SUNDAY 6TH DECEMBER, 2020
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(2) ARSENAL 0(0)
Referee:- Martin Atkinson
Assistants:- Adam Nunn, Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth official:- Andre Marriner
VAR:- Kevin Friend
Assistant VAR:- Mark Scholes
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon; Sissoko, Hojbjerg; Bergwijn (sub Rodon, 90+1), Lo Celso (sub Davies, 72), Son (sub Lucas Moura, 88); Kane
Subs not used:- Hart; Winks; Bale, Vinicius
Booked:- Lo Celso (foul on Willian)
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Leno; Bellerin (sub Nketiah, 75), Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Willian, Partey (sub Ceballos, 45+1), Xhaka, Saka; Lacazette, Aubameyang (Capt.)
Subs not used:- Runarsson; Maitland-Niles, Mustafi; Elneny, Willock
Booked:- Xhaka (foul on Son), Lacazette (foul on Son)
It’s a happy, happy feeling!
It’s a happy, happy feeling to be top of the Premier League for a third consecutive week. Apart from the two sensational (one was “Sonsational”) goals that won us this game, it was not pretty to watch as Arsenal dominated possession (69% - 31%), shots on goal and shots on target. We have come through three very difficult Premier League games (Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal) and gained seven points and not conceded a goal in those three games! In fact we’ve now kept a clean sheet in five of our last six games in the Premier and Europa Leagues. Oh, and we beat Arsenal. They are 15th. We are top. I repeat -it’s a happy, happy feeling!
The debate started after the game about the style of football, and I will admit that the second half in particular was not easy to watch as Arsenal spent most of it camped in our half. However, I would argue that apart from a couple of smart saves from Hugo Lloris, both from Lacazette, our stalwart defence was not exactly troubled. The effort that every man put in was terrific. Apart from scoring the goal that made Harry Kane the highest ever scorer in North London Derby meetings, “one of our own” again turned up all over the pitch and made vital defensive as well as attacking interventions. He had the assist for “Sonny”’s superb opening goal too.
This was the first home game in the new stadium to have paying fans since the Norwich FA Cup defeat on March 4th. It is great to record on this report the presence of 2,000 fans, most of him were located in the South Stand. Those fans were in good voice, but sadly most of the significant action took place at the opposite end. Those of us who have done the Stadium Tour know of the excellent acoustics at the stadium, and that was evident today.
After all the pre-match rumours of injuries to Lloris, Reguilon and even Kane it was a happy feeling to see the team news which included all three players, plus Toby Alderweireld. It was effectively our current first choice team, apart from the absence of Tanguy Ndombele, who has a slight problem and according to Jose declared himself unfit this morning. Giovani Lo Celso stepped in. Son and Bergwijn interchanged between left and right initially but ultimately, Bergwijn settled on the right. People ask why Bale does not start as first choice. The answer is he does not track back to the same degree as does Bergwijn.
As for Arsenal, they were glad to have Thomas Partey back, but he had to go off just before half-time. More of that later. David Luiz was missing, which many Spurs fans would suggest was sad, as he is often such a liability, but of course he suffered that clash of heads with Wolves’ Raul Jimenez last week. Lacazette hasn’t always been first choice recently, but he scored in midweek against Rapid Vienna, so was selected today.
Arsenal’s formation was not easy to divine. The pre-match blurb suggested they would be a 3-4-3. Post-match suggests they were 4-4-2, but I would describe their set-up as follows. Bearing in mind Jose was clearly happy to let Arsenal come on to us, they generally played with a back two of Holding and Gabriel. Full backs Bellerin and Tierney were often advanced and it would be Xhaka who would fall back to assist those central defenders. Partey also had a responsibility to fall back, which is one reason he did not get to use his creative juices as much as he might like.
Arsenal kicked off and played towards the South Stand where our fans applauded the taking of the knee. After only one minute Son passed inside from the left to Kane who drew a foul by Xhaka, who was lucky not to get an early card from referee Martin Atkinson. Eric Dier took the kick, but was way off target. Saka had an early chance for Arsenal, but hit his effort way off target. It was a nervy start by both teams, who were reluctant to give ground anywhere. A shot by Partey went out of play half way between the goal and the corner flag.
