Mauricio Pochettino already has Tottenham blueprint to stop Arsenal weapon with clear Chelsea plan


Mauricio Pochettino has little choice but to continue with his defensive trends already set out this season as Chelsea take on Arsenal at Stamford Bridge next week. The Blues have a shocking recent record against their London rivals but enter this game with cause for optimism after winning three in a row for the first time since March.

The international break for Pochettino time comes at both a good time and a bad one with time for recovering injured players to continue their progress towards full fitness but it does interrupt their momentum. The Blues started off the pace after the last break, drawing 0-0 with Bournemouth, and will have little room for error when Mikel Arteta's men visit.

They are coming off the back of a massive 1-0 win over title favourites Manchester City and did it without Thomas Partey or Bukayo Saka, two integral parts of their side. For Chelsea, this fortnight away doesn't leave much chance of Arteta continuing to be careful with his stars either, especially with Saka withdrawn from England's squad as he looks to overcome fatigue and injury fears.

City, who dealt well with Leandro Trossard but not as easily with Gabriel Martinelli, use a unique set-up involving four centre-backs and at one point John Stones in midfield to effectively make it five on the field. Despite this Pep Guardiola was unable to stop a Saka-less Arsenal and that alone provides a warning for Chelsea.

The 22-year-old is the biggest threat in the Arsenal side and has picked up where he left off last season. With five goals and four assists in all competitions already this term and a strong record against the Blues. Saka has won his last three games in this fixture and has been on the wrong side of the result just once in the past seven meetings, evidence of the stranglehold Arteta has had when it comes to these meetings.

He is, though, going to be up against one of his fellow England stars. Not Ben Chilwell this time, Saka will be faced with 20-year-old Levi Colwill, fresh off the back of making his senior Three Lions debut. After starting every game this season Colwill has transferred his impressive body of work from loans at Huddersfield and Brighton into action for his boyhood club.

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Despite largely playing out of position - he has been in the centre of defence during matches with red cards, injuries and for cup duty - Colwill has been one of the standout performers for Pochettino. As a top passer of the ball and also with youth on his side when it comes to tracking runners and dealing with pacey forwards, Colwill has adapted well to his new task even if it doesn't get the best out of his wide skillset.

As a natural centre-back, Colwill's one-on-one abilities and his positioning underpin a strong all-round defender more than comfortable of playing in the channels and facing up to tricky wingers.

City didn't have to guard against Saka but still left Josko Gvardiol in the outside role whilst Tottenham, one of just two teams to stop Arsenal from winning this season, went more orthodox with Destiny Udogie. The Italian is a more attack-minded option and demonstrated Ange Postecoglou's style of play perfectly, though he had a tough time against Saka.

For Pochettino, what Colwill will bring to that part of the pitch is clear. "I am so happy with Levi and the way he is playing. He is showing character and is providing the team with a very good balance," the Argentine explained earlier this season.

The Cobham graduate has impressed his new boss since arriving and is already considered an undroppable player, signing a new long-term deal earlier this year. "The good thing is that he is a player who can play both positions and his performance is going to be the same," Pochettino added.

"He can play well as a full-back or as a centre-back. Because he has the characteristics and the capacity and the quality. For me it’s amazing what he is doing from the day he arrived in Chelsea with us, coming back after the loan at Brighton, and we are so happy with him in all aspects: his performance, professional aspects and personality. He is young but very mature."

In the North London Derby Saka scored and completed four key passes, six crosses and two successful dribbles against his inexperienced opponent. It was the Arsenal star that won the battle though even if Udogie did grow into the game and Pochettino will be keen to ensure his player is on the right side of the personal battle here and the team result.

For England Colwill's time at left-back has been added to and Gareth Southgate was keen to join those advocating for his inclusion in the position he has gotten used to. "Levi, we know he can play both positions [centre-back and left-back] and we like him in both positions," he said ahead of the game against Australia.

"We're conscious most of his football has been as a centre-back and I think it's his preference and strongest position but equally we're without a lot of experience at left back and he's playing there regularly," he added. "We've got some other centre-backs who can fill in at full-back areas as well. It's an area we need to find a little bit out about one or two players because that depth in that position in particular in the league is not strong.

"Levi, we really like. He had a fantastic season last year with Brighton, excellent Euros with our 21s, he's adapting well to life back at Chelsea. He's got a real maturity about his game. We're very hopeful about his future."

Chelsea will be hoping that the immediate future for Colwill is positive, starting with a matchup against Saka, one that could go some way to defining the outcome of the game.

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