Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Welbeck, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud
Subs: Szczesny, Gibbs, Gabriel, Flamini, Rosicky, Walcott, Akpom
Harry Kane scored two second half goals as Tottenham came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 in the north London derby. The striker cancelled out Mesut Ozil’s early volley with a close range finish from a corner then headed the winner four minutes from time as Arsene Wenger’s men paid for a performance lacking in creativity.
The only change from the side that beat Aston Villa last weekend was the return of Danny Welbeck in place of Theo Walcott. The striker, who hadn’t featured since picking up a thigh problem on 28 December, seemingly picked to help out Hector Bellerin on the right hand side. David Ospina retained his place in goal, on the bench Rosicky and Flamini added experience to Akpom’s youth.
Spurs saw plenty of the ball from the start, but as was the case in last year’s north London derby it was a clinical early attack from the Gunners that gave us an early advantage.
On 11 minutes Danny Welbeck raced down the right, crossed for Giroud and when the Frenchman’s miskicked attempt fell to Ozil he found the net first time on the volley with his cushioned left foot finish. There was a hint of offside, but replays showed Eric Dier playing the World Cup winner on. Just. (1-0)
Kane had already forced a save from Ospina on 5 minutes and Tottenham responded to going down with several breaks down Bellerin’s right flank. A Rose shot needed a strong hand from our Colombian to push the ball away from danger, a Bentaleb effort on 20 minutes whisked past the post. Rose flashed across the goal, Mason produced another diving stop from Ospina, then Eriksen and Lamela both shot over the bar.
As was the case at the Etihad, the policy was obviously to sit off, defend in numbers and allow Spurs to have the ball in our half. The home side were certainly dominant – the had 67% of possession in the first half – but for all their time on the ball our defence wasn’t overly stretched.
If there was a criticism of our performance it was that our defensive discipline seemed to stymie our adventurous side. Rarely did we commit numbers forward and subsequently the rare forays into the final third saw little created.
It wasn’t a physical game but Kane, Monreal and Welbeck all went into the book for mistimed challenges. The latter’s slight catching of Rose, just before the break, resulted in both men confronting each as the half time whistle blew.
The tension between Welbeck and Rose continued to simmer at the start of the second half as the two clashed on the touchline. Referee Martin Atkinson laughed off claims for a second yellow for the Arsenal man. Koscielny wasn’t so lucky though. A mistimed sliding challenge by Frenchman on Dembele on 53 minutes resulted in a yellow.
Three minutes later Spurs levelled. Koscielny deflected a Mason shot for a corner and from the resulting set piece Kane tapped in at close range following Ospina’s flappy save from an Dembele header. (1-1)
Spurs really should have taken the lead in the minutes that followed. A series of dangerous attacks forced us into last ditch, desperate clearances as our defence was turned inside out. The sustained pressure ended with an Ospina save from Dembele.
At the other end Welbeck’s curling effort saw Lloris tip the ball around the post. Koscielny headed the resulting corner straight at his compatriot. The game was end to end. Dier had a header cleared off the line, then Ospina fielded a Mason volley and made a top save from Bentaleb’s low shot from outside the box. Eriksen hit a free-kick over as the home side cranked the pressure up. Giroud headed wide from an Ozil cross.
On 67 minutes Arsene Wenger sent Tomas Rosicky on for Santi Cazorla, with 13 minutes left he threw Walcott on for Welbeck. The game turned into a real scrap with niggly challenges all over the field. Giroud and Mason made their way into Martin Atkinson’s book as the chances dried up.
It looked like the game might end in a draw, as it had at the Emirates, only for Harry Kane to edge Sp*rs in front with 4 minutes remaming. Out of nothing the striker rose to head home a cross from the left wing that left Ospina completely stranded. Questions really need to be asked about why Bentaleb was given so muc space to deliver his ball. (2-1)
Akpom came on and Rosicky and Monreal had efforts from long range but our attempts to find an equaliser were ultimately futile. A horrible start to the weekend and defeat in the derby stings all the more badly with the win putting Sp*rs into fourth ahead of us in sixth.
We’ve a chance to rectify things on Tuesday night against Leicester, but it’ll be a long three days until then.