Spurs took a sensational – no “Sonsational” lead in the 13th minute. Of course it was a counter-attack and of course it was Harry Kane who sent a ball diagonally forward to Son to his left. Inexplicably the Arsenal defenders backed off and allowed Son the space to come inside before unleashing a fantastic curling shot from fully 25 yards which beat Leno inside his left post. “Sonny” has now scored 10 premier League goals. Harry has 8 goals and 10 assists!
Son crossed from the right after 9 minjtes for Kane, but Holding managed to beat Harry to the ball and headed out for a corner. Midway through the first half Eric Dier sent a good ball forward to Reguilon who took it to the bye-line. His cross reached the advancing Hojbjerg who hit a powerful shot into Leno’s hands. After a patient build-up with Dier involved again, the ball eventually reached Kane who tried a shot from the edge of the box but saw that blocked by the defence. Once again Hojbjerg was our midfield leader; our battler; our Roy Keane – the type of player every good team requires. Once again Pierre-Emile was everywhere. He had to leave the pitch very briefly as he was bloodied in battle, but soon returned with Spurs none the worse for his absence.
Lo Celso picked up a poor Arsenal pass in midfield and went on a headlong run for the Arsenal area, ultimately winning a corner. Nothing came of that and Lo Celso got booked soon after for a foul on Willian. Lo Celso was also punished for an alleged foul on Lacazette just outside our area, but it should not have been a free kick. Lacazette took the kick and it was Harry Kane in the Spurs wall, who blocked it.
Soon after that, in first half added time, Spurs advanced from a defensive situation through the middle with passes from Aurier and Lo Celso before Son, on the edge of the Arsenal box, slipped it to Kane to his left. Harry found the space to hit a powerful left foot shot into the roof of Leno’s net off the underside of the bar. It was Harry’s 250th goal for club and country in 420 appearances; his 100th home goal in 149 spurs appearances, and he overtook Adebayor and Bobby Smith to become the top scorer in North London derby matches!
Thomas Partey had taken himself off the pitch as Spurs made their break. He was shoved back on by Arteta, but too late to make any difference, before he was replaced by Ceballos.
THFC would not allow me the fly the Spurs Odyssey flag in the stadium for these behind closed doors games but it will feature in my match report!
Spurs kicked off the second half, but nervously for watchers, they spent most of the time camped in their half. During the half Lloris had to make two sharp saves, both of which were from Lacazette efforts, but apart from that it was really a case of magnificent defending by Spurs, and not particularly incisive attacking play by Arsenal. Lacazette’s first effort was a glanced header from a free kick taken on the right. Hugo held that low to his right.
Tierney crossed from the left but Aubameyang headed over. The Arsenal captain has become rather an impotent force in recent games for his club. Spurs did manage to break forward and Sissoko tried a cross from which it appeared there had been a back-pass to Leno, but Mr. Atkinson said “No!”. the referee subsequently had “2words” with Sissoko over a midfield challenge.
Lloris’s best save was to dive to his right to push out another Lacazette header after the ball had been crossed from the right. We were three quarters of the way through the game now and Mourinho was getting Ben Davies ready. Davies came on for Lo Celso to form a back three with Aurier and Reguilon on the flanks. Spurs were venturing forward so little that Leno was seen around the half-way line several times.
Arsenal were meeting stout resistance at every attempt to get forward. Arteta took off Bellerin for Nketiah with Saka taking over at right back. Ceballos had been an influence on the Arsenal attacks and his cross for Lacazette was intercepted vitally by Aurier. Both Xhaka and Lacazette were shown yellow cards for fouls on Son. Spurs have become well versed in the art of drawing fouls. After Lacazette’s foul Son took the kick and Kane headed wide, but he and Dier were offside anyway.
Willian crossed from the left but Saka could only head the ball further to the right and safely out of play. Lacazette passed to Aubameyang whose shot was well blocked by the determined Alderweireld. Lacazette also had a left foot shot pass just wide of Hugo’s left post. By now the game was well and truly won and Jose managed the closure with the use of two more substitutes. One of those, Lucas Moura, offered us some life in the Arsenal half, but it wasn’t long before players, management and fans alike were celebrating a second successive North London Derby win. Both games have been at home, of course. The last occasions were in 2010, and 1993 when we won away too!
Spurs started the game in second place after Chelsea’s win last night. Arsenal started the game in 15th after Crystal Palace’s win at West Brom earlier today. At the end of the game Spurs were top (where they stay on goal difference after Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Wolves) but Arsenal remained in 15th place. That’s a happy, happy feeling!
COME ON YOU SPURS!
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