Tottenham, Mourinho Manage Arsenal in 2-0 Derby Win

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates with teammates (Photo by Glyn Kirk - Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates with teammates (Photo by Glyn Kirk - Pool/Getty Images) /

Tottenham Hotspur capitalized on a couple counter attacks in the first half and managed the game from there as the North London Derby was never in doubt for Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur once again showed that possession means little in the Premier League if it does not lead to clear cut chances. Despite having only about 30% of the ball, Tottenham made the chances and were clinical when they came as Spurs ran out 2-0 winners over Arsenal in the North London Derby.

Fabulous First Half

Tottenham had a clear game plan which mirrored how Spurs have approached heavy possession teams like Manchester City and Chelsea before Arsenal. Spurs were a bit higher up the pitch but were happy to concede possession to Arsenal and look to break whenever they got the chance. After an Eric Dier free kick went a little over in the first two minutes, it was more than 10 minutes later before Tottenham made the magic happen.

The play started as many Tottenham goals do, with the ball possessed by the other team. Arsenal lobbed one of their 44 hopeless crosses into the box. Spurs made the first clearance and more importantly Steven Bergwijn got to the second clearance too.

Bergwijn headed the ball up toward Harry Kane near midfield. Kane did a wonderful job bringing the ball down in front of Gabriel and between two other closing defenders. As Kane turned to face the Arsenal goal, there was only one place he was going to go with the ball, which was the space on the left flank in front of the sprinting Heung-Min Son.

Son ran onto the ball and started dribbling toward the goal. As he attacked, Sergio Reguilón sprinted hard up the pitch and overlapped behind the South Korean. This pulled Rob Holding wide and as Son cut in toward the middle, he put Hector Bellerin onto his butt and then curled a beautiful shot easily past Bernd Leno. It was Kane’s 10th assist and Son’s 10th goal as in a matter of seconds Tottenham went from defense to offense and a 1-0 lead.

The goal shifted the momentum of the match and despite the lack of possession Tottenham were on the front foot most of the rest of the half. Spurs were a bit wasteful at times in possession as Eric Dier gave the ball away a couple different times on some poor passes. However, Tottenham were doing enough to manage things and keep Arsenal at bay.

During the final few minutes of the half, it seemed Arsenal were starting to take control of the match, but then two things happened simultaneously – Thomas Partey went down, and Spurs again struck on the counter.

Arsenal were attacking and sent in another cross to no one. This time Serge Aurier was the most alert player in the box, stepping easily in front of Pierre Aubameyang to intercept the ball. Aurier quickly looked up and played the ball forward to Giovani Lo Celso. Lo Celso turned and had nothing but space in front of him as Thomas Partey was standing by the coach on the sideline.

With no one to stop the ball, Lo Celso continued to lead the break which was now four on three. Lo Celso passed to his left to Son who held up possession just long enough for Harry Kane to overlap him on his outside. Son touched the ball over to Kane who flew in and smashed a left-footer past Leno, off the underside of the crossbar for the 2-0 Spurs lead going into the half.

Tottenham Tame Gunners Attack

The second half was a test of patience for both teams and ultimately Spurs had more. Rather than try and press up the pitch, Tottenham were comfortable sitting a bit deeper and allowing Arsenal to knock the ball around the outside and eventually lob in a cross. One of the crosses did lead to an attempt on goal for Lacazette with a head, but Lloris got down and deflected the ball wide.

Outside of that shot to go along with one other flicked header save in the first half from Lloris, Arsenal never put another shot on frame. Even with more than 69% of possession and all those 44 crosses, Tottenham were never troubled in the back and continued to push back each time Arsenal attacked.

What we saw from Tottenham in the second half was excellent team defending as the attackers all worked hard to pressure the ball whenever Arsenal got past midfield. Additionally, the work of Pierre Højbjerg and Moussa Sissoko was relentless as Spurs hunted in pairs across the defensive end of the pitch.

The one other chance was just after 83 minutes when Aubameyang found himself on the shoulder of Toby Alderweireld – who was back after missing a game with injury. Aubameyang drove to the left but the Belgian stayed with him step for step and blocked the shot well out of play. As Arsenal continued to try and pressure, Tottenham repelled wave after wave with the outcome never in doubt, going nearly exactly as we had predicted.

It was another solid performance from Tottenham who have now taken 7 points from Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal in consecutive weeks. With the win Spurs go back to the top of the table two points clear of Chelsea. Liverpool still must play, but even with a win Tottenham should be on top by goal difference. Arsenal continue to languish near the bottom in 15th place on 13 points. Tottenham next travel to Palace for a third straight London Derby, while Arsenal host Burnley.