Tottenham vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from White Hart Lane

A look back at the north London derby

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Walcott has new battle

It was a slight surprise when Arsenal announced that Danny Welbeck would be starting on the right, ahead of Theo Walcott.

Welbeck had not played for six weeks, due to a hip injury, while Walcott had scored on his last two appearances. Yet the decision was vindicated. Walcott may be a better sprinter but Welbeck is a better athlete, and far better defensively.  He worked hard throughout, tucking in and winning the ball back in midfield.

It was Welbeck’s explosive burst past Danny Rose, and pull-back for Olivier Giroud, that made Arsenal’s opening goal. Walcott clearly has another fight on his hands.

Kane finds his range

One of the many remarkable things about Harry Kane is his range as a striker. He spent much of his teenage years moved around, playing on the wings, as a second striker or in midfield. He has always been big but not always strong and those roles tended to suit him.

Yesterday, he gave another complete centre-forward’s performance, winning aerial duels with Per Mertesacker, running the channels and trying to dart in behind. If he was unlucky in the first half, he stuck at it and was rewarded with two more goals: a poacher’s tap-in and a towering header, his 21st and 22nd of the season.

No system is perfect

The problem with spending so much time on the back foot is you can get stuck there. Arsenal intended to play the same disciplined, reactive, counter-attacking game, so successful at Manchester City. It started well enough, with Mesut Özil’s goal a display of ruthless football on the break. But Arsenal spent the rest of the afternoon on the edge of their box, trying to hold Spurs off and unable to get out.

Defending is tiring and it was little surprise they eventually folded. None of which is to say they should have played their old, open, expansive game. But it does show no system is perfect.

Spurs fit for purpose

All those double sessions, endless running and fitness work that Mauricio Pochettino demands of his players is paying off.  The triumph of Pochettino’s tenure, more than anything, is the triumph of his fitness and conditioning work.

Spurs’ injury record  is remarkable. This was their 40th official game of the season and yet they had almost every first-team player fully fit. The longer the game  went on the more their physical advantage showed and they simply had more in thelr legs in the final minutes, when Kane won them the match.

Even Erik Lamela, who was injured for most of last season, was heroic, covering more ground than anyone else on the pitch. Pochettino’s plans are being rewarded.

Fans are back on-side

White Hart Lane is transformed. Three months ago, Emmanuel Adebayor said – not without justification – that it was a difficult place to play and he would almost rather play away. But Pochettino and his ambitious, young team have won over these fans.

Pochettino said the fans were now “proud” of the team, and when the squad did a lap of honour yesterday, those four early home League defeats felt like something from another era.

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