5 talking points from Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal in the north London derby
Harry Kane scored a second-half penalty on his return to action as Tottenham came from behind to draw 1-1 with Arsenal in the north London derby at the Emirates. Here are five talking points.
1. Fresh tactics
Spurs have struggled creatively recently and, going into the game, their only two goals in five matches had come from the penalty spot.
Mauricio Pochettino cryptically stated on Friday: “[Now we] try to maybe change something and to find a better way to play” – and he opted to change his formation against Arsenal, playing with three central defenders and using Kyle Walker and Danny Rose as wing-backs.
Perhaps the idea was to give Spurs more width – they struggled to really get at Bayer Leverkusen down the sides in Wednesday’s Champions League defeat, despite the wide open spaces – and maybe the absences of Erik Lamela, Dele Alli and Moussa Sissoko played a part in his decision to change his set-up.
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Did the change work? Well, the jury’s out. Spurs were certainly much-improved from their defeat to Bayer Leverkusen and there was more of a threat from the wide areas. But, again, they needed a penalty to find the net - and they had a difficult 15 minutes before half-time when Arsenal eventually figured out how to counter their visitors’ system and took the lead. It will be interesting to see whether Pochettino extends this experiment after the international break.
2. Kevin Wimmer returns to Premier League action - and scores an own goal
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Spurs’ change of formation gave the Austria international an opportunity to return to the line-up and make his first Premier League appearance of the season. Indeed, he was given the responsibility of playing at the centre of the three-man defence, with Jan Vertonghen stationed on the left side and Eric Dier on his right.
The 23-year-old was clearly keen to make an impression and he was booked early on for a rather clumsy and unnecessary late tackle on Francis Coquelin inside Arsenal’s half.
But after that he was more assured, so it is unfortunate that his outing is likely to be remembered for his first-half own goal as he rushed back towards his own goal to chase two Arsenal players – who were offside – and flicked an inswinging free kick past Hugo Lloris and into his own net.
Wimmer has actually now scored two own goals in his last four starts for club and country, having also registered for Wales in a World Cup qualifier at the start of October – but he nonetheless played his part in gaining an important point at the Emirates, keeping Arsenal at bay in the second half.
Has he done enough to get more starts, if Pochettino uses this formation again – even when Toby Alderweireld is available?
3. An encouraging show of character
Things could have gone very wrong for Spurs in the second half as they chased the game against a Gunners side that had won 10 of their previous 11 games and scored seven times in their previous two matches.
Confidence has been low at Tottenham lately and there seemed every chance that things were about to get worse.
However, the Lilywhites regrouped, hit back and then matched their hosts for the rest of the second half, frustrating the home crowd and going close to a winner through Kane and Christian Eriksen, who hit the post with an inswinging free kick.
It was a real show of character in testing circumstances and Spurs left the Emirates in a much better shape than when they arrived.
4. Harry Kane returns and maintains his derby record
Tottenham’s star striker had missed the previous 10 games and his side had missed him more and more during that spell.
His return to the starting line-up at the Emirates therefore gave his team-mates and the fans an instant boost – and he had the first real chance of the match, heading narrowly wide from an Eriksen cross.
The 23-year-old was not at his best but, when Mousa Dembele won the penalty in the 51st minute, he confidently grabbed the ball and dispatched his spot-kick past Petr Cech, registering his fifth goal in his last four north London derbies in the league.
Kane also nearly pounced at the back post after a low cross from Rose, only being denied by a fine challenge from Nacho Monreal. This strike on his comeback can only help him to return to top form.
5. Spurs are still in the thick of it at the top of the table
Most Tottenham fans would surely have taken a draw before kick-off – and especially at half-time, when their side trailed 1-0.
It is certainly a better result for Spurs than for Arsenal, given the relative form of the two sides going into this showdown, and despite their respective results in the last month the Lilywhites are still just three points between their arch-rivals in the table, while they remain unbeaten in the top flight.
The last international break came at a bad time, ruining their momentum after their impressive victory over Manchester City. This one is timely, though, allowing injured players time to recover and the staff a few days to take stock. Today’s draw at the Emirates has certainly improved the mood around White Hart Lane.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs