Arsenal and Tottenham share spoils in north London derby
Goals for usual suspects: Eriksen, Kane, Lacazette and Aubameyang
01 September, 2019 — By Tom Foot
Arsenal 2 (Lacazette 45+1, Aubameyang 71)
Tottenham 2 (Eriksen 10, Kane 40)
ARSENAL and Spurs settled for a point-a-piece after a tense and scrappy north London derby ended in a draw.
Goals from strike-partners Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette saw the Gunners fight back from 2-0 down after Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen had stunned the Emirates in the first half.
Both managers suggested afterwards that the game had been overwhelmed by “emotions” and “heart more than head”.
It was the first time Arsenal fans had got to see Aubameyang, Lacazette and new signing Nicholas Pepe play together in an attacking front three.
But despite the early optimism it was Tottenham that struck first, Eriksen tapping in after a Bernd Leno blunder.
Kane scored from the penalty spot after a reckless tackle by Granit Xhaka. The Arsenal captain lunged in unnecessarily, leaving the referee Mark Atkinson little option but to point to the spot.
Just before half time Lacazette pulled one back. He took two tight touches to control and go past the defender in one movement, finding the net between Hugo Lloris and his near post with a powerful strike.
Leno made two outstanding saves to make-up for the first goal.
Matt Guendouzi, impressive throughout the game, thought he’d scored but was denied by the save of the match from Lloris.
Minutes later, a hard-hit, low and swerving strike from Kane came back off the post.
There were sly off-the-ball fouls, foots being left-in, shirts being tugged – and fans would at least be happy that video assistant refereeing has not taken all the fun out of the north London derby.
The VAR system did rule no goal after Sokratis thought he’d got a winner. But most had already spotted that the linesman had already flagged for offside.
While the fans had moved on from the goal being disallowed, the defender went into full liability-mode.
He got a yellow after charging off on a mad down the right wing and losing the ball. Kane had been winding him up at set pieces before, and the two fell over each in the box in what at first looked like a penalty. Replays showed the striker had taken a massive dive, despite Sokratis putting a hand on his shoulder.
Spurs manager Pochettino said: “There is no point to talk too much anymore. It is the decision of the referee and we have VAR. I don’t want to talk about decisions anymore.”
The attacking trio are a good mixture of pace, power and precision. But they don’t appear to have worked out how to play together yet, Pepe struggled to shoot and needs to look up more. He did skin a few Tottenham players though and looks like he might be one for the future.
Mesut Ozil was an unused sub and if the Gunners had lost there might have been an inquest into the lack of creativity in midfield. Guendouzi did pick a perfect pass to Aubameyang for the equaliser. But for most of the game the system seemed to be to bypass the central three, with long balls for Pepe and Aubameyang to run onto, or for the wing backs to run to the line and cross into the centre.
After the match, Unai Emery said: “In midfield we need a balance. We need the defensive, creative and the pressure. In some ways the balance needs to improve, but mostly we did well. There are many positives.
“We controlled second half than the better first half. More with heart than head. First 20 minutes was very good minutes. But the second goal give us a difficult moment.
“In 90 minutes I am very proud of his [Granit Xhaka] work. Some mistakes you have. The penalty is a point of action. But he worked well, he played well.
He added: “I think that [Guendouzi] deserves his starting, as one step more for him. He is very important. He is working his body, to progress and be stronger that is needed in the Premierleague.”
ARSENAL: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Luiz, Sokratis, Kolasanic, Guendouzi, Torreira (Ceballos 64), Xhaka, Lacazette (Mhykitaryan 67), Pepe, Aubameyang.
Subs not used: Martínez, Ozil, Chambers, Willock, Chambers, Martinelli
SPURS: Lloris, Rose, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Son (Lo Celso 78), Winks, Kane, Lamela (Alli 60), Sissoko, Eriksen.
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Moura, Skip, Davies.