Has there been a less anticipated North London derby than the one we saw on Sunday?
This was a game between two relatively mediocre teams, with relatively new managers, undergoing assorted forms of transition.
Tottenham won, which is at least an improvement on the shotless ennui of their draw with Bournemouth, but what did it tell us about the longer-term prospects for either side?
“It was a fairly classic Mourinho win,” said Michael Cox on the latest edition of the Totally Football Show. “Spurs didn’t have many periods where they dominated possession, but they sat back and looked relatively solid defensively. Then they scored from a set-piece and a pretty bad Arsenal mistake.
“I wouldn’t particularly change my view on Spurs based on this game. I think there were questions in both full-back zones, I didn’t think the midfield worked particularly well. Son was the lively one, with his pace and intelligent movement, but I don’t think more about either side after that game.”
What of Arsenal? This was a game they could easily have won, but equally one that exposed familiar problems.
“I think Arsenal will be pretty disappointed because there was a point in the second-half where they looked in control of the game. Peculiarly for an Arsenal side they don’t really have anyone in an attacking midfield zone to create chances, and that was particularly obvious here.
“For all their dominance, they didn’t have anyone to force the issue. I think Mikel Arteta could have been a bit bolder with his substitutions. I thought Bukayo Saka, who was eventually introduced for Nicolas Pepe, could have been brought on on the left to give an extra attacking threat.
“It’s a real reminder for Arsenal that there are lots of areas they can improve on. Kolasinac has looked pretty good actually so far as the left-sided centre-back, until this game when it really caught up with Arsenal. Mustafi had one of those classic Mustafi games where you thought for an hour “oh, Mustafi’s playing well”, and then suddenly he managed to make multiple errors in the same move.”
Daniel Storey added:
“Spurs have got a similar issue to Arsenal, albeit with a very different manager. The defining aspect of the game was that both Dani Ceballos and Giovani Lo Celso having to do an incredible amount of running with the ball, just to create chances. If that didn’t work, the ball was just shuttled to a full-back to put a cross in the box.
“There was almost a lack of a middle-man between midfield and attack. I don’t think either will necessarily play a No.10, because I don’t think that’s the system that works for either. But there just looks to be an Eriksen hole for Spurs, and a ‘peak’ Mesut Ozil hole for Arsenal.
“There doesn’t seem to be anyone there that fills that role, other than an expensive summer signing.”
But, overall, it’s not great for either side.
“A few years ago the North London derby was big because they were both going for the title,” said Michael Cox. “Now they’re battling for eighth and ninth place. Regardless of which side won this, they’re collectively at their lowest point for over two decades.”
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