Arsenal 2-2 Spurs: 5 Key Talking points from the North London Derby
Sparks fly, sinews twitch and knees clash when bitter rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur lock horns in the North London Derby and the first derby of the season on Sunday produced yet another exhilarating contest as the two evenly-matched teams found themselves deadlocked at 2-2 at the end of an enthralling ninety minutes at the Emirates.
Christian Eriksen opened the scoring for the Lilywhites before Tottenham’s ultimate derby destroyer, Harry Kane, deposited his penalty in the back of the net to hand the visitors a 2-0 lead in the first half.
However, Alexandre Lacazette handed the Gunners a lifeline at the stroke of the interval and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equalised midway through the second half as the Gunners completed an impressive comeback to share the spoils.
Despite the game finishing in a stalemate, both the teams produced some eye-catching attacking football, Spurs in the first half and Arsenal after the break, to ensure that both sets of fans stayed content.
Besides the high levels of excitement and drama, there were plenty of talking points for the media to dissect and here are some of the key talking points from the 2-2 draw in the North London Derby on Sunday:-
1. Unai Emery’s tactical change
Emery’s decision to field a narrow midfield against Liverpool drew a lot of criticism but the Spaniard was once again brave enough to try an entirely different system in the derby clash.
As opposed to the 4-3-1-2 system that he fielded last week, Emery opted for a change in formation to a 4-3-3 at home on Sunday, with a view to accommodating Lacazette, Aubameyang and Pepe in the same starting eleven for the first time in the season.
The trio slowly got into the game and operated in a similar way as Liverpool’s front three. While they lacked communication, effective coordination and proper support from the full-backs at times, the Gunners should take plenty of positives from the kind of threat they offered on the pitch against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
2. Tottenham’s lack of defensive depth exposed
The injury to Kyle Walker-Peters against Newcastle United last week was expected to force a tactical change from Pochettino, with Moussa Sissoko touted to play as a right wing-back in a back-three system.
Surprisingly, the manager went in with his usual back-four formation, with Davison Sanchez slotted into a rather unfamiliar right-back role.
Jan Vertonghen was handed his first start of the season in the Premier League alongside Toby Alderweireld at the heart of the defence, whilst Danny Rose retained his spot on the left-hand side of the backline.
Clearly, Sanchez looked like a square peg in a round hole at right-back and the Colombian had nightmares coping with the threat of Aubameyang down the flank.
He was caught out of position on a number of occasions and Pochettino’s gamble could have come back to bite Spurs hard had Arsenal been more clinical in the attacking third.
Realistically, the manager hardly had too many choices at right-back, with Trippier now gone and Walker-Peters and Juan Foyth both on the treatment table. Perhaps, the decision to freeze Serge Aurier out of the squad wasn’t a good one.
Additionally, the lacklustre performance of Vertonghen would have left Pochettino in a dilemma heading into the first international break of the season.
3. David Luiz continues to be a defensive liability
After all their travails at the back in the previous campaign, one would have expected Arsenal to invest in a solid centre-back this summer in a bid to shore up their leaky backline.
And quite unsurprisingly, a lot of eyebrows were raised when the Gunners chose to put their trust in former Chelsea man David Luiz.
With all due respect to his raw power, technical abilities and distribution, Luiz, as well all know, hasn’t been consistent enough over the course of his time in English football. And the Brazilian’s start to his Arsenal career hasn’t been impressive by any means.
The 32-year-old was responsible for each of Mo Salah’s goals against Liverpool last week and he once again sold himself for Christian Eriksen’s opener on Sunday.
Apart from that, the Brazilian’s poor positioning and inappropriate decision-making were on display numerous times over the course of the ninety minutes on Sunday.
4. Christian Eriksen is a gem that Spurs cannot afford to lose
There would hardly have been a better occasion for the Danish playmaker to return to the starting eleven in the Premier League this term and what an influence he had on the proceedings!
Eriksen has been one of Pochettino’s most reliable lieutenants in derby clashes over the years and his return to the starting eleven against Arsenal was a clear indication that he was going to don the jersey for another four months at least.
Tottenham would love to keep him beyond his current contract and a superb all-round display on Sunday is a testament to that.
Not only was he at the right place and at the right time to score the opener, but Eriksen also contributed a lot with his ability to pull the strings, create space and work the channels in the final third, whilst also showcasing his defensive work rate when Spurs were under the cosh for large quarters of the second half.
5. Matteo Guendouzi is arguably the most impressive player for Arsenal
Aubameyang and Lacazette stole much of the limelight that the derby had to offer but Arsenal’s unsung hero in the midfield, Matteo Guendouzi certainly deserves a fair share of the credit.
The Frenchman’s high level of energy, constant pressing off the ball, proficiency in breaking up the play, willingness to drive forward with the ball, as well as his ability to pick out the correct pass, justified his selection in a No.8 role in Arsenal’s 4-3-3 system on Sunday.
Guendouzi was one of Arsenal’s standout performers in the first couple of wins against Newcastle and Burnley, and he continued to prove himself to be a massive bargain for the Gunners with his incredible assist for Aubameyang’s goal. Definitely worthy of a big round of applause.
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