Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal
- Goals: Son Heung-min (£9.6m), Toby Alderweireld (£5.3m) | Alexandre Lacazette (£9.2m)
- Assists: Son | Granit Xhaka (£5.1m)
- Bonus: Son x3, Alderweireld x2, Lacazette x1
Three days before the 187th north London derby, Tottenham Hotspur served up a display so bad that it made Premier League history.
Bournemouth had previously never managed to stop the opposition from registering a shot on target in 186 top-flight games but they achieved that feat with ease as the Lilywhites scraped a goalless draw at the Vitality Stadium.
The dire exhibition prompted a wave of Fantasy Premier League sales, with Harry Kane (£10.9m) and Son Heung-min (£9.6m) both transferred out by over 100,000 FPL managers apiece.
Son duly delivered his joint-highest FPL score of 2020 on Sunday and, while Kane blanked, the two premium Spurs assets were much more of a threat against the Gunners than they had been less than 72 hours earlier.
Son pounced on some calamitous Arsenal defending to swiftly cancel out Alexandre Lacazette’s (£9.2m) 15th-minute stunner and then turned provider for the hosts’ late winner, sending over a teasing corner that Toby Alderweireld (£5.3m) nodded home.
There could have been other/further attacking returns from Kane and Son.
The England international was thrice thwarted by the impressive Emiliano Martinez (£4.3m) when put clean through on goal, while Son had earlier failed to capitalise on a Kane cut-back when the pair broke at speed and then saw a shot blocked in the 86th minute as Arsenal’s defence parted.
The key difference between Gameweeks 34+ and 35+? Mourinho used a two-man attack.
Having been peripheral on the flanks since the restart, Son looked far more dangerous centrally alongside Kane.
In turn, Kane seemed less isolated up top and benefitted from Son’s pace and movement opening up space alongside him.
Before we get too excited about a possible return to form for the pair, it should be said that this was no gung-ho Spurs display.
The hosts were direct and had just 37.3% of possession (only three sides have seen less of the ball in Gameweek 35+ so far), with both of their goals owing more to Arsenal’s defensive shortcomings then they did to the Lilywhites’ own ingenuity in attack.
Mourinho’s switch to a 4-4-2 was also done as much to combat the Gunners’ wing-backs as it was to improve their own goal threat, as the Special One explained after full-time:
I thought I needed to give the team a different shape and to control that we would be in a better position to try to win the game.
They play with Bellerin and Tierney really wide and high, then they bring Aubameyang and Pepe or Saka to the inside. I wanted my back four to be focused on closing the central areas and jumping only to the wing-backs in special occasions. For that, I needed a sacrifice from Sissoko and Lucas.
Even then we had two targets in attacking transitions and to go on to change the direction of the play. With Sonny close to Harry I felt that we could have both, one coming more for the ball and being more a target man and the other making the runs and attacking the space.
So it was our strategy for the game but more important than that was the players. The mentality and the way they embraced the game and the rivalry with Arsenal.
Whether the Lilywhites can reproduce that display away at Newcastle on Wednesday is open to debate, with Spurs likely to see considerably more of the ball and not rely on counter-attacks as much.
It also remains to be seen if Serge Aurier (£5.1m) makes that match, with the dreadfully sad news emerging on Monday morning that the Spurs full-back’s brother had passed away in France.
Japhet Tanganga (£3.9m) made the bench at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after recovering from injury so could step in if match-fit, although Moussa Sissoko (£4.8m) is another option and Mourinho had previously mentioned that Gedson Fernandes (£4.6m) and Oliver Skipp (£4.3m) had been used at right-back in training amid the shortage of numbers.
As for Arsenal, four weeks of defensive improvement gave way to a bit of a shambolic display at the back, with Sead Kolasinac (£5.2m) and David Luiz (£5.7m) at fault for Son’s leveller, Shkodran Mustafi (£5.1m) in kamikaze mood and the Gunners again conceding from a set piece.
It’s harsh to criticise too much as this was a backline that had shipped just one goal in four league games prior to Sunday but there would have been some encouragement for owners of Liverpool’s assets ahead of their trip to the Emirates in midweek, particularly the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) given that Arsenal were again undone by a dead-ball delivery.
Arteta discussed set plays after full-time, saying:
It’s one of them but in this league, it’s very difficult. It is part of the process we are trying to do. We will improve there and we know how important they are in big matches. We talked about it before the game today that set-pieces in this game are crucial, and today it cost us the three points.
The Gunners arguably merited a point and had chances of their own to win it.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m) may have blanked but there was enough here to reassure his Fantasy owners, with the Gabon international rattling the woodwork, forcing Hugo Lloris (£5.3m) into a fine flying save, sending a free-kick narrowly wide and uncharacteristically mishitting a Hector Bellerin (£5.3m) cut-back from close range.
Arteta said of his side’s display:
I am disappointed and frustrated and really sorry for the boys first, because the way they played today and the personality they showed today, to come into this ground and show who we are, to nullify the opponents and press them high, forcing them to kick the ball long and defend in a low block. That’s exactly what we wanted to do.
But obviously, if you give the two goals away that we have given against these players, it is very difficult to win a derby.
Sunday was also a reminder to Bukayo Saka‘s (£4.7m) owners that he isn’t yet ‘nailed’ in the Arsenal starting XI despite his fine recent displays, with Arteta benching the teenage prospect as he continues to manage him carefully amid the fixture pile-up.
A breather at the weekend may well ensures he starts against Jurgen Klopp’s side, however.
Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-4-2): Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies, Winks, Sissoko, Lo Celso (Skipp 84′), Lucas (Bergwijn 82′), Son (Lamela 9o’), Kane.
Arsenal XI (3-4-3): Martinez, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac (Willock 84′), Bellerin (Cedric 84′), Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney (Nelson 84′), Pepe (Saka 70′), Lacazette, Aubameyang.
FPL LESSONS LEARNED FROM GAMEWEEK 35+
- Norwich City 0-4 West Ham United
- Watford 2-1 Newcastle United
- Liverpool 1-1 Burnley
- Sheffield United 3-0 Chelsea
- Brighton and Hove Albion 0-5 Manchester City
- Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 Everton
- Aston Villa 2-0 Crystal Palace
- Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal
- Bournemouth 4-1 Leicester City
- Manchester United 2-2 Southampton
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