Arsenal Vs Spurs: Highlights and analysis from wonderful win

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18: Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on November 18, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18: Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on November 18, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) /

Arsenal hosted Tottenham Hotspur in the first North London derby of the season on Saturday. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 2-0 triumph.

Talk about nailing your tactics. That is exactly what Arsene Wenger did. He demanded that his Arsenal side play without fear before the game. Such comments alerted my thoughts as to the possibility of him playing a high-pressing style. That is what he did. It worked. The game was under an Arsenal-defined stranglehold because of the incessant pressure that Tottenham Hotspur were placed under. The 2-0 scoreline was nothing less than they deserved. It was evident from minute one.

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The first half started in a pulsating fashion. Arsenal pressed incessantly high up the pitch, as clearly instructed by Wenger, and Spurs did, at least early on, create marginal openings against a back-three that looked far more comfortable with Shkodran Mustafi at the heart of it. The pressing tactic of the Gunners, though, did pay dividends, forcing Spurs into aimless long passes and winning back possession high up the pitch.

The first real chance of the game came because of Alexis Sanchez’s high pressing. He nicked the ball, slipped in Alexandre Lacazette, who, after cutting inside onto his right foot, panickingly blazed over. But it was a sign of things to come.

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Although Spurs did engineer slight opportunities at the other end — Harry Kane lashed a shot straight at Petr Cech; Dele Alli miscued an effort wide that nearly fell to Kane; a couple of dangerous crosses were cleared, one acrobatically, on the stretch, by Laurent Koscielny –, for the most part, it was Arsenal pressure, as well as intelligent runs and fed passes in behind the Spurs defence, particularly down the inside right channel, that defined the pattern of this match.

On two different occasions in the opening half-hour, Arsenal were able to send runners in behind the Spurs defence and flash a low, square pass across the six-yard box: Hector Bellerin was fed by Aaron Ramsey by Alexandre Lacazette was sandwiched and unable to get to the ball; Bellerin slides in Mesut Ozil with a reverse pass, but Aaron Ramsey cannot be found. As a sign of Arsenal’s dominance, at the 30-minute mark, Dele Alli and Harry Kane had combined for just 17 touches. Of those 17, just four had come in the penalty area, as many as had come in their own half.

But for all of Arsenal’s control and command, they had not broken the deadlock. And that was important, because Spurs did show a threat, at times. Christian Eriksen smashed the near post, after carving inside and feigning a far-post effort by opening up his body, before cutting the shot back across his body and towards the other corner of the goal, while Harry Kane’s deflected header was comfortably saved by Petr Cech, though his ability to find space in the box from the cross was warning enough.

Thankfully, though, Arsenal were able to find that essential first goal, with a little bit of help from Mike Dean, of all people. Alexis Sanchez was adjudged to have been fouled by Davinson Sanchez, a one-on-one battle that was fascinating to watch all game. Mesut Ozil whipped in the free-kick and Shkodran Mustafi rose highest to arc the header back across the goal and into the gaping net, flicking off the inside of the post in the process. There was also a reasonable suggestion that Mustafi was onside, and, while marginal, Spurs were perhaps justified in their complaints.

Arsenal, though, deserved a second goal. In surprisingly clinical fashion, they got it. It came through the same method that they had threatened throughout the first period: Down the inside-right channel, in-behind the Spurs defence. This time Alexandre Lacazette was freed, thanks to a neat Hector Bellerin pass. The Frenchman fired a cross in towards Alexis Sanchez, and, after a bundled first touch, the Chilean emphatically slammed the shot into the roof of the net.

The two-goal lead at half-time was exactly what Arsenal deserved. They executed the plan that Wenger had wanted them to against Manchester City. But rather doing so in fleeting moments, they did so consistently and collectively.

The second half was not quite so open and exciting. The game broke down a little. Arsenal, who still looked sharp at times, perhaps began to flounder, playing in an extremely high-energy, high-intensity manner, and although Spurs shared more of the game, they lacked the quality in the midfield to ever create clear and convincing opportunities. Dele Alli was rash and uncomposed, Christian Eriksen was very much sounded out, and Harry Kane looked like he was lacking full-match sharpness, perhaps suggesting that he was rushed back after missing England duty with an injury.

Arsenal were able to create chances on the break. A lovely, flowing move nearly ended in Mesut Ozil poking home, but Hugo Lloris scampered off his line sharply, and Alexis Sanchez fired a shot over the crossbar from the angle of the penalty area, before seeing another effort well saved by Lloris again after a lovely pass from Mesut Ozil found him in a pocket of space in the box.

There were a couple of brief scares late on. An Eric Dier header at the far post was palmed away by Petr Cech, who was alert to the danger. Heung-Min Son skied a shot over after a lovely, cushioned Fernando Llorente knock-down. But, for the most part, Arsenal were comfortable. Francis Coquelin and Alex Iwobi were introduced to provide a little steel and stability in a midfield that was beginning to labour, and Wenger was more than happy for his team to see out the victory.

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Amid the many debates centring on the apparent power shift in North London, this was an emphatic and startling display from Arsenal. The result is important. They are now just one point behind Spurs. It is their first league win against Spurs in three years. It is the first time that Wenger has beaten Pochettino at Spurs for the first time in the Premier League. But the performance was more so. This was a statement of intent, and it was bloody brilliant!