It is a pattern we have seen all too often from Jose Mourinho in the past few years. He set his Spurs side up in a defensive manner and as a result of their failure to attack from the first minute, his side fell to a 2-1 defeat to their fiercest rivals Arsenal at the Emirates. Despite starting with Hueng-Min Son, Harry Kane and Gareth Bale, Spurs showed the Gunners far too much respect and sat back even after taking the lead. In truth, they got what they deserved.
“I look up, I don’t look down. If Arsenal was seven points ahead of us I would look to them but because we have seven points more than them, I don’t look down,” said Mourinho before the game, yet his team played as if they were trying to nick a point off The Invincibles. He’s now lost twelve of his last 20 games against the so-called ‘Big Six’.
It was a game which summed up Erik Lamela’s Tottenham career, as he came off the bench in the first half to replace the injured Son and opened the scoring with a ridiculous rabona, before being sent off in the second half. Yet it wasn’t until Mourinho’s side went down to ten men that they showed any consistent attacking threat, as they penned Mikel Arteta’s side in with ten minutes remaining. It is clear that the visitors would’ve been far better off playing to their strengths and attacking opponents from the off, who let’s not forget, are only tenth in the Premier League.
Arsenal do deserve huge credit, especially for coming from behind and taking the initiative in the opening period. Emile Smith Rowe was bright throughout and hit the bar from the edge of the box early on after a strong Arsenal start while the Gunners showed no signs of missing their influential captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, who was left on the bench for disciplinary reasons as they probed for the opening goal.
However it was Tottenham who took the lead through Lamela, who scored one of the goals of the season. He's scored a rabona before for Spurs, in the Europa League, but to do it against your fiercest rivals in their own back yard was outrageous. Lucas Moura picked up the ball in the Arsenal box before laying the ball to Lamela, who 'rabonaed' the ball, through the legs of Thomas Partey and into the far corner. It was simply outrageous.
The goal shocked the viewers and also seemed to motivate the hosts, who hit the woodwork again as Cedric hit the post from long range, but they would get the equaliser before halftime. Kieran Tierney made progress down the left hand side before cutting the ball back to Martin Odegaard, who scored his first Premier League goal with the help of a deflection. Spurs rarely threatened in the opening 75 minutes with Harry Kane anonymous in that time frame, and it was Arsenal who continued to have the upper hand in the second half.
They got their just reward from the penalty spot as Alexandre Lacazette converted having won the penalty himself. He mis-hit his shot but Davinson Sanchez caught him on the follow through, to the dismay of Jose Mourinho.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors as Lamela was sent off for a second yellow card as his flailing arm caught Tierney in the face, to the dismay of both the Spurs coaching staff and his teammates. The Argentine, even when playing his best football in a white shirt, seems to have a tendency to lack consistency and this red card will not help his cause to break into Mourinho’s preferred eleven.
Then, it seemed like a switch flicked. Spurs came on again when they went down to ten, playing their most attacking football of the game as Lucas probed and Kane came into his own. The pair combined from a set piece as Lucas crossed for Kane to head home but he had strayed offside, before the England striker hit the post from a free-kick, coming so close to an equaliser as Spurs finally took the shackles off.
Frustration will be the word of the day from those watching on with a Spurs persuasion. A case once again of what could have been, yet with all this attacking talent, Mourinho is still too cautious. Meanwhile for Arsenal, it is a fully deserved three points as they move just four points behind their north London rivals.