Arsenal vs Tottenham reaction: Mauricio Pochettino lets local lad Ryan Mason make his mark

The youngster played his part in the north London derby

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The Independent Football

When Trevor Francis took over as Birmingham City manager in 1996 he found his predecessor, Barry Fry, had accumulated so many players Francis joked that every time he opened a cupboard another couple would fall out.

Mauricio Pochettino must have felt similarly when he arrived at White Hart Lane in the summer. A series of managers, including one partial to a deal and another keen to promote youth products, had left Spurs with a lot of players of similar quality: decent, but unexceptional.

It has, admitted the Argentine after a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Saturday, taken time to sift through his resources, especially as those involved in the World Cup came back late to pre-season.

That, though, had a silver lining for one of his squad, Ryan Mason. At 23 the midfielder is a veteran of the loan market but, until Saturday, had never been seen in the Premier League.

Local boy Mason made his first Spurs start in 2012 in the Capital One Cup at Carlisle. Two years and one day later he made his second, in the north London derby. It was his third game in six days after playing for the reserves on Monday and scoring as a substitute in the Capital One Cup against Nottingham Forest on Wednesday. Fortunately he had put the hard yards in during pre-season. “With the change in manager in the summer I made sure I came back fit,” said Mason after a mature performance at the Emirates. “He’s the type of gaffer that if you’re training well and playing well then you’ll get a chance to play. There are not many managers in the Premier League willing to put homegrown players in and trust them.”

 

Mason was right to believe Pochettino would give players a chance. He has already used 25, including 23 in just six league matches. That is both a cause and a consequence of Tottenham’s inconsistency, but there are signs that he is beginning to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Younes Kaboul responded to being given the captain’s armband, forming a solid central defensive partnership with Jan Vertonghen. With Étienne Capoue impressing alongside Mason in midfield, and Hugo Lloris outstanding in goal, Pochettino may have found the spine he needs to build a team around.

Arsène Wenger’s continuing search for balance is less excusable. Arsenal’s back four picks itself, as they are the only fit defenders, but going forward Wenger confessed he is struggling to fit Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez, £77m of talent, into the same team.

“You have to think a little bit about the balance,” Wenger said. “Sometimes it’s not easy to get that. I thought I’d bring Sanchez on in the last 30 minutes when we were in a position to take a gamble.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain.jpg
Oxlade-Chamberlain scores the equaliser

 

At that stage Arsenal were trailing to Nacer Chadli’s 56th-minute goal and looking unlikely to level it. With 16 minutes left Sanchez and Santi Cazorla set up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for a face-saving equaliser.

They will be without Aaron Ramsey and Mikael Arteta, who suffered hamstring and calf injuries, for Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Galatasaray.

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