North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham both have lofty ambitions this season, with the clubs sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium yesterday.
Harry Kane’s opener came on the back of a progressive start from the visitors, while Kieran Gibbs came off the bench to score an equaliser for the hosts.
As Arsenal look to put forward a title challenge and Spurs have the top four as their ultimate objective, here are some thoughts on the respective sides after the game.
Tottenham progressing – but need to be more clinical
An away game at Arsenal has not always been a fixture that Spurs enter with overarching confidence, but the performance on show yesterday was one that the visiting support will be more than happy with.
Mauricio Pochettino’s footballing ideals are starting to sink in at White Hart Lane, with a youthful Lilywhites team tougher to beat, harder working and showing much more collective mental toughness.
That said, with Spurs good value for their 1-0 lead at the interval, a ten-minute purple patch in the second half should have seen the away side score a second and kill the game off.
If Tottenham are to break into the top four this term more of a clinical edge is needed; had the side’s attacking players taken more of their chances this term, Tottenham could well find themselves top of the league currently.
Arsenal take aerial route as Spurs waste corner opportunities
Arsenal are certainly not a team renowned for going to the air in the final third, but in a game against a stubborn and organised opponent, this proved as the route to success.
Not only did Gibbs’ goal originate from a cross, but Olivier Giroud had the chances to win the game with headers from centred balls.
On the other hand, Spurs did not make the most of second-half pressure and a host of corners.
Christian Eriksen has this season more often than not looked to take a short corner rather than getting the ball in the box, with limited results.
As shown when Toby Alderweireld attacked an Érik Lamela corner, Spurs have an aerial threat that the team should make more use of.
The balance right in Tottenham’s midfield
Eric Dier’s transformation into a midfield enforcer has been nothing short of remarkable and the reformed defender’s inclusion in the upcoming England squad is due reward for the former Sporting Lisbon man.
Dele Alli continues to grow in stature on an almost weekly basis and is well worth his current place in the starting XI; the sky appears to be the limit for this rounded young star.
With Mousa Dembélé in a more advanced role but still happy to drop deeper and help out defensively, Spurs won the lion’s share of the battles in the boiler room and have an enviable midfield dynamic this season.
Mesut Özil the Gunners’ creative spark again
It has not always been straight forward for Mesut Özil in English football, but the World Cup winner is starting to really fire in the Arsenal attack, with another assist to his name here.
The former Real Madrid man’s range of passing and in particular his eye for a killer final ball make this expansive Gunners outfit much more of a threatening team in the final third.
Keeping Özil fit and getting him on the ball will be central to Arsenal’s title ambitions, with the German’s ten assists to date this season already showing his undoubted calibre.
Lamela getting to grips with life in England
Of the seven players that Tottenham signed with Gareth Bale’s world-record transfer fee, the most pressure was arguably on Érik Lamela to deliver in the Welshman’s absence.
As has been clearly evident, the Argentina international has not always been flavour of the month at White Hart Lane, but is showing signs that he is now getting to grips with the Premier League.
Lamela has enamoured himself to the Spurs fans with his work-rate off the ball and is obviously motivated to excel where others signed at the same time have failed.
More importantly, the South American’s influence on the ball continues to increase as he plays week-in, week-out, with the former Roma man looking like another incisive attacking weapon in Pochettino’s armoury.
With the return of Son Heung-min from injury, Dembélé’s improved form and the likes of Clinton N’jie, Alex Pritchard and Nacer Chadli all set to be in contention once fit, Spurs have plenty of options in attacking midfield.