a deep 4-4-1-1 formation, again cutting off the central passing lanes, and thereby, Arsenal keeping a 3-2-5 formation during the offensive play and Xhaka played a pass to Tierney. Arsenal played a total of 19 crosses in this game and tried to create goal-scoring opportunities through the wing-play.
Tottenham’s build-up and the defence
As Arsenal Pressed with 5 men, with two midfielders tightly marking Spurs two midfielders, to counter this Jose Mourinho used Harry Kane as the target man, responsible for winning the first ball with Son trying to win the second ball. The following images, highlights this tactic.
As mentioned earlier, Spurs defended for majority of the game, having only 37% of the ball possession, Spurs defended in a deep 4-4-2 formation as shown in the image below, a deep 4-4-2 with very little space in between the lines. In addition to this, they also kept a back line of 3 during the offensive phase so as to stop the counter-attacks.
Tottenham’s offensive play
In this game, Spurs were happy to relinquish possession in order to create better goal scoring opportunities. As mentioned earlier, they sat in a deep 4-4-2 block allowing Arsenal to keep the possession,but during their offensive play, Spurs attacked with 5 men upfront, Lucas Moura provided the width from the left flank and the fullback Serge Aurier from the right flank. During the attacking part, Sissoko tried to exploit the right half space and often combining with Aurier on the right flank. Spurs’ also kept a back-3 line with the Davies staying at his position and wasn’t getting forward so as to stop any counter attacks from Arsenal.
The image below, highlights this play from Spurs. Here, Arsenal are defending in a 5-3-2 formation, for Spurs, Moura providing the width from the left side and Sissoko, Aurier, Son and Lo Celso have created a 4v3 situation on the right flank. 70% of the Spurs attack came from the wings.
The image below, highlights one more example of this style of play.
Arsenal’s defense once again let them down, Kolašinac’s error allowed Spurs to make a come back in the game. On the hand, this was a brilliant defensive performance from Mourinho’s Spurs. With this defeat, Arsenal are now 4 points behind 7th placed Sheffield United and have to win their remaining fixtures in order to qualify for Europe.