To stop Spurs, Arsenal are going to need to stop Christian Eriksen.
In the midst of the Bale departure in the summer of 2013, Spurs spent £107m on new signings to try to fill the void left by a man who was pretty much the definition of a one man team.
Few of those arrivals have made their mark, but £11m man Christian Eriksen has become something of a favourite at White Hart Lane.
It’s easy to see why – he has a level of ability, vision and finishing beyond most of the Spurs players, and certainly he is by far the most successful of those desperate signings of the post-Bale era.
Eriksen’s goal threat
With an uncanny knack of arriving in the right place at the right time, Eriksen has scored nine league goals so far this season, but those goals have secured an additional 13 points to Tottenham, without which they would be languishing in 11th position (Harry Kane’s eight goals have delivered a further 12 points).
Incredibly, six of Eriksen’s goals have delivered a one-goal victory for Spurs, many of them coming late in the game, so he has come to hold something approaching Messiah status at White Hart Lane.
However, it is not just his breaks into the box which Arsenal must watch out for – Eriksen has scored a number of spectacular free kicks this season, including an absolute peach against Sheffield United last week.
Far be it for us to praise anything Spurs related, but his dead ball efforts are pretty impressive and something we must look to restrict on Saturday.
How do Arsenal stop him?
So what can Arsenal do to counteract Spurs’ main man?
Firstly, Coquelin has to avoid giving the ref too much of a decision to make in and around the box – we saw from Anthony Taylor at the weekend that even winning the ball is sometimes not enough, so Coquelin needs to balance that risk-reward equation in his head to minimise the free kicks we give away in dangerous positions.
Secondly, we should be pleased if Nacer Chadli is deemed fit and ready to play following his recent compassionate absence – just two of the Dane’s goals have come when his Belgian colleague has played the majority of the game, with Eriksen more often than not drawing a blank when they play together.
Finally, we need our own attacking midfielders to deliver so that even if Eriksen does nab a goal, then it proves only a consolation as against City earlier this season.
For all his prowess in dead ball situations, I wouldn’t take Eriksen over any of our own stable of playmakers as he can be nullified in open play with relative ease, and indeed his arrival at Tottenham was facilitated by the departure of Olympic diving champion Bale – I know who I would rather face.
It was also that same departure which brought Mesut Ozil to the Emirates, and that has been a massive positive for this Arsenal team, even if it sometimes flies under the radar.
In any case, we’re in danger of forgetting a certain miniature Spaniard scoring a certain rather important free kick for us in the biggest game of last season.
You also can’t score from free kicks if we don’t give any away.
It will be down to us to be up for the game, and then Spurs will be in a hole too big even for Eriksen to dig them out of.