What a glorious game. Spurs won the North London derby with a barnstorming performance, capped with two goals from man of the moment Harry Kane. This was the match where the Tottenham faithfull fell in love with Mauricio Pochettino and his way of playing football.
I can’t remember enjoying myself so much at White Hart Lane. The atmosphere was electric even when we were a goal down – the crowd sensed Spurs had the beating of this Arsenal team. By the time Kane had scored the winner, minutes from time, they were in delirium. You could hardly have written a better script.
This is the fifth North London derby I have been in the stands for. The previous four had brought four heartbreaking defeats. Could this one be different?
As I took my seat I was strangely optimistic. When the teams were announced there wasn’t the usual trepidation. Bellerin, Cocquelin, Welbeck, Ramsey, Giroud…, it’s hardly Viera, Bergkamp and Henry.
Contrastingly the Spurs team sounded full of promise, especially the reassuring presence of the returning Nabil Bentaleb, the anchor of this young team.
There was one more change, as Pochettino went with Dier in place of Fazio, presumably for his extra pace against a fast and tricky opponent. Dembele kept his place at number 10.
The Belgium has been much better since his move further up the field. He’s now forced to play some passes in the danger area. He was his usual powerful presence and played an important part in this win.
From the off, Spurs pressed the opposition relentlessly. We dominated possession and the moment it was lost, swarmed all over the Arsenal players, not giving them a second of respite, crucially blocking off passing lanes.
In attack the movement was good but to begin with Spurs were finding it hard to break down an obdurate defence. The opportunities came mainly from range – an early Kane effort was turned round the post by the excellent Ospina.
Arsenal seemed content to sit back and play on the break – a sign of the change in the dynamic in North London these days.
Despite a good start it was the visitors who scored first, totally against the run of play. Welbeck outpaced a wrong-footed Danny Rose before slipping the ball to Giroud. The Frenchman miss-hit his shot and the ball fell to Ozil in acres of space. He fired home to give Arsenal an undeserved lead.
Although Rose was culpable, it was one mistake in an otherwise superb performance. He, and to a lesser extent Kyle Walker, provided us with pace and width that caused Arsenal no end of problems. Marauding wingbacks – perhaps the missing piece in the Pochettino jigsaw.
Our dominance of possession was driven by a commanding performance in the centre from Nabil Bentaleb, totally overshadowing Coquelin, Cazorla and Ramsey. How we’ve missed him while he’s been away.
Kane and Eriksen were fantastic as usual but Lamela looked out of sorts. Nothing was coming off for him, he couldn’t get into the pace of the game. Arsenal seemed to have a plan to physically intimidate the Argentine. Nevertheless, he didn’t let his head go down and the effort he put in off the ball made up for some of his deficiencies on it.
Nothing summed up the difference in class between the teams more than the players left back to cover when on the attack. Arsenal had Per Mertesacker, all gangly legs and poor control, while Spurs had the imperious Jan Vertonghen, a class act.
Mertesacker spent the whole game holding on to Spurs players’ shirts and climbing all over them with impunity. The referee should have penalised the German on several occasions but seemed oblivious.
At half time Tottenham were still behind but the mood in the stands was full of optimism. Arsenal were there for the taking.
The equaliser was inevitably scored by Kane. Incredibly the defence gave him a free run at the back post as Lamela swung in a corner. The goalkeeper parried it straight to the Spurs striker, who gratefully fired home, sending the crowd into raptures.
After the goal the pressure from Spurs was relentless. At times Arsenal just couldn’t clear their lines. They got lucky as several chaotic goalmouth scrambles failed to yield a winner.
Time was beginning to run out but – as we’ve seen time and time again this season – this Tottenham side is not the sort to settle for a draw. The noise in the stadium was deafening as the crowd demanded the winner the performance deserved.
One moment of loss of concentration almost spoilt the party as Welbeck found himself with a rare sight of goal. The ball arrowed towards the corner of the net but Lloris was equal to it, despite spending much of the match a spectator.
Then came the final act. Bentaleb swung in a cross and Kane cleverly placed a looping header into the top corner of the net – cue utter delirium in the stands. What a game, what a finish, what a player.
What did you think of Spurs domination of Arsenal? Which players stood out. Let me know your opinions in the comments below.