Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1: Lessons learned as Spurs out-gun their rivals

Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1: What lessons did we learn as Spurs took a giant stride towards Champions League qualification?

Tottenham
2
Arsenal
1

Criminal defending undoes Arsenal’s hard work

After a promising start in which Tottenham were rarely afforded a sight on goal by a well-organised Arsenal back-four, the Gunners were made to pay for criminally switching off twice in two minutes to give their north London rivals a two-goal advantage. Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen were caught napping as Gylfi Sigurdsson’s perfectly-weighted through-ball found Gareth Bale, who made no mistake as he dinked his finish past a helpless Wojciech Szczesny to net his 16th league goal of the season. And it was Aaron Lennon’s turn less than 120 seconds later. Vermaelen was completely unaware of Lennon’s run as he casually backed off Scott Parker, who slid a delightful ball though. Lennon gleefully cantered in behind the centre of Arsenal’s defence before rounding the Gunners goalkeeper to send White Hart Lane wild. The Arsenal that were hailed for their defensive stability early in the season are nothing but a distant late-summer memory. There can be no excuses for Arsenal’s suspect defending here, which ultimately proved the difference today. MC

Sigurdsson seizes chance in absence of Dempsey

Since arriving from Swansea in the summer, Sigurdsson has found his chances limited at Tottenham. Andre Villas-Boas has preferred to play Clint Dempsey off a lone striker or start a two-man front-line of Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe, relegating Sigurdsson to the bench. But the Iceland international seized his chance to impress in the absence of Defoe and Dempsey. Starting from the left, the 23-year-old looked to exploit a high Arsenal line and the midfielder’s incisive pass midway through the first half was marginally over hit for Bale. The Gunners failed to heed the warning sign and Sigurdsson’s next ball was perfectly timed as the Welsh winger ran past Arsenal’s back four and slipped his finish past Szczesny in the 38th minute. The former Reading playmaker also had a part to play in the home side’s second, with his challenge leaving Santi Cazorla stricken on the turf as Spurs played on, resulting in Lennon’s strike. Although more muted in the second half, Sigurdsson wasted an opportunity to make the final 20 minutes more comfortable for Spurs. Bale’s superb ball released Defoe on the counter-attack, with the striker teeing up Sigurdsson one-on-one with Szczesny. Having run the length of the pitch, the midfielder bizarrely opted against shooting – perhaps a sign of fatigue – and his pass across the box to Bale was intercepted. KB

Defoe’s return welcome with Adebayor misfiring

Adebayor has been a disappointment since securing a permanent move to Spurs from Manchester City in the summer. Perhaps becoming complacent with his Tottenham move completed, the Togo international has failed to replicate his match-winning displays from last season. He has managed a pitiful two goals in 16 Premier League appearances, with Spurs heavily reliant on Bale in the absence of Defoe. The former Arsenal man barely made a mark on the north London derby, aside from a late challenge on Aaron Ramsey. When Adebayor picked up an injury in the 65th minute, Villas-Boas threw Defoe into the action after the forward had recovered from a month-long ankle injury. It immediately provided Spurs with more attacking thrust as the England international adopted a more direct approach. Picking the ball up on the halfway line, Defoe swivelled and ran at Nacho Monreal before sliding in Sigurdsson, who spurned the chance to test Szczesny. With Arsenal pressing for a leveller, Defoe was getting more and more chances to run at a creaking defence, and the 30-year-old came close to scoring Tottenham’s third with a low effort as Mertesacker backed off the striker. Should Bale’s superb run soon come to an end as Wenger predicted ahead of the derby, Defoe’s goals will be crucial in the battle for Champions League football. KB

Spurs look set to finally overtake their rivals

There can be no mistaking the magnitude of this result for Spurs as they took a giant stride towards Champions League qualification. Seven points clear of their local rivals and just two behind second-placed Manchester City, Villas-Boas’s men are well and truly in control of their own destiny as they head into the final 10 games of the season. The result inevitably begs the question of whether Spurs are finally eclipsing their north London rivals. And on Sunday’s evidence, they are certainly close. Although their 200th Premier League home win was by no means a walk in the park as Arsenal battled hard and worked their way back into the game through Mertesacker’s header, this victory demonstrated that they are poised to overtake their rivals once and for all. Nevertheless, Spurs’ position can only be judged on where they are in 10 games’ time. MC

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