It had excitement, despair, joy, worry and frustration. Yes, welcome to another North London Derby. The Emirates was ready for the game and when the teams were announced their were many varied views surrounding Aubameyang.
From fans questioning the decision to the press trying to dig to get any scoop or micro detail to turn into something else to bat us down. Arteta has proven he can make tough decisions and especially with discipline. We’ve seen this with Ozil, Guendouzi and now to a lesser extent Aubameyang.
Arteta to his credit played down the issue and that should be the end of it. Aubameyang has broken a rule the squad are bound by pre game and therefore every player abides by them. No exceptions. Whatever has happened will stay in the dressing room and in private. No need for speculation or claiming that Arteta is ‘clueless’. Line drawn.
So Mikel had selected Leno, Cedric, Gabriel, Luiz and Tierney in defence with Xhaka and Partey in midfield with Smith Rowe, Odegaard and Saka playing in behind Lacazette.
The game started well for Arsenal with a real purpose and tempo to the game and Lacazette looked bright early on including a nice nutmeg on Sanchez before winning a foul. Lacazette had a shot blocked on 5 minutes and Tierney hit a low cross into the area which came to nothing.
12 minutes in we were still in control and possession 75/25% in our favour. A though ball saw Lloris come flying out of his area to clear but get in an awkward situation and then has the slide in to clear from Odegaard. Luckily for Spurs the ball didn’t go to an Arsenal player.
Smith Rowe then produced a fantastic strike on goal when he found himself in space 25 yards from goal. He unleashed a shot not too unlike Odegaard’s goal last Thursday. Sadly for him the ball didn’t dip enough in the end and hit the lower side of the bar and bounced away. That would have been a fitting goal from the youngster who deserves some good fortune after the decent performances this season.
A good sight for Arsenal fans was when Son went down after attempting to chase down the ball. One thing for certain was that he would play no further part in the game, on came Lamela. We continued to dominate the half although Spurs were getting a bit more possession. On 26 minutes Smith Rowe got past Doherty and then cut ball back to Lacazette who mistimed his effort and sliced it out for a throw.
Lamela was involved in a few things since placing central and included a couple of kicks firstly on Xhaka and then Luiz. He is just a nasty type of player. A few minutes later though against the run of play Bale floated a cross to the far side of the area and Lamela then hit a rabona shot between Partey’s legs and a slight curl into the far corner of the goal. That was an outrageous goal.
That goal spurred Arsenal on as another attack formed once again down the left with Smith Rowe getting the better of Doherty again the cross was cut back and the oncoming Lacazette dummied the ball when looking like it was a good position to take the shot himself. Cedric won the race to the ball on the edge of the area and fired another low powerful shot which smashed against the post.
Feelings after these chances were ‘one of those games’ so often the case with us. Shortly after Saka was brought down by Reguilon, who was booked. A minute before the break though we were level and deservedly so. Doherty again beaten on our left wing by Tierney who hit a cross into the area and into the path of Odegaard whose shot took a deflection into the net.
Two goals in two goals for the on loan Real Madrid youngster as we went into half time level at 1-1.
At the start of the second half Saka was replaced by Pepe, potentially due to the heavy tackle late in the first half. Tottenham were very poor in the first half and sure that Mourinho would have told them that so for all our control in that half going in level was worrying.
Into the first stages of the second have we still was dominating possession and Spurs were still very poor, Mourinho hooked off Bale on 57 minutes who was really poor and Kane had still had no touches in our area. Hojbjerg should have been booked for a block on Partey but came into the game with as many lives as a cat.
The hour mark saw us press further and with Mourinho making all his changes I started to feel a bit more comfortable. A minute later Pepe played a nice pass to Lacazette who controlled the ball well in the area and took a swing at the ball and scuffed the connection kicking more air however the recovery challenge took Sanchez into Lacazette in the act of the shot and was given as a penalty and soft or not it was an out of control attempt to get the ball, which he didn’t.
Lacazette picked the ball up and placed it on the spot. Huge pressure and expectation was on this kick and he delivered an unbelievably cool and calm penalty into the corner of the net to make it 2-1 to the Arsenal.
For the first time in the match Arsenal were now deservingly in front and had thirteen shots to Spurs one. Another foul by Hojbjerg on Odegaard without booking was laughable on 67 minutes and then Lamela flew into a challenge with Partey which brought his first yellow card.
Five minutes on the barbed character Lamela was shown his second yellow card for being a bit too forceful with his hand off to Tierney. Smith Rowe came off for Willian in yet another brilliant, bright performance for the club.
But knowing that Spurs are capable to get back into the game we started to defend deeper and become more reserved in our play. A Spurs corner flashed across goal with no touch and then Xhaka was booked for a tackle outside of the area. There was now a sense of nerves creeping into our play.
The ensuing free kick was swung in and having done precisely nothing all game Kane managed to head the ball into the far corner away from Leno. However the linesman’s flag was up and VAR confirmed that Kane was offside.
A few other chances late on for Spurs before Kane bought a free kick backing up into Partey, bent forward and collapsed on the floor. So up stepped Kane who hit the ball well into the far corner, Leno was completely beaten but the ball smashed against the post and the rebound fell to Sanchez who diverted the ball goalwards only for Gabriel to be in a great position to head the ball away.
Into injury time the stress wasn’t over as another free kick was awarded. Up stepped Kane again and he sent the free kick over. Panic over, calmness restored and happiness begins. The game finished 2-1 and North London is Red.
All in all we controlled large portions of the game, hit the woodwork twice and we deserved the result.