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How Arsenal’s front three led the Gunners to a derby victory

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A quick look at the importance of Arsenal’s key trio

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The first North London Derby of the season went just about as well as Arsenal fans could have hoped - the Gunners turned in a convincing performance and deserved their 2-0 victory.

Watching the game, there were two things that jumped out as crucial to Arsenal’s strong performance: the high pressing and runs in behind done by the attacking trio of Alexis Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette, and Mesut Ozil.

High pressing

Mike Goodman, who has written for ESPN and Grantland, published an article on Friday pointing out Arsenal’s recent shift into a pressing side.

Arsenal have all the telltale statistical markers of a team that presses. When opponents have the ball in their own defensive third, Arsenal are one of the best teams out there at taking it away. Arsenal have 17 successful tackles in an opponent’s defensive third, the most in the Premier League and 12 interceptions, trailing only Manchester City...All of that pressing means that they concede fairly few shots.

This trend continued today: according to whoscored.com, Arsenal had three successful tackles and five interceptions in Tottenham’s third.

The location of Arsenal’s interceptions (via whoscored.com)

What stood out today, however, was how high up the field Arsenal applied pressure, as Aaron noted in his recap. The pressing initiated by the front three not only disrupted Tottenham’s build-up play, but also nearly led to goals for the Gunners on a few occasions.

In this example, Arsenal’s front three, plus Aaron Ramsey, have Eric Dier’s options for a short pass covered, forcing Dier to attempt a long ball that Lacazette blocked and turned into a good shot at goal.

Furthermore, Spurs’ inability to enjoy comfortable spells of possession rendered Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, Tottenham’s two creative midfielders, largely ineffective, and helped cut off the supply to Harry Kane.

Runs in behind

Arsenal’s aggressive approach with the ball was matched by their direct play with it, especially in the first half and late in the game on the counterattack. It seemed like whenever Arsenal had possession there was at least one player off the ball making a run in behind, leading to several great chances. Below you can see both Sanchez and Lacazette take off to get on the end of a pass by Laurent Koscielny, who looked for the runs as soon as he received the ball.

And here on Sanchez’s goal, Lacazette, who’s movement was impressive all game, linked up with Hector Bellerin to catch the defense flat-footed.

The early returns on the trio of Sanchez, Lacazette, and Ozil have been extremely positive. If they continue to be the first wave of an organized and aggressive press, and use their combination of pace and skill to spearhead attacks, we should see more dominant performances in the future.