Tottenham Hotspur’s top-four hopes were dealt a blow in a North London derby which saw Arsenal take all three points and bring themselves back into contention for European qualification.
Eric Lamela opened the scoring against the run of play in the 33rd minute with a brilliant finish, but a goal at the end of the first half from Martin Odegaard and a second-half penalty from Alexandre Lacazette ensured that it was Arsenal that ended the weekend with all three points.
The result leaves Tottenham six points off fourth-placed Chelsea, albeit with a game in hand on their London rivals. The Gunners, on the other hand, have closed the gap to the Lilywhites to just four points.
The Tale of the Game
Mikel Arteta provided a shock in his team selection by dropping club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for “disciplinary reasons”, but it was still the Gunners who dominated the first half, Jose Mourinho calling his side’s performance “very bad in the first half”.
The Gunners hit both the post and the crossbar in the first 40 minutes, yet it was Spurs who took the lead through an inspired finish from Eric Lamela.
In what was their only shot of the half, Lucas Moura teed up the Argentine on the edge of the box. Pressured by two Arsenal players, Lamela produced a beautiful “Rabona” finish into the bottom right corner, that will certainly be a contender for goal of the season.
Deservedly, however, Arsenal responded 10 minutes later through 22-year-old Martin Odegaard. Matt Doherty had struggled against Arsenal’s left-hand side from the first minute, and once again allowed Kieran Tierney to get to the byline.
The Scottish full-back’s cutback found Odegaard 12 yards out, whose side-foot finish took a small deflection off Toby Alderweireld to leave goalkeeper Hugo Lloris stranded.
The second half began in the same manner as the first ended, with Spurs penned back but Arsenal failing to create any chances of note in open play.
However, losing the ball in their own third allowed half-time substitute Nicolas Pepe to play in Alexandre Lacazette, who went down under the challenge from Davinson Sanchez.
The referee blew for a penalty, which Arsenal’s number nine picked himself up duly converted into the bottom right-hand corner. A sending-off for Eric Lamela for a second bookable offence, bizarrely, provided some much-needed impetus for Tottenham.
Harry Kane saw his free-kick hit the post before Davinson Sanchez saw the rebound cleared off the line, whilst Lucas Moura consistently drove through Arsenal's weary midfield. Despite the late Spurs siege, however, Arsenal held on for all three points, and the bragging rights in North London.
Where do Spurs go from here?
This defeat for Spurs was their first in six games across all competitions but will worry Spurs fans more due to the timid nature of it.
Before the sending off of Lamela, they had managed just two shots, one of which was Lamela’s brilliant finish. The way in which they ended the game will have Tottenham supporters wondering where that side were for the first 80 minutes of the game.
Tricky fixtures are on the horizon in between now and the end of April, where they play three of the six sides above them, including league leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Whilst today’s result is not a devastating one in terms of their league position, the whimper with which they played will be worrying for them with the importance of the games to come.