Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal played to a 1-1 draw in the 185th edition of the North London that saw plenty of contact, cards, and penalties.
Mauricio Pochettino opted for a 3-4-1-2 formation. With Harry Winks, Eric Dier and Juan Foyth all missing the match, every defender found the starting XI for Spurs. Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko slotted in front of the back three with Christian Eriksen ahead of them playing in the #10 role. Arsenal countered with a 4-2-3-1 and left Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench due to Alexander Lacazette being suspended for the Gunners’ Europa League tie on Thursday.
The first fifteen minutes of the match went about as expected for an NLD. Plenty of contact, chirping back and forth, and some half-chances. Unfortunately for Spurs, a defensive error by Davinson Sanchez in the 16th minute led to the first goal of the match. Playing a very high line on the attack, Arsenal managed to get a through ball to Aaron Ramsey who was past everyone but in his own half to avoid being offside. He deked Hugo Lloris to the ground and slotted the ball into the net, giving the Gunners a 1-0 lead.
Tottenham came back after the goal, pushing harder in the press and getting into Arsenal’s final third. After draw a foul about 35 yards from net, Spurs thought they had their equalizer on a set piece from Kieran Trippier to Harry Kane. The headed effort found the net, but Kane looked to be just offside upon replay.
Thirty minutes into the match, Spurs had a 65-35 advantage in possession, showing they were moving the ball well but unable to find a good shooting opportunity at the end of it. Even with a couple of set pieces and corners, Spurs seemed content to wait for the perfect opportunity instead of just shooting to shoot. Sometimes, though, you need to pull the trigger to loosen things up, and with over 100 minutes of no shots on goal, the home crowd was more than a little restless with each attack.
Arsenal were happy to snuff out final third attacks and try to get on the counter, which they did in the 42nd minute. After breaking the press and getting through Tottenham’s midfield, Alex Iwobi moved the ball into Spurs’ penalty area and attempted a curling shot for the far corner. Hugo was up to the challenge, making an acrobatic save to keep the deficit at one goal.
Spurs missed a colossal couple of chances in the 44th minute. A perfect ball played over the top to Christian Eriksen. The Danish International’s shot was on target but Leno made a big save for Arsenal. His save fell to Moussa Sissoko, who put a second shot on target and was somehow saved by Leno again. The corner kick was uneventful and the half came to an end shortly after.
Arsenal made a substitute to start the half, bringing on Torreria for Guendouzi and keeping the same formation. After trading some possession back and forth, the first chance of the second half went to Arsenal. Nacho Monreal found an open Lacazette just outside the six yard box with more than enough space. He opted to one-time the shot and put it well wide of the far post.
Spurs had another opportunity to equalize in the 54th minute on a free kick. Trippier played a good ball into the penalty area that was ultimately headed away. It fell to Toby Alderweireld, who immediately tried to blast it top shelf but couldn’t put it inside the post.
Spurs made a change at the 60th minute, opting to bring Erik Lamela in for Victory Wanyama. This resulted in a change of formation to a 3-4-3 with Eriksen and Sissoko in the pivot. A major gamble given that Spurs were opting to play with no real option at six other than Oliver Skipp on the bench.
In the 74th minute, Spurs finally got their equalizer. After Erik Lamela earned a free kick, Harry Kane was fouled on the set piece. Anthony Taylor gave the penalty much to the chagrin of Arsenal’s squad. Kane sent Leno the wrong way and buried the penalty into the corner to make it 1-1. Was Kane off on the set piece? Yes, but with no call given by the linesman it didn’t matter. Game on.
Spurs brought on Fernando Llorente and switched to two center backs, moving Vertonghen to left back and slotting Danny Rose into the defensive midfield position. The move seemed to confuse Arsenal initially as Rose immediately started breaking up the midfield after around 20 minutes of it being clogged up.
In the 90th minute, Arsenal thought they had the match on a dubious penalty call by Anthony Taylor. Henrikh Mhiktaryan broke free with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and played the striker in beautifully. Aubameyang went to ground very easily but Taylor saw a foul by Sanchez. Instead of burying the penalty, Hugo stepped up and saved the penalty to preserve the match at 1-1 with stoppage time looming.
In the closing minutes of the match, Lucas Torreria committed an awful foul that was a potential leg-breaker on Danny Rose. Taylor pulled Torreria aside and showed him red, sending him off. There was no time to take advantage of the man advantage, though, as Taylor brought the match to an end just a minute later.
THOUGHTS ON THE MATCH
- That was exactly what everyone expects when these two clubs meet up. It never seems to disappoint, does it?
- The referees today had a rough one. Being honest, Harry was offside on the play where he drew the penalty. VAR overturns that, and we’ll be certain to hear the cries for it. After that, the “penalty” on Aubameyang was god awful.
- That being said? BALL DON’T LIE! I love you Hugo. Don’t ever leave us.
- Danny Rose got a very rare opportunity to play the six and he did everything he could to kill what was in his path. I don’t know if he was good or bad, but watching him there was sure something.
- Wanyama wasn’t bad today but you could see the rust on him. It’s expected and he’ll need to kick it off quickly, and 60 minutes in the NLD is a good start.
- This result could have gone any direction. A loss would have been disastrous, so nicking the point is fine.
- RIP The Undrawables, 2018-2019. Good night, Sweet Meme.