Wenger fails to capitalise on resolutely high Tottenham line

Alan O’Brien 

With a daring refusal to waver from the most characteristic of Mauricio Pochettino game-plans, Tottenham Hotspur exorcised the ghosts of November’s meek Emirates Stadium reverse.
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Ascendant Arsenal pierce Palace lines with ease

Alan O’Brien 

It took 30 harrowing minutes for Roy Hodgson to give up the 4-4-2 ghost here. Four goals down when the stable door was finally closed, the Arsenal horse had already bolted, lived a full life in the wild, and expired of natural causes. Continue reading

Central midfield chasms result from Wenger’s latest bout of Conte copying

Alan O’Brien 

Back in August, Antonio Conte deviated from his title-winning 3-4-2-1 system for a big game just like this one. Tottenham Hotspur were frustrated, and bested, by a more conservative Chelsea 3-5-2. Its inception was designed to ensure greater defensive security against stronger sides. Yet, on Wednesday night, in another London derby, it achieved anything but. Continue reading

Premier League: Three tactical talking points from Matchday 16

Alan O’Brien 

1) Hard-running Hammers consign sluggish Slaven days to memory

If Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United had greeted the champions in this manner, claret (and blue) would surely have spilled. Continue reading

Analysis: Pressing poleaxes profligate Gunners again

Alan O’Brien 

Arsenal’s vulnerability to pressing is not a new development. Way back in August, Leicester City and Liverpool combined to hit seven past the Gunners by forcing final-third turnovers. The question is: why haven’t more clubs followed their lead? Continue reading

Analysis: Compact Clarets finally bloodied at the death

Alan O’Brien 

Reversion to the mean is inevitable, even in the credibility-stretching world of football. Burnley have continually defied the odds this season. Expected-goals suggest no club’s current league position is falser. But, on Sunday afternoon, at home to Arsenal, the Clarets’ good fortune ran out in the harshest possible manner. Continue reading

Analysis: Pochettino hoist by his own petard

Alan O’Brien 

Mauricio Pochettino re-popularised pressing upon his arrival on English shores in 2013. Here, he was hoist by his own petard, as Tottenham Hotspur suffered their first North London Derby defeat of the Argentinian’s three-year reign. Continue reading

Premier League: Two tactical talking points from Matchday 10

Alan O’Brien 

1) 5-3-2, the counter-attacking formation-du-jour

Ever the tactical trendsetter, Chelsea’s Antonio Conte has done it again. Last season’s switch to 3-4-2-1, that inspired a title-grabbing 13-game winning run, was shamelessly copycatted across the Premier Division; most notably by London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Continue reading

Premier League: Five tactical talking points from Matchweek 9

Alan O’Brien 

1) Klopp suffers the fate of his former employers

Wembley has witnessed Mauricio Pochettino’s counter-attacking 5-3-1-1 system before. On September 13 of this year, Tottenham Hotspur, configured in that very shape, absolutely destroyed Peter Bosz’s gung-ho Borussia Dortmund in the channels. On Sunday, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, once of the Dortmund parish, met the very same fate. Continue reading

Preston North End 1-2 Arsenal: Giroud again profits from opposition retreat to save defence’s blushes

Having discommoded Arsene Wenger’s makeshift back-line with a high-pressing, two-striker system, Preston North End’s predictable second-half retreat — and some wasteful first-half finishing — allowed Olivier Giroud to deny them a well-earned replay. Continue reading