The first North London Derby of the year was not a kind one to Tottenham Hotspur. A strong second half by Arsenal that was capped off with three unanswered goals left Spurs on the wrong end of a 4-2 result.
The match could not have gotten off to a worse start for Tottenham. After pressing Spurs into oblivion on a few occasions, Serge Aurier gave away a free kick near the corner. The ensuing kick went into the mixer where Jan Vertonghen tried to head it away, but ended up handling the ball. He was booked for his actions, gave up the penalty, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slotted the PK home to make it 1-0 Arsenal. Ten minutes in, and Spurs looked rattled as can be.
Two minutes after the PK, Spurs caught a break on the counter with Heung-Min Son blocking a pass and getting free. There was no open pass to a streaking Harry Kane, leaving the Korean International’s only move to shoot. He did, and the shot was saved. On the opposite end right after, Arsenal put a dangerous ball into the six yard box where Aubameyang was waiting. He ended up falling on his backside before he could get any shot off, ending the chance.
Arsenal did not let up on the pressure. The 20th minute brought another push by Arsenal as a free kick was sliced to the opposite side. After a couple of passes, Aubameyang found himself alone, twelve yards out. His one-timed effort was powerful and low, but Hugo Lloris was up to the challenge and made a huge save.
Spurs fortune changed in the 30th minute. After Arsenal gave up a foul just outside the box, Christian Eriksen played a perfect free kick into the penalty area. His ball found the head of Eric Dier, who managed to slip it in between the keeper and the post to tie it up at one a piece. A near brawl ensued on the sideline after that, but cooler heads eventually prevailed.
Just four minutes after that, a wonderful backheel pass by Harry Kane fed Sonny perfectly on the break. Sonny took it almost to touch and was fouled by Granit Xhaka. Mike Dean gave the penalty, and Kane did his thing, blasting his penalty low corner to make it 2-1. Suddenly, after a dreadful start, Spurs were awake and in the lead.
The remainder of the half basically turned into a track meet with some kickboxing. Plenty of fouls, a lot of running and lots of complaining. Arsenal made a late push at the end with a few corner kicks. Hugo was called into action to make a final save in the final minute of stoppage, preserving the lead going into the half.
The start of the second half was like a reverse of the first. Spurs came out with a hard press, taking control of the ball almost immediately. A saved free kick, a couple of good corners, and some dangerous play almost result in doubling the lead. Somehow, Arsenal weathered the storm up to the 55th minute, regaining their composure and the match settled down a bit. It proved to be fruitful for Arsenal as they broke free on a counter in the 56th minute. Hector Bellerin played a great ball to Aaron Ramsey, who managed to slot it to Aubameyang. The attacker played it one time and curled his effort into the lower corner, tying the match at two goals a piece.
Arsenal turned it on yet again on a set piece in the 60th minute. The first attempt was on net and heading for a third goal, but Dele cleared it off the line. The second attempt didn’t miss by too much, going over the crossbar and just a bit wide. Spurs were back to being rattled as Arsenal’s press and passing were slicing open the defense.
Spurs caught a break in the 68th minute. Hector Bellerin played a dreadful pass into the middle of the pitch where Sonny was waiting. With all sorts of room around him. Sonny made a single touch and fired a blast outside the box. He hit it almost directly at Leno, who parried the powerful shot out to touch. It felt like a missed opportunity, given that the Korean International could have made at least another touch before taking his shot.
Arsenal broke the deadlock in the 75th minute on a dreadful mistake by Spurs. Juan Foyth had his pocket picked by Aaron Ramsey on the right flank and immediately looked for Alexander Lacazette. His attempt on target looked wild, but somehow, he curled it just inside the far post past a diving Hugo Lloris to make it 3-2.
The goal ended up being the collapse for the match. Spurs couldn’t recover from the goal and gave up the ball for another counter by the Gunners. Lucas Torreira made a perfect run, coupled with a terrible attempt to stop the pass by Eric Dier, led to him being on net. He did not hesitate and fired it past Hugo. It was 4-2 and the match felt like it was over at that point. Only at this point did Pochettino finally make subs, bringing on Harry Winks and Lucas. A few minutes after those subs were made, Danny Rose returned from his injury to replace Ben Davies.
It was too little, too late and it only got worse from there. In the 85th minute, Jan Vertonghen, who was booked very early in the match for his hand ball, fouled Lacazette on a follow through when clearing out a ball. Mike Dean felt it was bad enough to give him his second yellow card, sending him off and leaving Spurs with ten men. It didn’t change much in regards to tactics, given Spurs had switched to a back three much earlier.
There wasn’t much of note after the red card. Spurs couldn’t muster up a dangerous attack and Arsenal were happy to just hold the ball and take a chance here and there. The match was long decided, with the final whistle bringing things to an end just as a mere formality.
Thoughts on the Match
- Welp, that sucked. Spurs, for most of 90 minutes, got their asses kicked. Pochettino’s switch to a back three only resulted in Arsenal going to a 4-3-3 and they shredded us.
- I thought Sonny was pretty good in the first half. He was causing a lot of problems for Arsenal’s back line, though that penalty was a little soft. Either way, Dean gave it.
- Kane never really got free in this match, even though he had involvement in the penalty decision. Arsenal kept him under wraps for most of the 90 minutes.
- I could go on and on, but I’m pinning this one on Pochettino. Emery out-coached him tactically and it showed on the pitch.
- I’m getting a bit tired of seeing Pochettino wait so long to make subs. Lucas and Winks needed to be in there around the 60th minute, not near the 80th. As I said above, it was just too late to make an impact.
- This match was crying out for Erik Lamela. His thigh injury really made the attacking options thin on the bench and he would have been great for the second half.
- Toby Alderweireld was on the bench for fitness reasons. Pochettino’s rule is “fit and fresh” and since he had played last weekend and mid-week, he was swapped for Juan Foyth while Davinson Sanchez recovers from injury.
- Welcome back, Danny Rose. He’s going to be needed in this long holiday stretch.
- With the result, Arsenal and Spurs are now level on points but have a superior goal differential.
- Sometimes football is a cruel mistress. Burn the tape and let’s smash Southampton on Wednesday.