This should have been the reboot moment for the team manager Mauricio Pochettino has labelled Tottenham Hotspur version 6.0, but, as so often has been the case at the Emirates, computer said ‘no’.
Two goals up and with the Arsenal fans ready to lynch captain Granit Xhaka, Spurs were motoring towards a first League victory in their rivals’ back-yard since 2010 and only a third in 28 games.
But Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back on the stroke of the break and Tottenham suffered a system failure, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang levelled the scores and Arsenal finished disappointed not to complete the turnaround.
Sokratis thought he had with 11 minutes remaining, but Sead Kolasinac had been offside when he received the ball on the left before crossing for the Arsenal defender.
Already billed as a ‘best of the rest’ encounter in the race to finish behind Manchester City and Liverpool, this entertaining north London derby only really confirmed what we already knew. For all their firepower, Arsenal remain capable of defensive calamity, while Spurs have not strengthened enough to trouble the top two.
A draw at the Emirates is by no means a bad result for Tottenham, following a home defeat by Newcastle United, and there was encouragement to be taken for Pochettino.
Yet this will still feel like a missed opportunity to kick-start their season and there is little to disprove the feeling that Spurs are still relying on the same set of star names to show that, as a collective, they have not already peaked.
For all the talk of this being the latest incarnation of the Pochettino era, there were nine players involved on Sunday who also drew at Arsenal during the Argentine’s second season in charge in 2015.
Harry Kane netted for Tottenham four years ago and his 40th-minute penalty that gave this Spurs side a two goal lead was his 10th goal in 12 North London derbies.
Christian Eriksen, another veteran of Pochettino’s reign, was brought back into the team and responded with an impressive performance and his 50th Premier League goal to open the scoring in the 10th minute.
The Dane looks likely to stay at Tottenham for another campaign, with the European transfer window closing on Monday, and, on this evidence, Pochettino will lean heavily on him once again.
Arsenal had started the brighter and threatened through Nicolas Pepe and Ainsley Maitland-Niles before they were caught cold.
Kane beat Sokratis to a header too easily and Son Heung-Min pulled David Luiz out of position as he darted across the Brazilian before passing to Erik Lamela. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno should have dealt with the forward’s low shot, but he palmed tamely into the path of Eriksen, who could not miss.
All of a sudden this was the Tottenham team that has won Pochettino so many admirers, as they poured forward with pace, energy and menace.
The home defence could not cope with the direct running of Son, who had a curling shot well saved by Leno and almost set up Kane with a cross that was cut out by Matteo Guendouzi.
Danny Rose had produced a brilliant headed block to stop Pepe’s effort at the back post from an Aubameyang cross, but it was not a surprise to see Tottenham double their lead – even if Kane’s penalty owed to the stupidity of Xhaka.
There were plenty of bodies between Son and the goal as the South Korean tried to find space for a shot in the area and yet Xhaka took him out with a late, wild challenge.
Kane made no mistake from the spot and the Emirates exploded with anger towards Xhaka, whose moment of madness was made worse by the fact he was wearing the captain’s armband.
Had they made it to half-time, then it is hard to imagine Tottenham giving up their lead but they let the hosts back in and Arsenal seized the momentum.
Two minutes in to time added on for stoppages, Lacazette received Pepe’s pass, touched the ball past Jan Vertonghen and blasted it into the net. This was Vertonghen’s first start of the season, with Davinson Sanchez moving out to right-back, and at times it showed.
Lacazette’s goal transformed the mood among the home players and fans, and they came straight back out on the front foot with Pepe forcing Hugo Lloris to save from his header.
The Frenchman did even better to tip Guendouzi’s shot around his post, and from the corner, Kolasinac poked Lacazette’s flick agonisingly wide.
Arsenal looked certain to equalise and yet Kane almost buried them with a brilliant move on the break. He played a one-two with Eriksen before beating Leno with a shot only to see the ball bounce back off the post.
There was a blow for the Gunners, when Lacazette was forced off with an injury in the 67th minute. But Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s introduction allowed Aubamenyang to move into the middle and he was in just the right position to divert Guendouzi’s pass into the net four minutes later.
Arsenal sensed a winner and they thought they had got it when Sokratis put the ball in the net, but Kolasinac was correctly ruled offside which was also confirmed by the Video Assistant Referee.
There was still time for some late controversy, as Kane was accused of diving under a challenge from Sokratis in the dying stages and Pochettino punched the ground in frustration when Moussa Sissoko blazed the last chance of the game over the bar.
Had that gone in, then there would be more optimism that Tottenham 6.0 will be a genuine upgrade on past releases.
90+ mins: Arsenal 2 Tottenham 2
Kane into the area, Sokratis comes to tackle him. Kane cleverly/cynically leans his body in front of Sokratis and allows the Arsenal man’s weight to sort of send him to the floor. Spurs naturally want a penalty. It’s not given. I’d say that’s a dive by the England captain, effectively.
80 mins: Arsenal 2 Tottenham 2
Another mistake from Sanchez, Henrik Mik cannot capitalise, it eventually drops to Pepe but he cannot make the shot count.
Ceballos and Alli have a tussle, Alli wants a penalty as he goes down but the ref says otherwise. I would say that Debbie Alli has a fair case there. Ceballos was all over him.
78 mins: Arsenal 2 Tottenham 2
VAR VAR VAR must have its moment in the sun. Arsenal have the ball in the net, but the linesman has his flag in the air, and it looks very much to me that the man in the Arsenal left wing position – Kolasinac – who crosses the ball for the goal is offside… and our technological overlords agree. No goal.
