Tottenham Hotspur had a chance to put pressure on the race for the top four but, instead, put in one of their worst overall performances of the season, losing to their north London rivals, 2-1.
The big story going into the match was Arsenal dropping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the starting lineup due to disciplinary reasons. The Athletic state that he has been late for team meetings recently and was late to the match today. Arteta opted to completely drop him and start Alexandre Lacazette up top. Spurs had no surprises in their lineup, save for Matt Doherty starting over Serge Aurier maybe.
The start of the match was dictated full by Arsenal as they controlled the ball and tried to create chances from either side. They couldn’t put anything together, though, as Spurs weathered the storm quite well. Spurs had trouble getting anything going other than a couple of long balls and quick passes before Arsenal got back on the attack.
The first big chance of the match went to Arsenal in the 16th minute as Emile Smith-Rowe took advantage of a Sergio Reguilon turnover and fired a shot off the crossbar. Jose Mourinho screamed at his side to get into the match but seemed to be stymied by Arsenal’s attack.
Spurs took a huge blow right after the chance as Son Heung-Min went down with a hamstring injury in the 19th minute on a long ball from Toby Alderweireld. Mourinho had no choice but to pull the Korean International, opting to bring Erik Lamela on.
While Arsenal continued to dominate the match, the feeling was the longer they couldn’t get a goal, the more they opened the door for a Spurs counter-attack. While it wasn’t the quick-firing counter that we’ve seen at times this year, it was truly a moment of brilliance. Erik Lamela, making something out of absolutely nothing, put Spurs ahead with a rabona from fifteen yards out. Reguilon’s face said it all: The Argentine had come on as a sub and made the most of it.
Arsenal, to their credit, didn’t feel sorry for themselves and came right back to attack. Smith-Rowe got in behind Doherty again and put the ball into the middle of the box for Lacazette, who stepped over it. Cedric made a long run and one-timed a shot off the near post that Hugo Lloris had no chance at. Somehow, Spurs still had the lead with about ten minutes to play in the first half.
Spurs did what they could to stop the Arsenal attack but ultimately they couldn’t stop what had been coming for awhile. Smith-Rowe left Doherty for dead and crossed the ball to Martin Odegaard. His shot took a deflection off of Alderweireld, leaving Hugo with no chance to stop it. Arsenal had their equalizer going into the break.
Mourinho made no changes to the lineup for the second half but turned on the pressing, immediately winning a couple of balls in midfield and equaling the entire total of wins in the first half. Neither team put something together other than a Lacazette shot. That led to Mourinho making his second sub, bringing on Moussa Sissoko for an ineffective Gareth Bale.
Very little changed as Mourinho was shaping his side for the final thirty minutes, bringing Dele Alli on to spell Tanguy Ndombele. Sissoko dropped back into midfield as Lamela moved to the right flank, allowing Dele to slot into the 10.
Spurs hadn’t settled into the formation for more than a few moments before giving away a critical penalty. A quick turnover led to Lacazette getting the ball into the penalty area. His attempt at a shot was going well wide but Sanchez fouled him on the follow through. Lacazette took the penalty shot coolly, giving Arsenal a 2-1 lead with 25 minutes to play.
Arsenal remained in control of the match while Spurs struggled to find any kind of attack. The wheels came off in the 76th minute as Lamela was attempting to work a ball back into midfield and fouled Kieran Tierney with his right arm. It was a high foul, enough to hit Tierney to the ground, giving Michael Oliver no choice but to send him off with his second yellow card.
Down a man, Spurs had a chance to equalize in the final ten minutes. Lucas played a free kick into the penalty area and found Harry Kane, who buried a header into the far net but there was no question the striker was offside on the goal. It was the shot in the arm Spurs could have used, but they remained down a goal and man.
For whatever reason, Spurs played better down a man and put Arsenal on their back heel. In the 90th minute, Kane blasted a free kick that found the post. The rebound fell to Davinson Sanchez, who was cleared off the line while Leno desperately tried to get to his feet. Somehow, Arsenal still had the lead as five minutes of stoppage time was announced. Kane had a chance for retribution in the final minute on another free kick but sailed his attempt over the crossbar. Oliver brought the match to an end on the ensuing goal kick.
Thoughts on the Match
- I’d love nothing more than to be raving about Erik Lamela’s rabona, which was just incredible, but instead I’m sitting here reading 1000 words about how bad Spurs were. This was a miserable match to watch.
- Speaking of Lamela, he finally overdid it and got sent off. This was the most Lamela performance ever. I still love him, though.
- It’s a shame Davi gave up that penalty because he was pretty damn good otherwise. Same goes for Lucas, who was quite good as he got shifted around throughout the match.
- Matt Doherty was bad. Like, spoiled milk bad. Smith-Rowe had a field day with him in the first half and most of the second half.
- I cannot think of one thing Gareth Bale did in this match before he was subbed off. To be fair to him, this is the trend for most everyone as I go down the list of players.
- Somehow, this team played better down a man. Two huge chances came up empty in the closing minutes.
- We’re going to take a deeper dive on this one but this was as bad a performance that I can remember in recent memory.
- Spurs take a trip to Croatia on Thursday for the second leg against Dinamo Zagreb. Watch this tape, burn it immediately after, and prep for Europa.