Tottenham's big-game failure strikes again as Arsenal dominate the derby
LONDON -- Three points from Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.
1. Arsenal profit from Tottenham no-show
Arsenal produced their best performance of the season to claim victory in the North London derby as Tottenham once again fell short away from home against a top-six rival.
First half goals from Shkodran Mustafi -- after a free kick that was wrongly awarded by referee Mike Dean -- and Alexis Sanchez were enough to secure the 2-0 win which moves Arsenal to within one point of Mauricio Pochettino's team.
But on a day when both Harry Kane and Dele Alli looked short of match fitness after recent injuries, Arsenal's battling spirit, as well as their quality in the final third, proved too much for Spurs. Having lost at Manchester United last month, Spurs have now won just one of 17 Premier League away games against last season's top six since Pochettino took charge in the summer of 2014.
And they never looked like improving on that dismal sequence at the Emirates, where they are winless since Nov 2010, with the home side the more determined and hungry for the full 90 minutes. The defeat further diminishes Tottenham's hopes of catching league leaders Manchester City, who sat eight point clear of Spurs ahead of their trip to Leicester on Saturday afternoon.
But the win extends Arsenal's 100 percent record at home this season and also stretches their impressive run of consecutive home wins in the league to 11 -- a club record at the Emirates. If that sequence extends to 13 with wins in the next two home games against Huddersfield and Manchester United, it may be Arsenal who emerge as City's closest challengers.
2. Overreliance on Kane a problem for Pochettino
Kane was not fully fit for this game and it showed. The Tottenham forward, who missed England's friendlies against Germany and Brazil because of a leg injury, faced Arsenal with heavy strapping on his right thigh, which extended down to his knee, and it clearly hampered him during a frustrating afternoon.
Aside from a sixth-minute chance, when he shot straight at goalkeeper Petr Cech after a defensive mistake by Laurent Koscielny, Kane was barely involved. He lacked his usual edge and was well controlled by Mustafi. The last time Kane was injured this season, he sat out the trip to Manchester United, which Spurs lost 1-0. On this occasion, Pochettino may have been wise to start with Kane on the bench because of his obvious lack of fitness, but potential replacements Son Heung-Min and Fernando Llorente were instead named as substitutes.
Son played in place of Kane at Old Trafford, and the South Korean was unable to fill his teammates boots, despite being chosen ahead of Llorente. The Spanish striker, a deadline day signing from Swansea, has now failed to score in 12 games for Spurs since his arrival, so his form is not great. But with Kane struggling, surely he would have been a better option from the start?
But perhaps Pochettino lacks faith in the former Juventus striker. Maybe the Spurs manager fears Llorente is going to have a season like Vincent Janssen did last year. If that is the case, why sign him? By the time Llorente and Son were sent on to replace Kane and Alli in the 75th minute, it was too late for Spurs.
3. Workaholic Lacazette provides a spark
The big mistake with Alexandre Lacazette is to expect the Arsenal No.9 to be a modern-day version of Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka or Robin van Persie. The 26-year-old, a club record £52.7m summer signing from Lyon, has scored six goals in 13 games for the Gunners, but he has yet to firmly establish himself in Arsene Wenger's first team.
He started against Spurs, however, and while he lacks the pace and clinical finishing of his predecessors, Lacazette makes up for his shortcomings with his work rate and unselfishness in the final third. His 41st minute assist for Sanchez's goal, which put Arsenal 2-0 up, was an example of his readiness to look for a teammate when others would have taken a shot. Perhaps the pass was played because he lacked the confidence to shoot himself -- the shot was certainly on -- but even if Lacazette felt it was the least worst option, he still made it work.
Olivier Giroud, like Lacazette, is another Arsenal forward who has different qualities to those who have gone before, but Lacazette, who was applauded off when replaced by Francis Coquelin on 74 minutes, is more mobile and willing to make the runs that put defenders under pressure. He won't score 20 goals a season, but he may create 10, and that will not be a bad return.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_