Tottenham Hotspur went into the North London Derby at the Emirates today with the perceived advantage — a four point lead over Arsenal in the table, and the sense from everyone that they were the better side. However, Spurs put in an extremely weak performance against the Gunners, giving up two first half goals and limping to a very disappointing 2-0 loss. Both Arsenal and #narrative won this match.
Tottenham started the match with a mostly expected lineup, but with a few key changes. Hugo Lloris, who injured his groin in the Champions League win over Real Madrid, returned to the starting lineup. Harry Winks started on the bench, with Moussa Sissoko taking his place besie Mousa Dembele in the center of midfield. Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies were the starting wingbacks, and of course, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli lined up behind Harry Kane.
As the match kicked off, it didn’t take long to get a sense of how Arsenal were going to approach the match. The Gunners came out and tried to press Spurs off the pitch, pushing high and trying to put the midfield of Dembele and Sissoko under pressure. And with the exception of a few spells of possession for Spurs, it worked. Arsenal had much of the ball for the first half and kept Spurs on their back heels.
Arsenal had the first chance of the game five minutes in after Lacazette blocked a casual pass out of the back line from Eric Dier. Thankfully the chance went wasted as Lacazette blazed his shot over the bar.
Kane had his first shot on target just a minute later, firing a powerful right footed shot from close range at goal, but Petr Chech was right in front of him and smothered the shot. Christian Eriksen also had a chance a few minutes later — his low shot squirted through a couple of legs but kissed the outside of the post and went out.
The Gunners nearly got off the mark in the 19th minute after Hector Bellerin’s cross from the right side went all the way across the box without anyone managing to get a touch on the ball.
Harry Kane had his best chance of the first half in the 34th minute as he tried to loop a header into the corner, forcing Cech into a good save to keep him out.
Arsenal’s first goal came just a minute later, and in controversial circumstances. Davinson Sanchez was called for a soft foul by Mike Dean about 30 yards from goal. The resulting free kick was headed past Lloris by Shkodran Mustafi, but replays showed that he was offside.
And then it got worse, as Arsenal doubled their lead. Hector Bellerin put a nice through ball to Lacazette, who found Alexis Sanchez in front of goal. Sanchez fired from point-blank range into the roof of the net.
Alexis Sanchez and Granit Xhaka both picked up yellow cards for Arsenal, but it was the Gunners who took a 2-0 lead into the changing room at half time.
It was clear from the first half that something needed to change, but this being Mauricio Pochettino, he opted to give his first choice XI a chance to turn things around in the second half. There were no changes at the break.
Time always seems to go faster when you’re the club that’s behind and chasing a lead, and that was how it felt in the second half. The second period was a little less frantic but started off chippy, with Mustafi and Kane both picking up yellow cards for ill-advised fouls. Kane tried to nick a goal back for Spurs and had two opportunities in the 56th minute to do so — he was taken down in the box with no penalty given, and then had an opportunity to score in front of goal before putting his shot over the bar.
Arsenal opted to switch tactics in the second half while nursing a two goal lead, playing defensively and trying to hit on the counter-attack. Spurs had much more of the ball in the second half, but with the Gunners putting 11 behind the ball, opportunities were few and far between.
Midway through the half, Pochettino made a change, bringing Harry Winks in off the bench for Mousa Dembele, and Spurs tried to push forward to claw a goal back.
That led to a number of opportunities on the counterattack as Alexis Sanchez, Lacazette, and Ozil ran at Spurs’ beleaguered defense numerous times over the course of the half. Sanchez had two opportunities in the 70th minute to put Arsenal up three — he skied a 25 yard ball over the bar and later couldn’t get a clean touch on a cross into the box.
Tottenham’s chances were few and far between, and it prompted Pochettino to roll the dice in the 74th minute, taking off Harry Kane and an ineffective Dele for Fernando Llorente and Son Heung-Min. Llorente had a flick-on header that found Son in the box late in the game, with the South Korean international unable to finish.
Perhaps the best chance of the game came from Eric Dier, who had a powerful header tipped away by a diving Cech five minutes from time. But ultimately it was much too little and far, far too late — Spurs were outclassed, outmuscled, and outscored at the Emirates and went home with their tails between their legs.
The final score was 2-0.
- I know it’s a loss and we’re all mad, but... well, no buts. This was one of the worst matches I’ve seen Spurs play under Pochettino. It ranks down there with the Liverpool shellacking from last season.
- Spurs were plagued by bad and/or casual passes out of defense the entire first half, with Eric Dier the biggest culprit, but Davinson Sanchez also putting in a couple sloppy balls. Super frustrating.
- Arsenal’s high press seemed to throw Spurs off their game. They simply couldn’t get much going in the middle of the park, and I’m really not sure why they didn’t try and counterpress.
- Look, woulda-coulda-shoulda, but that was a) not a foul on Sanchez and b) Mustafi was offside. Terrible from Mike Dean.
- But Spurs never looked like winning. They were flat, lifeless, and toothless. The second goal was deserved, and fitness concerns aside, it’s hard not to think of Poch throwing in the towel with the Son-Llorente subs for Dele and Kane, even if the subs may have had more to do with fitness than performance.
- Dele had a shocker today. Just no way around it — he was bad.
- I’m mad, but I’m not going to dwell on it. It stings, a lot, but we can clinch our Champions League group with a win over Dortmund. Let’s do that.