Oh, the North London Derby: it just consistently delivers, doesn’t it? Intensity, drama, intrigue, memorable moments and high stakes are synonymous with the rivalry between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, and this past Sunday was no different.
A thrilling contest ended with a 2-1 Gunners victory, which is obviously a disappointing result for Spurs. Aside from the sting that comes with losing to your oldest foe, the way the game unfolded leaves more questions than answers for Jose Mourinho’s side.
Spurs had been on a hot streak, but you’d never guess with how this one played out. Arsenal absolutely dominated for the majority of the game and quite frankly, Spurs were lucky the score was as close as it was. Despite a stunning rabona nutmeg goal from Erik Lamela, a surefire goal-of-the-year frontrunner, Spurs’ chances came few and far between until the final 10 minutes.
Goals by Martin Ødegaard and Alexandre Lacazette ended up making the difference for Arsenal, who now sit only four points behind Tottenham. A couple of additional notes on the NLD:
- Several Spurs players had a tough night, but in particular Matt Doherty, Gareth Bale, and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg will want to turn the page quickly:
- Doherty was repeatedly beaten for pace and lacked conviction in his attacking play, faults that led directly to Arsenal goals.
- Bale was a non-factor and was subbed quickly in the second half; ideally, it was just a bad night and not an indication of something more sinister.
- Højbjerg was uncharacteristically sloppy with his passing and allowed too much space for Arsenal’s forwards to attack. Hopefully, it’s just a one-off for Højbjerg, who has been excellent all season.
- Regrettably, Heung-Min Son was subbed in the first half after sustaining what appeared to be a hamstring pull. Many Premier League teams have bemoaned their packed schedules, and Son’s injury is perhaps a manifestation of this very trend. Having said that, Mourinho has nobody to blame but himself: in all likelihood, Spurs could’ve taken care of Zagreb last Thursday without Son’s services.
Where to go from here? Spurs now enter the final stretch of games in their 2020-21 season and if it’s to be deemed a success, they need to win a trophy; anything else is unacceptable for a club who hasn’t lifted silverware since 2008. For a final stretch preview, please see below:
- Premier League: Spurs have 10 EPL games remaining in their schedule, and a top 4 finish is very much in sight. Their most difficult contests will take place on April 11th (home vs. Manchester United) and on May 23 (away vs. Leicester City). They also have a chance to avenge their defeat in the FA Cup to Everton: the two teams meet again on April 17. Aside from those three matchups, Tottenham have a very favorable schedule. Will they be able to catch Chelsea and play Champions League football next season?
- Europa League: The first order of business is to finish off Zagreb this Thursday, but Spurs fans have greater aspirations. They are unquestionably one of the strongest teams remaining in the tournament, and Mourinho has a history of success in the Europa League. Will Spurs have a chance to avenge their most recent defeat to Arsenal? A North London Derby final is a mouthwatering prospect for football fans, so we’ll have to see how it plays out. Yet no matter the opponent, Spurs have a real chance at European glory.
- Carabao Cup: Sunday, April 25. A final in the Carabao Cup with juggernaut Manchester City, who might be the best club in the world, is a difficult prospect. However, Spurs have been a thorn in City’s side the past few years. A win here would get the “trophy” monkey off Spurs’ backs, and would be a feather in Mourinho’s cap. He was brought here to win, and they have a chance to do just that in late April.