It wouldn’t be a North London derby without two penalties, dodgy decisions and a red card. Like most fans, I would have taken a draw before kick-off, but with Aubameyang missing a penalty, and the linesman failing to flag Kane for offside before Spur’s equaliser, the result felt like a loss. Emery will now end his first season without a single away victory against top six opposition, continuing our dreadful form in recent years. We haven’t beat Spurs away since 2014 and our last victory against the top six came against Manchester City in January 2015. Despite the perpetual gloom, there were enough positives from this game to suggest results will improve next season.
When you play away against a top side you need to be disciplined defensively, compact without possession, and clinical in front of goal. Emery got his tactics spot on for this game and we were 90% towards having all elements needed. We started with a 4231 with Mustafi, Sokratis, Koscielny and Monreal at the back, Guendouzi and Xhaka in midfield, Mkhitaryan and Iwobi wide, Ramsey at 10 and Lacazette up top. Our defensive line and collective team position was deeper than usual nullifying the powerful runs of Son and limiting space available to Harry Kane. Monreal and Iwobi were terrific down the left limiting the creative output from Trippier and Sissoko who both saw lots of the ball.
The first goal was always going to be key and Mr “right place right time” Aaron Ramsey was on hand to grab it. He pounced onto Lacazette’s pass on the halfway line after Davinson Sanchez misjudged the ball. He then burst into the box and coolly rounded Lloris to make it 1 -0. Throughout the game, his energy and movement were fantastic and this goal allowed us to sit back and contain. If his legend status was in doubt for any fans before the game, this performance would have sealed it.
We continued to limit Spur’s attacking threat and create good chances. Lacazette had two big chances to add to the score line and would have had a brace on another day. Tottenham’s best chance came late in the first half, but they were foiled by a magnificent double save from Bernd Leno. Harry Kane cleverly found the run of Eriksen to leave him one on one with the German. The keeper remained big and managed to parry the shot. The rebound fell to Sissoko who thought he had scored, but Leno managed to deflect the shot above the crossbar with his weaker left hand. A coming of age moment for the keeper.
The equaliser did not come until late in the second half when Harry Kane scored from the penalty spot after being bundled over by Mustafi. The England captain should have been ruled out for offside in the build-up. He was never going to miss his penalty. The key elements of a disciplined defence include not giving away stupid fouls in dangerous areas of the pitch, maintaining the defensive line, winning aerial duals and being first to loose balls. We were almost there, but Mustafi let his team down with a moment of madness. Top players exaggerate contact smartly and Mustafi has to learn to keep his discipline.
Aubameyang had the chance to win the game from the spot after we won a soft penalty in the last minute. His tame effort was easily scrambled away by Hugo Lloris. Good keepers will always follow the ball on a pressure penalty hoping that the strike will lack the venom needed to make it un-saveable. Auba should have gone for power, however with the amount of games he’s won for us he can’t be criticised.
Overall the passion, commitment and drive from the players was clear to see and the performance leaves me confident of sealing a champions league spot.
P.s. Top teams don’t rely on the referee
On another day Spurs would not have been awarded their penalty and Danny Rose would have been sent off for his studs in the chest of Leno. However, despite a series of poor decisions by the officials, we must remember that top teams don’t leave results up to the referee. I recall a time when we routinely beat teams even after going a man down. Emery must rebuild that ruthless winning culture by not allowing the players to be concerned by the injustice of bad decisions. If we took our chances we would have won.
With tough away fixtures on the horizon we must take the positives from this game and make them a consistent feature of our performance.
|10 Mar||Man Utd (H)|
|01 Apr||Newcastle (H)|
|07 Apr||Everton (A)|
|15 Apr||Watford (A)|
|20 Apr||Crystal Palace (H)|
|29 Apr||Leicester (A)|
|04 May||Brighton (H)|
|12 May||Burnley (A)|
Next weekend against Man U now feels like the cup final for fourth. The Red Devils haven’t lost since December.
Torreira will be a big miss.