Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham produced a performance that perfectly reflected their manager as they ground out a 2-1 derby win over Arsenal.
Mourinho may not be the all-conquering force of old, but one thing that won’t change is his ability to send out his team with a clear plan to win a big game – and it worked a treat against Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta looks to be heading in the right direction at Arsenal, even managing to tighten up their leaky defence of late, but it was that same old Achilles heel again that let them down.
The fact Arteta was getting all the plaudits will have no doubt angered Mourinho in the build-up, but it’s Mourinho who will walk away with the pride, as well as the points, as his side showed defensive nous, character and resilience to get a welcome win.
It was not all down to Mourinho’s set-up, as Spurs also preyed on Arsenal’s defensive errors and lack of finishing touches to get the job done – pouncing on a mistake to draw level and then grabbing the winner from a set piece – but they were prepared to do exactly the job they ended up doing.
The win also crucially lifts Spurs above Arsenal – keeping their Europa League hopes alive while extinguishing those of their rivals.
Alexandre Lacazette fired in a thunderbolt to open the scoring after 16 minutes, but a defensive lapse allowed Son Heung-min to equalise just three minutes later.
Toby Alderweireld then popped up with an 81st-minute winner to give Mourinho all three points in his first north London derby – and answer a few critics after pressure began to mount following recent results.
Arsenal arrived as the team in form and playing with confidence, so it was no surprise when they took the lead, but after instantly letting Spurs back into the game the tactics were then set for Mourinho’s side – and just the ones he wants.
Arteta’s side enjoyed plenty of possession but Spurs stood strong and looked more than dangerous on the break – with Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez making a number of saves as he continued to impress.
Mourinho’s grinning post-match comments revealed that his plans had worked perfectly: “I think the game was more tactical than anything.
“To be honest I think Mikel found a way for them to play, to be stable and to improve – they are improving and we felt that we should adapt slightly to them and I think we did it very well.
“Even in the first period of the second half when they had more of the ball and they were more in our half, we were quite comfortable in that situation.
“Even in the last minutes of the game after 2-1, zero problems, everything under control so we are happy.”
Arsenal may well have played into Tottenham’s hands, allowing Spurs to sit deep and spring forward on the break, and those tactics will have been hugely welcomed by Mourinho as the negativity had been building at Spurs after defeat at Sheffield United and a bore draw at Bournemouth, where they failed to register a shot on target.
11 shots on target in five games since the restart did not make for good reading, but Spurs responded and the nine shots on target they had against Arsenal is the most they’ve recorded at home all season.
Source: Paul Higham