Tottenham Focus - Options for Villas-Boas in the North London derby
Sunday sees the earliest scheduled North London derby for 20 years. In recent years Tottenham may have still be working on bringing players into the club at this time of the season. However, there has been a role reversal this summer; Spurs have completed the majority of their business. At the time of writing, Arsenal seem yet to start.
However for all their lack of activity, Arsenal have quality in their starting XI and smarting from recent criticism will undoubtedly look to the derby to gain bragging rights.
Whether they can against a Tottenham team who have taken six points from a possible six in the league may be another matter. The depth and quality of Tottenham’s squad was highlighted by the number of players rested for the return Europa League fixture against Dinamo Tblisi which saw Spurs cruise to a 3-0 win on the night - 8-0 on aggregate. Spurs will potentially have the majority of their starting XI fresh and rested, whilst Arsenal will have to field players carrying knocks and who played mid-week.
Both teams are likely to line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and the Arsenal team may almost pick itself - apart from whether Arsene Wenger will include new signing Mathieu Flamini in a defensive midfield role. Tottenham coach André Villas-Boas by contrast is in the desirable position of selection headache with Tom Carroll, Lewis Holtby, Younes Kaboul, Jermain Defoe and Sandro all shining against Tblisi.
Carroll maybe on the bench and for Holtby after his first official game since injury, Sunday might come too quickly to start. However, the Kaboul-Jan Vertonghen centre-back axis could return against Arsenal, with Kaboul’s speed perhaps giving him the edge over Michael Dawson. Sandro may well be in competition with Paulinho, Étienne Capoue and Mousa Dembélé in the holding roles and here there may be a strong argument for playing a 4-3-3 with Sandro and Capoue to protect the back four with Paulinho in the more advance point of the three as the box-to-box midfielder getting forward and linking with Roberto Soldado.
With both Nacer Chadli and Andros Townsend on the wings, Spurs will carry a threat wide but also cutting inside - again to link to Soldado. With the wingers cutting inside, Spurs full backs, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, may well get forward to offer the width. In Paulinho, Capoue and Sandro Spurs will have a physical presence that could negate Arsenal’s midfield counter threat but also allow Paulinho to drop deeper as Sandro or Capoue drift wide to cover Rose and Walker if they are caught out further forward.
What Villas-Boas does have are options - and more seemingly coming - where he can vary tactics, formations and personnel as he believes appropriate before or during a match. Spurs are in an enviable position and will certainly look to continue their early season form of four wins from four with no goals conceded.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Arsenal v Tottenham