Half time: Arsenal 1 Tottenham 2
The Arsenal defence has been a shambles, the Spurs one arguably even more so. Not sure either manager has got his tactics quite right. Davinson Sanchez is having a 3/10 game at right back for Spurs and Arsenal were able to steam through down the left time and again.
But while Arsenal have Xhaka and Luiz as their DMC and CB they will always be vulnerable. Luiz out of position for the first goal, aided and abetted by some wet-noodle -wrist keeping from Leno. And then Xhaka with an idiotic lunge to give away a pen.
This match is pretty much the third-place play-off for The Greatest League In The World™ and both outfits have massive, massive flaws. Go figure.
44 mins: Arsenal 0 Tottenham 2
Arsenal, behind despite having been on top, continue to ask questions down the left. Sissoko, trying to help out the over-run Sanchez, makes a foul on Aubameyang and Arsenal have a free.
It’s half-cleared by Lloris and is surely close, that, to being a handball by Broadway Danny Rose.
38 mins: Arsenal 0 Tottenham 1
A penalty to Spurs! Utterly ludicrous play from Granit Xhaka. “A experienced player who never seems to learn from experience,” says Gurreh Neville, or words to that effect.
Winks plays the ball towards Son in the area, Xhaka has launched himself into a stupid two-footed lunge at Son in the box, fortunately for the Tottenham physio department, the forward gets most of his breakable bits out of the way. Just utterly brainless and a clear penalty all day long.
27 mins: Arsenal 0 Tottenham 1
Tottenham’s centre backs are deep and narrow. Something very odd going on with the defence. The Arsenal forward apply the press and the under-pressure Danny Rose has to commit a foul when he is give the ball in a hospital pass from a short goal kick. Lacazette the victime.
GOAL! Arsenal 0 Tottenham 1 (Eriksen 10)
Spurs have done them on the break! A long ball from the goalie, Harry Kane up gamely to win the header between two opponents. Son picks it up and plays in Lamela – David Luiz drawn to the ball like a moth to a flame and totally upsetting the coverage. Lamela tries a shot that Leno palms tamely right into the path of Eriksen, who cannot miss.
It’s an awful bit of goalkeeping. It was a low diagonal daisycutter of a shot, Leno should have pushed it away with a firm wrist or cushioned it into his body. Instead he just pattycaked it to the unmarked Spurs forward. Weak.
5 mins: Arsenal 0 Tottenham 0
Arsenal are really at it this afternoon, very impressive bright and busy start, especially down the left. Spurs right back Sanchez needs to sort his positioning out because they are getting outside him every time.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang crosses and Danny Rose has to clear behind.
From the corner, Son tries a weak clearing header, the ball drops for a shot, and Kane has to block it clear.
JJ says that Pepe can play as a right midfielder when they are defending in a 442 and then become the right-side of a 433 in attack. Nifty.
And no less a personage than Jose Mourinho is now explaining that very point on Sky TV!
Not directly related
to this match but I really commend this article from Sam Wallace about young players and how clubs handle them.
Arsenal vs Spurs teams
Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Papastathopoulos, Luiz, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Subs: Mkhitaryan, Ceballos, Ozil, Chambers, Nelson, Martinez, Willock.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Rose, Sissoko, Winks, Lamela, Eriksen, Son, Kane. Subs: Lo Celso, Alli, Gazzaniga, Aurier, Lucas Moura, Skipp, Davies.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)
North London Derby incoming and there is plenty to discuss before we get the teams shortly, and then a 4.30pm kick-off.
This is about a match, about bragging rights and Premier League points, but for Arsenal especially it is also about identity. What is an Arsenal team in 2019? And how should Unai Emery go about challenging the neighbours, who have become the pre-eminent side in the capital in the last year or so.
Here, JJ Bull explains how Emery has got the Arsenal side to evolve in his tenure.
During his time at PSG and Sevilla, Emery preferred a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 in teams which made use of transitions and played from the back. Having employed a 3-4-3 for most of last season – due largely to injuries to Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin – Emery has since reverted to his usual setup, using this second season in charge to put his stamp on an Arsenal in flux.
Arsenal started in a 4-2-3-1 for the 1-0 win against Newcastle and did the same for a hard-earned 2-1 victory over Burnley at the Emirates. Both games featured several youngsters, with Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock introduced to the first team proper, the latter doing so well he started against Liverpool too.
The keys to Arsenal’s win against Burnley were Emery’s tinkeringand Dani Ceballos, both representative of change from the Wenger era.
And Sam Dean, meanwhile, delves deep into the question of what it is that the manager does, and what he is trying to do
What is Arsenal’s “identity” under Unai Emery? It is both a question that is frequently asked of the Spaniard and the basis for much of the criticism he has received during his time in north London. There is a simple answer, though, and a single match that perfectly encapsulates what Emery is trying to do at the Emirates: last season’s 4-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
Anyone wondering what “Emeryball” looks like should find the footage of that derby and settle down in front of their screen. They will note the ferocity of Arsenal’s players, the intensity of their attacking play and the flexibility of their system.
They will see how Lucas Torreira careered into tackles like a turbocharged dodgem, how substitutes Matteo Guendouzi and Stephan Lichtsteiner triggered a touchline brawl and how Emery screamed at his team for more, pumping his fists towards the sky, after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had scored a second-half equaliser.