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Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal
There’s an old football adage that states possession is nine-tenths of the law. However, in a period where meaningless figures seem to provide experts with excuses over facts, Jose Mourinho – labelled by some as the latest ‘footballing dinosaur’ proved there really is only one statistic that matters.
Arsenal enjoyed – if that’s the correct terminology – almost two-thirds of the possession in the latest instalment of the North London derby, But despite taking the sixteenth minute lead thanks to Alexandre Lacazette’s fizzing strike, the Gunners, unbeaten in their previous four Premier League outings, left N17 pointless and now sitting below their much-maligned neighbours.
Sead Kolasinac and David Luiz dawdled, allowing Heung-min Son the opportunity to race clear, lift over Martinez and level three minutes later. And despite proverbially ‘huffing and puffing’ Arsenal were unable to blow down a Tottenham side who finally appeared to be buying into their managers’ demands.
True, it wasn’t always pretty – Spurs were absorbent and above all, disciplined. But this performance was lightyears better than those provided against Everton and Bournemouth – ironically, matches which saw the Lilywhites glean four points from a possible six despite the widespread criticism which followed.
Toby Alderweireld glanced home Son’s pinpoint flag-kick to secure what many, before the contest, believed to be an unlikely outcome.
Arsenal have made significant strides of late under Mikel Arteta and this defeat will undoubtedly tell the Spaniard a little more about the character and conviction of his side – some, who were found wanting – as he attempts to rebuild as opposed to repair at the Emirates Stadium.
Similarly, Mourinho’s Spurs will undoubtedly undergo a makeover when this seemingly never-ending campaign reaches its conclusion. But for now, the Portuguese chief will enjoy a day or two of released pressure ahead of facing another massive week bidding to chase down a European berth.
Speaking after the match, a delighted Mourinho enthused: They were fantastic – they felt the game as a fan – they wore their skin.
“We spoke about it not being a great season for the fans to enjoy. It’s really important for that, and on top of that, very important the fact that now we can fight until the end for a Europa League position.
“I think without a victory today that would have been really difficult so I’m really proud of the players. I thanked them for their attitude and commitment.”
Meanwhile, a despondent Arteta bemoaned: “I’m disappointed, frustrated and really sorry for the boys first.
“The way they played today, the personality they showed to come into this ground and show who we are, nullify the opponent, press them high, force them to kick the ball long and defend in a low block which is exactly what we wanted them to do.
“But obviously, if you give away the two goals away that we have given against these players, it’s very difficult to win a derby.”
Spurs now head to St James Park to face Newcastle United on Wednesday, July 15 (6pm), before entertaining Leicester City at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday 19 (4pm).
Meanwhile, Arsenal entertain Premier League champions, Liverpool on Wednesday evening (8:15pm) before turning their attention to an Emirates GFA Cup semi-final date with Manchester City on Saturday 18 (7:45pm).
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, D Sánchez, Davies, Sissoko, Winks, Lo Celso (Skipp 84’), Lucas Moura (Bergwijn 82’), Kane, Heung-Min Son (Lamela 90+4’) Subs not used: Vertonghen, R Sessegnon, Gazzaniga, Ndombele,, Carvalho Fernandes, Tanganga
Arsenal: Martínez, Mustafi, David Luiz, Kolasinac (Nelson 84’), Bellerín (Cédric Soares 84’), Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney (Willock 84’), Pépé (Saka 70’), Lacazette, Aubameyang Subs not used: Papastathopoulos, Torreira, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Macey
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Simon Bennett and Daniel Cook
Fourth Official: Graham Scott