"We want you to stay, we want you to stay, Arsene Wenger we want you to stay," sang the Tottenham Hotspur fans after watching their team humble their North London arch-rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane.
Ever wonder what this means to the Spurs, who, for the first time in 22 years, will finish above their neighbours in the Premier League? Even though Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have made the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent years, they somehow ensured that they finish above Spurs. A win in the local derby is always more of a morale boost but with this win, Tottenham have also become the 'new masters of North London'.
On a sunny day in Tottenham, the 'North London is ours' chant echoed at White Hart Lane, albeit this time, it was the Spurs fans who were singing. They refused to leave their seats, staying instead to celebrate the moment they have waited for decades.
Before the start of the game, Chelsea's 3-0 win at Everton had turned up the heat on Spurs and it also took a bit of the zing out of the atmosphere. Tottenham's sole task was to maintain the pressure on Chelsea and keep patience until the end of the season while hoping the league leaders would slip up.
In the early stages of the game, both sides showed some impressive pressing in midfield but failed to establish anything out of it. Arsenal put a lot of bodies in the midfield to stop Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min creating something but the clearest chance came after around 22 minutes when Harry Kane's shot deflected and looped into the 6-yard box where Alli missed a header into an open goal.
Wenger played with a back three yet again but with Gabriel, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal. A new formation can always inject much more confidence but the point here is do Arsenal have players who can conveniently manage to understand the system? At Chelsea, Antonio Conte has employed a similar formation, but he has options and that suited his style.
Arsenal's vulnerability at the back saw another opportunity arriving for Spurs, as Son cuts in brilliantly from the left, only to see his effort sent skywards. A while later, Christian Eriksen volleyed against the bar.
By the break, it was evident that Spurs had most definitely been the better side, sticking with Mauricio Pochettino's plan and managing to attack and defend well. As for Arsenal, they looked threatening on the counter but nothing to trouble Toby Alderweireld or Jan Vertonghen.
Wenger believes his new 3-4-3 system suits his players, maybe on the training ground, since Spurs tore the defence on various occasions and there were still 45 minutes left in the game. Their efforts did not match up to Tottenham's fluid flexibility who often switched to back three or five as and when the game demanded.
Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel & Nacho Monreal did not win a single tackle inside their own penalty area vs Spurs:
1 foul pic.twitter.com/E9z5fVg6ij
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2017
Tottenham were on the front foot again in the second half. Moussa Dembele's absence was no longer felt as Victor Wanyama took the mantle of breaking the play and moving the ball ahead.
Contrary to that, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey were awful and could not give Wenger that stability that he has been looking for after Patrick Viera and Cesc Fabregas left the club.
Four minutes into the second half, Wanyama tried to curl it from outside the box but Petr Cech palmed it away. After a quick passage of play between Eriksen and Kieran Trippier, Tottenham deservedly took the lead in the 55th minute through Alli who snaffled the loose ball with the outside of his boot between Gabriel and Monreal into the empty net.
Just two minutes after conceding the lead, Arsenal found things getting worse when Harry Kane slotted home Tottenham's second from the spot after he was brought down by Gabriel. This was also Kane's fifth goal in five derbies - having scored in each of them. North London's dominion was decided in the space of 146 second-half seconds.
Wenger was seen quiet on the touchline as Arsenal needed more than a comeback. This was a game when Wenger needed someone to create something out of nothing and Mesut Ozil created nothing from nothing. Alexis Sanchez seemed to be the only hope for Arsenal in the attacking third.
Elsewhere, it was Eriksen who successfully found pockets of spaces ahead of him to find Kane and Alli. "I thought Eriksen was fantastic today. I looked on the flip side at what Ozil offered his team when you want a piece of magic or you want someone to unlock the door. At times there were passengers and you can't have passengers in these North London derbies," Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports after the game.
Christian Eriksen (4) created as many chances in the North London Derby as Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez combined. Playmaker supreme. pic.twitter.com/VcmaKm3xsw — Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 30, 2017
After the hour mark, Arsenal did try to mount a comeback through Sanchez who was the only player in the red and whites to move the ball ahead in search of a goal. Olivier Giroud, like Ozil, did not match up to Wenger's orders and failed to possess a threat in Tottenham's box. Soon, 'In Arsene We Trust' banner was unfurled by Spurs fans to add insult to Arsenal's misery. Amidst the healthy banter around the 75th minute, Kane was presented with the opportunity to double his tally and Tottenham's third but Petr Cech was solid enough.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Arsenal showed some urgency with Ramsey — who started in a deeper position — finding Sanchez and Danny Welbeck's off-the-ball runs. They were quick but lacked finishing in the final third, gifting Hugo Lloris yet another clean sheet at home.
Tottenham heaved a sigh of relief as the referee blew the final whistle. Three points meant that Tottenham kept their hopes alive as they face a stern test on 14 May against Manchester United.
Arsenal squandered a massive opportunity to stay alive in the chase for Champions League spot, knowing both Manchester United and Manchester City had dropped two points. For years, Wenger has been in the bad books for his tactically inflexible starting line-ups or stubbornly sticking to the same system which does nothing but produces predictable results. If the trend continues, this will be the first season under the Frenchman that Arsenal would finish outside the top four.
It looks like Arsenal are missing the appetite Wenger's team carried during the mid-2000s and also miss the type of players who led from the front. Surprisingly, Pochettino's men have lately become the epitome of creativity and execution as they have been consistent in the last two seasons.
Until Wenger decides to bring a major change, only then there is a possibility of them regaining their dominance. The Gunners face Jose Mourinho's United next on 7 May as their chances of top four remain slim.
Published Date: May 01, 2017 13:38 PM | Updated Date: May 01, 2017 13:47 PM