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Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur | Talking Points

The North London rivals split the points on Sunday in typical derby-style, with Tottenham seeing off major pressure from the Gunners in the second half.

The North London derby usually delivers a match like the one seen on the weekend – both sides playing openly from the start, with the game evolving into a more passionate and feisty affair towards the end.

As the home side, Arsenal looked like they had relative control of the game to start with, but Spurs took their opportunity to attack well and were ahead in the first ten minutes following collective errors from Sokratis and Leno. This ultimately led to Eriksen being gifted a tap-in after the German keeper palmed away a tame shot from Lamela.

Tottenham’s second goal was also down to sloppiness from Arsenal, namely Granit Xhaka, who made a senseless late tackle on Son within the penalty area, which gave Kane the opportunity to double Spurs’ lead before half time.

However, the lead never looked secure from the moment the penalty went in. Sure enough five minutes later, Lacazette smashed home just before half time after Spurs fumbled about in the defensive third, completely missing clear opportunities to boot the ball away.

Emery’s men carried their momentum into the second half and Tottenham didn’t really threaten the Arsenal goal until the final five minutes or so. Arsenal drew level in the 71st minute when a mesmerising run from Aubameyang was picked up by Guendouzi and a deft touch from the Gabonese was all that was needed to slot the ball past Lloris.

Tottenham’s performance for the rest of the second half was realistically not enough to assuage the fears of an Arsenal winner, although Spurs did come close to nicking an unlikely clincher themselves in the dying moments. Ultimately, fans of the Lilywhites can be glad they held on for a draw, while the home fans will be disappointed with the way they conceded but encouraged by the Gunners’ overall performance.

Tottenham on the defence throughout

Sunday’s outing was far from a convincing performance from Pochettino’s men. By going 2-0 up, Spurs were forced into playing a defensive game while hoping for the chance to hit back on the counter-attack. This was an accident waiting to happen, especially with Sanchez (a natural centre-back) playing at right-back, who was run ragged by Aubameyang and co the entire afternoon.

All the while an agitated-looking Pochettino roamed the managerial box with a disgruntled countenance as his team more often than not failed to find the killer pass that could have left Arsenal wide open. Tottenham thus had to resort to clinging onto their lead until it inevitably broke and they were forced into splitting the points.

Many of the problems that Spurs faced were due to a lack of composure at the back when Arsenal pressed, coupled with Lloris and the defenders’ unwillingness to simply clear the ball away. It seemed blatantly obvious while watching the game that Tottenham’s issues stemmed from the fact they were trying to be too cute and clever with their passes in the defensive third, when no one at the back really had the confidence to do so.

This has been a recurring problem at Tottenham over the years and truthfully Arsenal have also been guilty of doing the same recently. However, Arsenal were the bravest team in the second half and they would have won the match on another day.

Arsenal’s signings looking the real deal

It came as somewhat of a surprise when Arsenal forked out £72 million for Nicolas Pepe and signed Dani Ceballos on loan late in the Summer transfer window. Both of these players have made a huge statement in the Premier League so far. Despite Emery unexpectedly leaving Ceballos on the bench in the North London derby, him and Pepe both made their mark on the match.

Pepe, in particular, set up Lacazette’s goal in the first half, and held on to the ball expertly in the attacking third, even when it looked like the ball was caught under his feet. The Ivorian occupied the right-hand side of the front three and caused Danny Rose numerous problems with his blistering runs forward and testing crosses.

Ceballos has also taken no time at all to settle into life at Arsenal and the Spaniard tested Lloris shortly after entering the fray, before encouraging the Emirates crowd to up the volume. In terms of effectiveness, Ceballos and Pepe certainly make a good argument to be considered the best signings of the summer transfer window. With the experienced players like Leno and Xhaka making silly errors, the young duo of Ceballos and Pepe could be crucial to helping Arsenal tip into the Champions League places this season.

Pochettino’s decision making in question

Tottenham fans welcomed back Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen to the starting lineup on Sunday – Mauricio Pochettino opted to leave the former out of the team for the first three games of the campaign for a multitude of potential reasons such as lack of fitness or a slight squabble between player and manager. Whatever the explanation, the decision by Pochettino sparked debate as to whether Sanchez was the better option to occupy the central defence.

Spurs fans’ questions were answered as the manager decided Vertonghen was finally ready to re-join the first team. However, this perhaps caused more problems than it solved, as Pochettino felt as though Sanchez should be shifted into the right-back position. With Kyle Walker-Peters picking up an injury, surely it would have been a good opportunity to allow Serge Aurier into the starting XI, rather than playing Sanchez out of position.

These odd managerial decisions don’t seem to have been the correct ones, with Sanchez looking completely out of place on Sunday, unable to keep up with Guendouzi or Aubameyang for most of the afternoon. Perhaps fielding a consistent team from now on would work best in Tottenham’s favour.

Xhaka’s day could have been a lot worse

Compared to his midfield colleagues, Granit Xhaka certainly didn’t give a shining account of himself, especially after giving away an absurd penalty. However, his day could, and perhaps should, have been a heap of a lot worse.

With a lot of attention currently on the calamitous VAR decisions plaguing the Premier League, some heads have been turned away from the immediate decisions that referees make in real-time. Xhaka’s challenge on Son in the box was a certain yellow card in itself, but Xhaka went on to commit a further six challenges before finally being booked in stoppage time.

Now, obviously VAR can’t step in to give yellow cards, but it seems strange that Martin Atkinson didn’t keep track of the number of fouls Xhaka got away with, as well as the nature of the tackles. The reason this could be construed as a serious problem is that Xhaka was allowed to halter Tottenham’s attacks a few times. His final foul of the game on Harry Kane stopped a clear counter attack – something he blatantly shouldn’t have been able to do.

Spurs in great need of the international break

All sorts of news stories have been circling around Tottenham Hotspur lately – talks of potential moves away for Christian Eriksen and even the manager Pochettino have rather stirred the pot in the Spurs camp. The team have looked unsettled in the way they’ve been playing and seem to be in dire need of a short break. The international break couldn’t have come soon enough.

Tottenham need to get past the hurdle that is the closing of the European transfer window so that all these rumours can dissipate. After that, fans will be hoping the squad can start to settle down and concentrate on improving their game before their next match in a couple of weeks time.

Man of the Match – Nicolas Pepe

All three of Arsenal’s attacking trio looked threatening for much of the match, but Pepe’s work rate and ability to both win back and retain possession stood out on the day.

Up next:

After the break, Tottenham host Crystal Palace in North London, while Arsenal are to face the winless Watford at Vicarage Road the following day.

Harry Mahon

90maat's team correspondent for Tottenham Hotspur, graduate of Loughborough University and current student at the University of Surrey.

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