Tottenham Hotspur scored two goals against Arsenal in the first North London Derby of the season at the Emirates Stadium. Unfortunately, one of them was for Arsenal. Harry Kane scored from the spot to cancel out an unfortunate Kevin Wimmer own goal as Spurs drew Arsenal 1-1, the third consecutive draw between these two teams in league play.
Mauricio Pochettino essentially blew up his usual formations in favor of a 4-3-3 to start this match, with Kevin Wimmer coming in to start beside Jan Vertonghen and Eric Dier in the back line. This was probably necessitated due to injuries to Erik Lamela and, it was revealed, Dele Alli, who injured his knee in training and is expected to be out “for a few weeks.” Kyle Walker and Danny Rose were pushed forward to play as wingbacks in front of a midfield of Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele. Harry Kane made his return to the lineup after seven weeks out; Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min began the match on the flanks.
The match started off frenetic: Tottenham’s three-man defense was tested early and Arsenal tried to implement a high press to force mistakes. Spurs’ best chance early on came on a break: Son Heung-Min roasted Mustafi and he fired a dink of a cross to a wide open Harry Kane at the back post, but Harry couldn’t get a boot to it.
Tottenham played Arsenal or more less even for the majority of the match. Mousa Dembele did a great job of controlling the midfield, and Christian Eriksen had a free role in attacking midfield. Spurs’ best chances came as they pushed up the pitch through the fullbacks, but they also had a few good plays coming from long Eriksen passes for Kane and Son to run onto.
Arsenal went close in the 40th minute on a counterattack: Theo Walcott bombed up the right side and fired a ball that went off the post; the rebound was fired out of play. Arsenal looked somewhat dominant in this stage of the game as it looked like they started to figure out and exploit the holes in Spurs’ back line.
Arsenal’s goal came a few minutes from time off of a Meszut Ozil free kick. It was a wonderful delivery into the box and Kevin Wimmer got a head to it. Unfortunately, that head took the ball past Hugo Lloris and into the net. Replays showed, however, that at least two Arsenal players were in an offside position when the ball left Ozil’s foot, but the offside wasn’t given. It was a really unfortunate play for Wimmer, who probably felt he had to make a play on the ball.
The game got somewhat tetchy late in the half; Jan Vergonghen and Theo Walcott squared up late after Jan thought Walcott was looking to oversell a foul, and the first half limped to a close with the Gunners leading 1-0.
The second half started with no changes to either side, but with Spurs coming out with a renewed sense of purpose. And it paid off five minutes into the second half: Mousa Dembele was tripped in the box and official Mark Clattenburg showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot. That set up Harry Kane to score from the penalty spot as he blasted the ball past Petr Cech to equalize the score.
Christian Eriksen, who had a very good match, had a low shot parried away in the 55th minute by Cech after a deflected ball fell to him in the box. Eriksen looked very dangerous as a playmaker, playing in a free role and pinging balls all over the pitch for players to run onto. But his best opportunity came late in the half when he fired a swinging free kick from the left side of the field. The ball missed everyone and pinged off the post: two inches to the left and Spurs win the match.
Kane looked a little rusty as the match went on, which you would expect in his first game back in seven weeks, but he very nearly put Spurs up midway through the half. Danny Rose fired in a fizzing ball across the face of goal and Kane was there for a tap-in, but Nacho Monreal was there to disrupt Kane just enough that the chance went wide.
Arsenal made three substitutions before Spurs made their first: Francis Coquelin went off for Aaron Ramsey, and Arsene Wenger opted to bring on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud for Iwobi and Theo Walcott as he tried to push for a winner. Spurs eventually brought off a visibly gassed Kane for Vincent Janssen, a masked Kieran Trippier for Kyle Walker who limped off the field, and eventually Harry Winks for Son Hung-Min.
Arsenal looked dangerous late as Spurs appeared to take their foot off the gas and play for a draw; a few Arsenal players went close and Giroud had a header go straight at Hugo Lloris. Ultimately, the match ended 1-1 in what most would say was a very fair result.
- That was a great Derby. Fast-paced and entertaining against two evenly matched sides. A draw was a good result considering Spurs’ injuries and the weird formation.
- Look, I’m not going to crap on Wimmer for Arsenal’s goal. He was looking at the ball and couldn’t really see the Arsenal players were offside. If he doesn’t get a header to that, it’s probably a goal considering that the linesmen didn’t see the offside. Classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment for Big Kev, and I feel bad for him.
- That said, Wimmer didn’t have a great match overall.
- Mousa Dembele was my man of the match. He single-handedly stabilized Spurs’ midfield and straight-out trucked dudes all match. I’m super glad that his ankle injury wasn’t serious.
- Arsenal looked like they didn’t expect a Tottenham back three, but they figured it out late in the first half and started carving Spurs open. I’m not a fan of the back three, but it was probably necessary with Alderweireld, Lamela, and Alli all injured. I’d say Arsenal probably missed a number of good opportunities late in the first half to put Spurs to the sword.
- Christian Eriksen got a bunch of “#wellactually he’s bad” takes on social media and I just don’t get it. He had a stretch late in the first half that was somewhat meh, but looked really dangerous in his free role, especially with his passing. He hit Spurs players with long balls a number of times over the course of the game and had two good opportunities to score. I thought he was great today.
- Kane also looked solid, if rusty, in his return. His positioning is SO good, and even if he wasn’t 100% we looked a lot more dangerous with him on the pitch than with him off it. I’ve missed him so much.
- Now to the kinda-negative: Janssen, Walker, and Dier were all not especially great today. Still not worried about Vincent, I think he’s stuck in his own head at the moment. Walker just seemed to have a bad day at the office. Dier was put under enormous pressure in an unfamiliar formation but I still want him back in the midfield rather than in defense.
- Spurs have had a number of bad draws lately. This was not one of them. Still undefeated, and Tottenham did not concede a goal to Arsenal today. We go again.