Arsenal | North London Derby

Arsenal | North London Derby

After a poor start to the season, Arsenal has strung together three wins in a row in all competitions. They might not have been wins against top clubs (Shrewsbury, 3-1, Carling Cup), against full-sided squads (Bolton, 3-0, Premier League) or even convincing wins (Olympiacos, 2-1, Champions).

There were a few milestones and firsts for the Gunners in September. Robin Van Persie scored his 100th goal while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened his scoring campaign in his full Champions League debut.

Since the 8-2 drubbing at Old Trafford Arsenal has only lost once, to Blackburn. The performances, like the victory over Olympiacos, have been far from convincing though, as the team continues to struggle with injuries.

Fresh Start in October

October has the potential to be a positive chapter in the team’s season, as August was a disaster and September was only just average. The squad leaves London only once, a Champions League night in Marseille, but visits to White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge sandwiching the month will decide whether October was a success or not. Premier League visits from much-improved Sunderland and Stoke City provide good meat to the month, while a Carling Cup home tie with Bolton should be a repeat performance for the Gunners.

The most important match, as always, is the very next one, which coincidently is the big derby at Tottenham.

Tottenham sit in 6th with nine points after only playing five games while Arsenal are 13th with seven points in six games. Three points would most likely bring Arsenal out of the bottom half of the table, but there is always more than just three points at stake against Tottenham.

Arsenal’s defensive woes are obvious and are a whole story in itself. New defensive coach or no, basically the team needs communication and cohesiveness first and foremost. The focus against the Spurs should be the final third attacking.

Direct Approach

It is well known that Arsenal can possess the ball, but that doesn’t always lead to goals.

On the season, Arsenal have attempted 921 final third passes and successfully completed 684 of those attacking passes. That is a 74% completion rate while throughout the whole pitch they complete 85%.

Now, obviously a team isn’t going to pass as proficiently in the attacking third but it should pass to create chances. In the win over Olympiacos, Andre Santos and Chamberlain both showed a willingness to play the Arsenal style, but also attack directly. They both have a goal as their prize for their direct play.

While Chamberlain hasn’t played enough Premier League minutes to get legitimate stats from, Theo Walcott has.

Southampton Wingers

A sign of direct attacking is successful dribbles and Walcott has completed eight successful dribbles. Tottenham’s Gareth Bale has completed 14 successful dribbles in about the same minutes as Walcott. Walcott’s forward pass to backwards pass is almost 1:1, while Bale is approaching 2:1.

They both have a goal to show for their direct approach, but it is evident that Theo needs to be a little more direct to catch up to his former Southampton mate. This is just a teaser, as a complete comparison between the two will come later this week.

If Walcott is over his minor injury that held him out of Wednesday’s Champions League match, then pay close attention to how direct his play is. He has a real chance to be special if he can continue to blend Arsenal’s possession style with what seems to be the Southampton winger way.

Last Year

Last year Arsenal allowed six total Tottenham goals, three each home and away. In the away match, Arsenal managed a draw but at home lost 2-3. At White Hart Lane, Arsenal actually created more chances and will have to do the same Sunday if they want to come away with three points.

In both matches last year, Tottenham came away with a goal on a penalty kick. Arsenal’s defense, particularly Alex Song, who might be filling in again at center back, will need to be careful to not cause a back breaking pk. In last years penalty mishaps Cesc Fabregas caused one with a handball and Wojciech Szczesny the other. Arsenal surrendered two goal leads in both matches last year.