In a feisty and competitive game, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur drew 1-1.
The North London Derby ended in a stalemate for the first time since 2016. What did we learn?
1. Rambo: Last Blood
Aaron Ramsey drew First Blood against Spurs in his first-ever North London Derby, scoring in a 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane. Today in his last North London Derby he bagged a big goal, a brilliant goal.
With Arsenal launching the ball forward and getting lucky with a horrendous misjudgement from Davinson Sánchez, the Gunners had the ball on halfway and Alexandre Lacazette needed a runner. Aaron Ramsey obliged. But the runner had to be able to carry the ball. Aaron Ramsey obliged. Then the runner had to be able to retain their composure in the box against a World Cup-winning goalie.
Aaron Ramsey obliged. The Welshman skipped around Lloris and tucked Arsenal into the lead. It was a huge validation of his abilities. It’s rare that a midfielder can move so effectively and intelligently off the shoulder, run 40 yards and then skin a goalkeeper. Ramsey is a unique goalscoring talent and Arsenal will miss him.
2. Kane’s quiet class
It was hard going for Harry Kane in the North London derby. Spurs had pretty much all of the ball, but Arsenal were so well-drilled defensively that there was often no space in which to play. Kane certainly wasn’t getting fed passes into channels and never got a clean look at goal. But in many ways this actually allowed him to show just how good he is.
Kane constantly showed for the ball, always being available as an outlet for Spurs’ attacks. And when he got the ball he held it up wonderfully against Arsenal’s defensive line. The England skipper even managed to use the ball with supreme intelligence, feeding Spurs players in for great chances including when he put the ball on a plate for Christian Eriksen in the first-half (the Dane really should have scored). He also scored a penalty, but unlike the World Cup he managed to play well despite Spurs’ struggles.
3. Spurs struggling with shallow squad
Spurs have failed to win for three consecutive games in the Premier League. They managed to avoid three defeats on the trot (which last happened in 2012 when André Vilas-Boas was coach!) but there is no doubt that Mauricio Pochettino’s side are having some issues. For starters they just drew their first league game of the season (29 games in!)
The major issue is the lack of squad that they have. When it comes to starting XIs, Spurs can compete with almost anyone in the league. But in terms of depth? They have names but they often cannot play with the same level of efficiency. This leads to Spurs riding the first XI too much, which leads to injuries or just fatigue where top quality players cannot raise their game.
Daniel Levy didn’t sign anyone in the summer or winter transfer windows, and Mauricio Pochettino is such a good coach that this absurd decision hasn’t really had a huge effect on most of Spurs’ season. But now we’re approaching the endgame? It’s begging to tell. Pochettino’s going to have to conjure another miracle… can he?
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4. Hugo Boss bails out drowsy Davinson
Davinson Sánchez is a wonderfully talented young defender but he is very obviously “young” because he makes so many risky gambles during games. Now a lot of the time this is him betting on his own athletic and technical ability to intercept or regain the ball; and most of these gambles pay off because Sánchez is a wonderful player.
But some of his gambles are classic examples of youngsters making risky decisions because they don’t comprehend enough of the angles. For Arsenal’s first goal he committed himself way too much but then didn’t go in with enough gusto, stranding himself halfway up the field and letting Lacazette pick out Ramsey to score. And then right at the death he barged into the back of Aubameyang when he should have just shepherded him out of play. Sanchez obviously thought he could win the ball but he instead gave away a penalty.
Then Hugo Boss stepped up to save his young team-mate. Lloris was at fault when Spurs lost to Chelsea midweek, and he had little to do here against Arsenal. But while he failed to save Sánchez in the first half with Ramsey, he rose to the occasion and saved Aubameyang’s penalty, ensuring Spurs didn’t lose to their hated rivals.
5. Emery’s masterclass had a tragic ending
Alright, Arsenal failed to win the North London Derby but this was a coaching masterclass from Unai Emery from start to finish. He began the match with Shkodran Mustafi at full-back and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench. The logic behind this would be to work them over with the intelligent Lacazette, using Aaron Ramsey’s movement off the no. 9 as a counter-attacking weapon. And Arsenal’s first goal came from exactly that movement.
Moreover in defence, Mustafi was actually quite brilliant. Well, he did push Harry Kane and give away Spurs’ equalising penalty, but Kane (as well as half the Spurs side) was offside and if the referee had been more on the ball (or if VAR was available) then the foul would have been irrelevant.
Nevertheless, Mustafi’s push was the only blemish as he played well out of position at full-back. Sokratis was excellent in the middle of defence as well, engaging Harry Kane in a mighty battle that managed to stifle the Spurs captain (who was, admittedly, denied service).
Then Emery pulled the trigger and brought Aubameyang and Lucas Torreira off the bench to step up the energy levels at the end of the match. Suddenly the Gunners had real bite in midfield and unreal speed in attack. As Spurs poured forward looking for a winner, Arsenal launched several counters that were made possible by Aubameyang’s pace, one of which resulted in Arsenal’s penalty.
Now, Aubameyang missed the penalty, and then later Torreira was sent off – but both of those elements were out of Emery’s control. Tactically his move made sense and in terms of execution it worked perfectly with the Gunners getting themselves a dream situation with a stoppage time penalty. Now, Emery couldn’t make Aubemeyang score nor could he make the referee use some common sense when dealing with Lucas Torreira, who should have never been sent off, but on paper the Spanish coach did so well.