In front of a Premier League record crowd of 83,222, Tottenham Hotspur dispatched North London rival Arsenal by the score of 1-0 in what can only be called a drama filled match with so many close calls that could have changed the match.
The first real chance of the match came for Spurs in the ninth minute. Breaking on the counter attack, Dele played a chip pass into Harry Kane but the English International couldn’t settle the ball and only got a scuffed shot off. Petr Cech parried the shot away and the ensuing corner resulted in nothing for Spurs.
It became obvious early on that Arsenal’s plan was to play eleven behind the ball, allow Spurs to have possession, and force a turnover into a counter-attack with Aubameyang breaking free. The first few attacks for Arsenal were long balls ahead to either Aubameyang or Mhkitaryan, but Spurs were able to weather the storm the first fifteen minutes.
The two sides traded possession back and forth for the next ten minutes until Spurs had a half-chance in the 26th. Trippier playing in his usual up-high-to-cross position played a shorter cross in to Christian Eriksen, who tried a high header to lob over Cech, but with no real pace on the ball, it fell harmlessly to Cech.
Just a minute later, Spurs had a much better chance. Eriksen played a great cross in to Kane, who timed his run perfectly and headed it from ten yards out. Unfortunately, the header had too much pace on it and it went over the crossbar to keep the match scoreless.
Arsenal’s best chance of the half came in the 40th minute on a counter attack. A pass across the field to Monreal led to a short pass about six yards out from the net. Davinson Sanchez, who had himself a hell of a first half, was there to block it just enough to allow Hugo Lloris to gather it up on the touch line.
Spurs came out of the dressing room flying o start the half. After a couple of half chances, the breakthrough finally came in the 49th minute. Ben Davies crossed a beautiful ball into the penalty area and found Harry Kane with space in front of the defenders. A perfectly timed jump and header put the ball in the back of the net, giving Spurs a 1-0 lead.
Just a couple minutes later Kane almost had a brace. Dier played a wonderful ball into the penalty area, almost the exact same spot as his goal, but he was not as fortunate on this one as it went just wide of the post. It could have been a dagger, but the match remained 1-0.
Spurs controlled the play after a short burst by Arsenal. Sonny was cut down just outside of the penalty area in the 56th minute, leading to a free kick for Eriksen. The Danish International’s strike was good and was heading for a goal, but Cech managed to parry it away to keep his side in the match.
Arsenal, chasing the match in the second half, went for an all out attacking formation by bringing in Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Iwobi for Elneny and Mhkitaryan, switching to what looked like a 4-1-3-2 and leaving Granit Xhaka alone in the defensive midfield. The move gave Arsenal a bit of life as the Gunners had a solid chance in the 68th minute on a break. Jack Wilshere made a curling effort from 20 yards out, forcing a diving save by Lloris to keep his clean sheet and Spurs ahead.
Spurs responded with a break of their own just a couple minutes later. With a four on two situation, Dele fed Sonny on the left flank. The ensuing attempt was scuffed, though, and found itself in the stands. That would be it for Sonny, making way for Erik Lamela in the 71st minute.
Lamela waited about thirty seconds to make an impact, playing Dele in on net with a simple pass over the top. Cech came out to challenge and Dele managed to put it past him, but the shot went wide. A minute later, Lamela got on the break himself and attempted a shot on target that was saved by Cech. Spurs could have easily been up by four or five goals by this point and the concern in the writers’ room was that these missed chances were ultimately going to cost us points.
Regardless of the feeling in writers’ room, Spurs kept the pressure on. Yet another chance for the dagger came in the 76th minute as Eriksen crossed the ball over to Trippier. His one-timed attempt was about as good as you could expect, but yet again Cech kept Arsenal in the match.
The next ten minutes settled down a bit, though there were chances both sides if it weren’t for a couple of offside calls. Arsenal opted to add to their attacking formation by pulling Xhaka out of midfield for Danny Welbeck, basically rolling with the most attacking 4-3-3 you’ll ever see to make the last ten minutes of the match as nervy as possible. Spurs were thankful to bring in Wanyama just before the move to strengthen the defensive midfield.
The chances hadn’t ended for Spurs yet as Lamela was in on net, albeit off to the left flank in the 90th minute. Attempting a tough shot at the far post, it went wide for a goal kick. Just after that chance, the board went up to let us know there was four minutes to burn off in added time.
The match would not have a drop in drama to close things out, as we all expected. A fantastic pass into Lacazette in the 93rd minute led to Arsenal’s best chance of the match. Hugo managed to challenge it just enough to force the shot wide of the post. While this could have been the final moment of the match, a late foul in the final third by Dembele meant one final chance for Arsenal to tie the match and steal a point. His shot went into the wall, and Anthony Taylor had seen enough, blowing the whistle to end the match.
THOUGHTS ON THE MATCH
- Everyone exhale.
- I mentioned it in the recap itself, but Spurs had so many chances to drive a dagger into the heart and twist it, but tip your hat to Petr Cech. He stood on his head.
- Big ups to the defense today. Trips, Sanchez, Verts, and Davies were outstanding today, as was Dier.
- Hugo earned that clean sheet with a couple of great saves and forcing that last shot just wide.
- Kane scores in a London Derby. All is right in the universe.
- Lamela came on like his hair was on fire. He was so good.
- I could watch a highlight reel on loop of Dembele shrugging off Wilshere on numerous occasions.
- Seven points clear of Arsenal, in third place for the time being.
- Bring on Juventus.