A late Toby Alderweireld goal lifted Tottenham Hotspur over Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur have 3 wins in 6 matches in project re-start, with Sunday’s North London Derby victory over rival Arsenal lifting Spurs above the gunners to 8th place in the Premier League. After a couple lackluster performances over the last couple of weeks – see Sheffield and Bournemouth – Tottenham displayed the kind of fight one wants to see in their club and that grit paid off with a late goal and victory. So, what were the highlights and takeaways from this big Spurs Derby win over Arsenal in the Premier League?
Moura Putting out for Mourinho
Many of the players in the Tottenham Hotspur squad can split opinion within Spurs fanbase – Erik Lamela, Serge Aurier, and Harry Winks to name a few, but no-one can be quite as hot and cold as Lucas Moura.
When Lucas Moura is on, it can be deadly for the opposition. I know we all can quickly harken back to the excitement of his flurry of goals at the end of the Champions League semi-final against Ajax, but I also remember him lighting up Manchester United to start the 2018-19 campaign. In-between those matches have been a few up and down performances where you just are never sure what he is going to bring to the club if his dribble is off.
Today we saw a different, more gritty Lucas Moura, who stuck his nose in at every possible moment and grinded his way to a Man of the Match performance. Moura did not have a goal – though he stung the hands of Gunners keeper Martinez and fizzed another shot just wide. Lucas did not have an assist – although Harry Kane should have been able to chip Martinez for a goal early in the match, again the keeper was up to the task.
Despite not having an assist or a goal, Moura was a difference-maker for the Spurs. Lucas Moura was just active, he won 16 of 26 duels, we WON 8 of 10 TACKLES, and he completed 3 of 5 take-ons in the match. Those are the kind of numbers we used to expect from Mousa Dembele, not our speedy Brazilian winger. I will say this, if we see that same effort every match, Moura is going to continue to see minutes from Mourinho and rightfully so, just a great effort and game today when Spurs needed it most.
Toby Continues to Perform for Tottenham
After sitting out the first couple of matches of the restart in favor of a Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier pairing, Toby Alderweireld has been back in the starting line-up since the Sheffield defeat and Spurs have managed to ship only 1 goal – an absolute screamer from Lacazette today – during that time. It is no mere coincidence that this is the case.
First, we know about Toby’s ability to ping the ball around the pitch putting pressure on opposing defenses with those long diagonal balls. While that was not available as much today with the constant Arsenal pressure what was available in spades was the poise that Toby possesses when on the defensive backline.
Paired today with Davinson Sanchez and playing out-of-position in the left-sided center-half role after being on the right in the previous two matches, Toby did not miss a beat and hardly played a misstep the entire match. The Belgian was a rock on the back end clearing away attacks with both his feet – blocking multiple shots – and his head – a low diving header clearance late stands out in my mind from him on the day. That diving header clearance was indicative of the effort Alderweireld displayed throughout, just like Moura and the rest of Spurs’ side.
Even bigger than his wonderful defending and more important in the standings was Alderweireld attacking the ball off a corner late. This time instead of heading it as far and wide as he could for clearance, he was performing a perfect flick re-direct of the ball past Martinez and into the corner of the Arsenal goal for the game-winner. If Lucas Moura as the best player in the middle third today, Toby Alderweireld certainly was in the back third and not to bad in the final third either.
The Non-Story Spurs Story-line
One real story coming out of this match was the story that never was, which was the role of Michael Oliver in the match. After two dismal calls against Spurs WITH the benefit of slow-motion instant replay- it seemed the referee may have a role to play in the match. And while I do not think Oliver was great by any stretch – miss that Lacazette pullback of Winks right in front of you eh – he never made the terrible call that cost Spurs or Arsenal the game.
Instead for the most part – outside of a few too many, inconsistent yellow cards – Oliver was a non-factor in the game. Oliver called 27 fouls – 16 on Spurs and handed out 8 yellow cards – 5 on Spurs – but never pulled the red and did not award a penalty. Ultimately, neither side could complain but so much about Oliver’s performance, today anyway.
Other Tottenham Takeaways
Tottenham played a more traditional 4-4-2 today and the team seemed more balanced. Moussa Sissoko and Serge Aurier were able to give Bellerin and Mustafi as good as they got all game and frankly, Gunners were fortunate Mustafi did NOT commit a foul in the box, because we all know he was sure trying too.
Of all the people to play up-top for Spurs in the second-striker role with Harry Kane since the re-start, no one has done it better than Heung-Min Son did today.
Son’s movement complemented Kane’s very well and after some outings of questionable output and energy – both Kane and Son looked brighter today.
While Kane was unable to take advantage of a couple of good opportunities he will be thinking about tonight, Son put one of his in with a nice left-footed dink over Martinez after a poor pass from Kolasinac put Son in on goal.
I recommend fans do not make too much of Oliver Skipp coming on before Tanguy Ndombele today, which was more a reflection of the scoreline than any kind of pecking order. Spurs were up 2-1 when Skipp came on for Lo Celso to help seal up the victory. Were the scoreline reversed, and Gunners were up 1-2 instead I am fairly confident we would have seen the Frenchman. Let’s all continue to hold ourselves before we throw someone as talented as Ndombele away.
While neither were ultimately called upon in the match – Mourinho again did not use all five substitutions he is allowed – it was terrific to see both Ryan Sessegnon and Japhet Tanganga on the bench today. Sessegnon has now been on the bench in consecutive matches and hopefully will be seen soon. Tanganga was thought to be out for the season with a back injury so seeing him back now – particularly with Eric Dier still having two games to go on his ban – was a good sign.
With the win Spurs moved to 8th place 2 points ahead of 9th place Arsenal and 2 points behind 7th place Sheffield United. With Sheffield, Wolves, and Manchester United between Spurs and 4th place Chelsea8 points ahead Champions League is likely a dream for Spurs, but Europa League could be a real possibility still and gives the team something to fight in addition to finishing above the Gunners, which is now in Tottenham’s own hands. Spurs chance at Europe next lands the team at St. James’ Park to face an up and down Newcastle side midweek.