Both of Tottenham’s big game players finished the afternoon where they usually do, on the score sheet. So what happened to Arsenal’s?
Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min are perfect for Jose Mourinho’s team. Quick, deadly, selfless and ready to work. Here they were at their rapier best to dismantle Arsenal at either end of a first half that decided this derby.
On the other side of the divide, Arsenal have Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and the Brazilian Willian. There is some talent in that trio – and some money in wages too – but currently the magic box remains unlocked.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (left) and Alexandre Lacazette did not offer a threat on Sunday
Aubameyang, supremely gifted, has scored two Premier League goals since signing a £300,000-a-week contract in the summer, one of them a penalty.
Willian has not found form since switching from Chelsea while Lacazette’s role in the team is so uncertain that in this game he was asked to play as a deep lying forward, a number ten.
It is not working for Arsenal and their coach Mikel Arteta and goodness it certainly did not work here.
Take the goals out of the footage and look at the numbers and action areas in isolation and this looks like a pretty good day for Arsenal. They had two thirds of the possession, six times as many touches in the opposition penalty area and 30 more crosses.
The Arsenal forwards were eclipsed by Tottenham duo Harry Kane (above) and Son Heung-Min
Yet the truth is they were well beaten. There is no collective threat carried by Arsenal’s football and there is no one who looks remotely like winning a game with something special either. Almost a year in to Arteta’s reign and his team look flat.
It is not always wise to pay too much attention to match statistics but some of these were remarkable. Tottenham only had six touches in the Arsenal penalty area yet scored twice from three shots on target. Arsenal had 36 such touches but hardly mustered an attempt.
Arsenal also had 32 crosses to go with the 30 they had in losing at home to Wolves last week. Who on earth were they all aimed for?
Aubameyang is not a proficient or particularly keen header of the ball and only three of his 74 Arsenal goals have arrived that way. So what is the thought process of the Arsenal coach? If he has a clear one, he is not telling us what it is.
Mikel Arteta’s side are the lowest scorers outside the bottom three in the Premier League
Watching a team play poorly is one thing. It can happen. Watching one play poorly without an apparent plan or method is another thing entirely.
Mourinho’s football is not to everybody’s liking and more difficult days than this will arrive for the Tottenham manager at times this season. You simply cannot win games of football from within your own half every single week.
Nevertheless, watching this disciplined and structured showing from the leaders of the Premier League, it was possible to see clear evidence of thought, intelligent creative planning and training ground work. As for Arsenal, it was a mish mash. There was some progressive play down the left from the Scottish full-back Kieran Tierney while the substitute Dani Ceballos worked well on the ball in the second half but that was far as it went.
Aubameyang is scaring nobody at the moment and is certainly not leading by any kind of example. He looks low on confidence, too. When he was found by a lovely Lacazette pass late on, he was one-on-one with Toby Alderweireld. It was the kind of situation he should relish but it was clear which way he would go and from which side the shot would come. There was no craft, no disguise and no mystery. The shot arrived and Alderweireld blocked with ease.
Harry Kane (left) and Son Heung-Min both scored to give Tottenham a 2-0 win over Arsenal
Contrast that with the two Tottenham goals. Son’s finish for the first was magnificent but so in a different way was the overlapping run by left-back Sergio Reguilon that essentially took Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin out of the goal scorer’s way. Reguilon will have started that run knowing his chances of actually getting the ball were slim but he made it anyway. Superb.
Kane’s goal was delivered like a rocket, too, and the Tottenham forward is confounding those of us who wondered if he would struggle under Mourinho. The England captain looks like he is having the time of his life and he and Son now have eighteen league goals between them. Arsenal have only scored ten as a team – fewer than Brighton and Fulham who sit just beneath them in the table.
Arsenal’s defending for Kane’s goal was lamentable. A decision made by Thomas Partey to seek treatment as Tottenham broke did not help but even with the Ghanaian on the field Arsenal would have been out numbered. The way the Arsenal midfield ‘emptied’ up field as they attacked was amateurish and spoke either of a coach who isn’t saying the right things or players who are not listening.
Kane’s goal late in the first-half made him the top scorer in north London derby history
These are not desperate times for Arsenal or Arteta. Not yet. A personal opinion is that the club has the right manager. There was much to fix on the Spaniard’s arrival and it was always going to take time.
The worry is that Arsenal have regressed since winning at Manchester United on November 1. They have taken one point from four league games since then.
Arteta said after this one that his team’s problem is end product and he has that right. With only ten goals from eleven league games, Arsenal are the lowest scorers outside the bottom three and the manager seems some way from a fix.