Top five talking points: Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham
1. Was this the best derby of the season so far?
There has been a couple of notable derbies this season. Arsenal were shocked by a counter-attacking West Ham in a 0-3 home defeat, then Diego Costa was retrospectively banned after the controversial clash at Stamford Bridge in which Chelsea won 2-0 against Arsene Wenger’s men.
Away from London, Sam Allardyce picked up his solitary win as a Sunderland boss in the Tyne-Wear derby, which went against the run of play as the Black Cats ran away 3-0 winners. Later that day the Manchester giants decided to sacrifice their fans’ quest for entertainment by settling for a dull 0-0 stalemate.
This one had everything associated with a classic derby, including plenty of theatre (or at least pantomime). Mesut Ozil had something thrown at him from the enclosure that contained the travelling fans as he went to take a first-half corner. Danny Rose felt Joel Campbell’s flailing arm in his face and went down dramatically.
The most memorable full-blooded incident involved Jan Vertonghen and Olivier Giroud. The pair wrestled to the ground off the ball as they jostled inside the area in the first-half. Giroud jumped back up and bumped Vertonghen over.
2. Mauricio Pochettino has every reason to wax lyrical about his players’ performances despite dropping points
Pochettino had nothing but praise for his players after the game and it easy to understand why. Eight Spurs players have started in all of the club’s last three games, which were played over just six days, but even Arsene Wenger admitted that his men were dominated in central midfield for most of the game.
The Lilywhites had to hang on in the last 15 minutes as they were understandably running on empty, but they deserve a lot of credit for executing Pochettino’s demanding philosophy of out-running their opponents in each of those three games.
3. Be careful what you wish for, Arsene
First, it is worth noting that Laurent Koscielny remained arguably the best defender in the league this season, along with Chris Smalling and Vincent Kompany. That is why Wenger was eager to have Koscielny (hip) undergo a late fitness test to give him every chance to start in this north London derby.
Koscielny did not justify his manager’s eagerness to have him in the starting line-up with his performance. He lost Eric Dier when defending a set piece and the young English midfielder almost scored at the back post.
The Frenchman also made the wrong decision by trying to trap Harry Kane offside instead of following the forward’s run and remain goal-side. Kane timed his run well, which resulted in the opening goal.
4. Hugo Lloris’ outstanding performance was dented by the equalising goal
Lloris gave another brilliant performance in goal for Spurs with a couple of decent saves and good organisation of his defence both on set-pieces and during open play. Still, the goalkeeper should have done better with Kieran Gibbs’ goal.
He conceded a similar goal at Monaco in the Europa League earlier this season, so this may be an area the French shot-stopper needs to work on.
5. Santi Cazorla’s problem highlighted Arsenal’s deficiencies
Wenger revealed that he had to take Cazorla off at half-time because the midfielder was feeling dizzy and his fitness problem affected Arsenal in the first-half.
Ideally, Wenger would have preferred to turn to an equally efficient ball player but Jack Wilshere (fibula), Tomas Rosicky (knee), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey (both hamstring) were all out, so the Gunners boss had to settle for Mathieu Flamini who is more of an enforcer than a ball player.
That left Arsenal with fewer creative players in the second-half. Wenger’s post-match comments suggest that Cazorla should be fine well before the international break ends, but Arsenal need a few of those injured ball players back.
With their help, the Gunners have a massive chance to establish themselves at the top of the league before the crunch tie with Manchester City on December 21 as they take on West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City, Sunderland and Aston Villa in the interim.