TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (Son 13, Kane 45+1)
GLORY, GLORY Tottenham Hotspur rang out around this futuristic stadium, and for those 2000 or so Spurs fans lucky enough to get a ticket, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Supporters readmitted after nine months out, the team beating Arsenal and going back to the top of the league and Jose Mourinho’s master plan working out to a T – these fans can dare to dream that the glory days might be coming back to this grand old club.
Admittedly the style of football is pragmatic rather than flamboyant, a million miles away from the glory game instilled in the club\s DNA since the heady days of Danny Blanchflower and Jimmy Greaves, but Spurs fans won’t care one jot.
They are winning at the expense of their bitter rivals, they have bragging rights in north London once again, and they are back on top of the pile.This was an almost identical victory to the win over Manchester City here two weeks ago, with the same pattern of play, the same men playing pivotal roles, and the same result.
The only change was that Harry Kane got the second goal instead of Giovanni Lo Celso, but Heung Min Son scored a supberb breakaway goal to get them going, just as he did before. Kane was the architect both times, and yesterday Son repaid the favour by setting up Kane to score the second in first-half stoppage time.
“They are world-class strikers, it’s as simple as that,” said a beaming Jose Mourinho.
Again Spurs were happy to concede the lion’s share of possession to their opponents, defend like tigers, and attack clinically on the break. For Arsenal, this was as bad as it gets as they struggle in the lower end of the table, and they left the pitch to jeers from Spurs fans that “You’re going down with Fulham.”Relegation may not be a realistic threat for Mikel Arteta’s men, but the faultlines at Arsenal are deep and there appears to be no respite in sight.
Despite dominating the statistics in possession, crosses, shots and corners, Arsenal rarely stretched Hugo Lloris throughout the 90 minutes, so comfortable were his defenders at keeping teh misfiring Gunners at bay.
And special mention must be made once again to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who was immense once again, running the show from midfield, breaking up play, orchestrating Tottenham’s own possession when they needed to take the heat out of the game, and putting his body on the line. Mourinho was quick to praise Hojbjerg for his man of the match performance.
“He is very good technically and tactically, and one day he will be a manager, for sure,” said Mourinho of Hojbjerg. “Simplicity is genius, and he is a phenomenal player.”
The Dane was as dynamic as Thomas Partey was not, with the Arsenal midfielder having a wretched return from injury time before limping off on the stroke of half time. By then the damage was done, as Kane doubled Tottenham’s lead, an unassailable one as it transpired.
There was a party atmosphere inside the Tottenham Hotspur stadium before kick-off, with most of the 2000 fans having no trouble social distancing in the 17,000 seater South Stand. Although they looked sparse in such a huge stand, they made plenty of noise. There was optimism that this gritty new Spurs, under Mourinho, can get a result against most teams on their day, but there was also anxiety that form goes out of the window in a north London derby. Such fears were to prove unfounded.
True to form Spurs took the lead with their first attack, 13 minutes into the game, and it was little surprise to see Kane and Son link up once again. It was a move of breathtaking speed from back to front. Spurs were defending their own area when Steven Bergwijn made a clearance to Kane, 20 yards inside his own half. The England captain received the ball with his back to Arsenal’s goal, turned and sent Son away from the halfway line. The Korean forward advanced on goal, and with Rob Holding backing off, cut in from the left and curled a shot into the far corner of goal from 25 yards.
It was a beauty from Tottenham’s first attack, and Arsenal were stunned.Apart from a long-range Hojbjerg shot that went straight into Bernd Leno’s hands, Spurs barely bothered to attack until stoppage time – and then it was swift and clinical again. Serge Aurier cut out a feeble cross, Lo Celso brought the ball out of defence and fed Son. The Korean advanced on goal befoere clipping a pass to Kane, who was overlapping on the left but getting close to the touchline. The angle was getting more acute, but Kane made light of it with a ferocious blow from his left boot that flew up inside Leno’s near post, clipping the underside of the crossbar on its journey into the roof of the net.
It was already game over, and the home supporters celebrated as if they knew it.
Arteta’s men huffed and puffed without much purpose or conviction after the break, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, who was largely anonymous, put a free header over the bar from close range, and Alexandre Lacazette had a glancing header tipped away by Lloris, who had little else to do.
“The players did what I asked of them, except score,” said a crestfallen Arteta. ” You have to put the ball in the net. We had plenty of the ball, lots of crosses, but it is simple – you have to score.”
While Spurs return to top spot, unbeaten since the opening day and with only one goal conceded in their past six league games, Arsenal have slid to 15th place and have only one win in seven.The north London derby used to be fierce and evenly contested, but this was just too easy for Spurs, and their fans can celebrate overtaking Chelsea to go back to the top of the league.
TEAMSTOTTENHAM 4-2-3-1 Lloris 7; Aurier 8, Alderweireld 8, Dier 8, Reguilon 7; Sissoko 7, Hojbjerg 9; Son 7 (Lucas 88), Lo Celso 7 (Davies 71), Bergwijn 7 (Rodon 90); Kane 8
ARSENAL 4-3-3 Leno 6; Bellerin 6 (Nketiah 76), Holding 5, Gabriel 7, Tierney 6; Partey 6 (Ceballos 45+1), Xhaka 6, Saka 6; Willian 7, Lacazette 6, Aubameyang 4
Ref: Martin Atkinson