Them 1-1 Us
North London Derby review
So, we haven’t lost to them in the league this season.
But I have some mixed feelings on this game.
Yes, we didn’t lose.
But let’s be real – we should have won this game.
Tottenham, with their lauded and trophyless manager, wasn’t up to it. Alli was missing for them, but Kane, Son, Eriksen, and Vertonghen were amongst their big guns.
The starting line-up featured a 4321, with Mustafi at right-back, Sokratis/Kos at centre backs, and Monreal at left-back.
Guendouzi, Ramsey, and Xhaka were in midfield, and Mkhitaryan and Iwobi were behind Lacazette.
The game plan was clearly to control the midfield and nullify their attacking intent.
The pattern overall was that Spurs had much possession, but not really in any penetrative way. Kane was muted, and they were relegated to crosses and long-shots.
In the opening stages, Kane, Son, Eriksen, etc. all had various shots on goal that were either wide or easily handled by Leno.
We took the lead though, through some good midfield work by Laca. Ramsey, evidently Juve-bound now, run through on goal and rounded Lloris to score.
Lacazette also had a chance, where he was onside but missed the flight of the ball as it was being played in the area.
The second half followed a similar pattern – in that Spurs had possession but then they were very wasteful in their final ball.
We didn’t attack regularly, but we were sticking to our game plan of countering them in the midfield and pressing Kane and their other top men.
It seemed to be going well enough until Mustafi fouled Kane in the area, and we conceded the penalty.
But even after that, Auba came on to replace to Laca, and had a good shot blocked by Sanchez.
What happened in the final stages was telling – in a few ways. Auba was fouled by Sanchez in the area, but Auba uncharacteristically missed it. There also was a follow-up, where Vertonghen blocked him from getting a tap-in.
Torreira then was sent off, due to a strong challenge on Danny Rose.
But overall, it was a good performance – and one we should have won.
This result is pretty bittersweet.
Beating Tottenham is always what it’s about. But I feel we brought this on ourselves somewhat, amidst poor defending.
Our game plan was sound. We needed to contain them – and it was working. They had few clear cut opportunities, and despite Kane scoring an offside goal in the first half, they didn’t really trouble us terribly.
Son is a top player, and Kane is world class. I’ll give them that since it’s the truth. But then neither were on it. And our defence was handling them. Sokratis was immense. Koscielny is one of our best ever centre-backs (in the top ten…yes, that’s an honest view and I don’t care who laughs at that..) and managed them too.
Monreal was his solid self, and Mustafi was OK. Though I’ll come to him more thoroughly a little later.
The fact that our head coach, who has been maligned for changing things too much in games, actually got his changes correct today.
Leno was outstanding and made a terrific double save at the end of the first half. He has been unfairly critiqued I feel this season but is fast emerging as one of the better PL keepers. He’s not at de Gea’s level, and Allison and Ederson are ahead of him. But then he can progress to a high level on this performance, and (without any hyperbole)
And even players who are leaving us made telling contributions. Ramsey looks like he could fit in well at Juve, and at this rate, Ronaldo and company would look forward to playing with him.
Moreover, Xhaka and Guendouzi were effectively pressing their midfield, and things were good.
But then our old problem(s) emerged – the defence. And more specifically, Mustafi.
Look, he has won a World Cup. He is a regular at one of the biggest clubs on Earth. However, he commits far too many errors, which ultimately prove costly. I’m not being unkind, but for me, he lacks the consistency and concentration to be truly top-level and get us to the highest levels. All defenders, nay players, make errors. But then these are minimal.
Messi and Ronaldo miss penalties, but such happenings are aberrations for a reason. For Mustafi, it’s a regularity. And yes, he does play well on occasion. But there are always these critical errors that make his time untenable, in my view. I guess had this been against a different side, it won’t be as harsh. But the straw has broken the camel’s back, and he should have fouled Charlie Austin lately to give away a pen, and not vs. Spurs at their place. It’s more a matter of whom this is against and not the fact it’s happened.
Aubameyang has scored a lot of penalties for us – but then he should have scored here. Why didn’t he? Who knows? However, he and Laca were both weak in this game and offered little. Iwobi was fine and contributed in the pressing, but then Mkhi looked sharp and got in both shots and crosses.
We clearly wanted to counter-attack and limit Spurs – but then we didn’t create enough chances really to get the win. This, and Auba’s miss, and Mustafi’s error, were the telling factors.
The penalty was offside, though the linesman in fairness may not have seen it. He doesn’t have access to BT Sport’s replays, in truth. This doesn’t ameliorate Mustafi’s error, nor Auba’s miss though. We should exercise caution though in blaming the match officials.
Was a draw fair? I’m being a bit biased here and I cannot help it naturally, but no. Tottenham didn’t offer much, and we were looking to go forward well.
I personally think Torreira’s red card was such. Yes, he got the ball, but Rose too – and the laws of the game clearly state that getting the ball alone is not a foul.
So it’s all square – at the place where we win trophies, and they only win games in. At least their manager can see the humour in not winning much.
Leno – 9
Sokratis – 9
Koscielny – 8
Mustafi – 5
Monreal – 7
Guendouzi – 7
Xhaka – 7
Iwobi – 6
Ramsey – 8
Mkhitaryan – 8
Lacazette – 5
Ozil – 5
Aubameyang – 5
Torreira – 6
Man of the match – Sokratis
If only we bought him a few years ago. He bossed Kane and Son.