Arsenal vs Tottenham: Five things we learned as Emile Smith Rowe stars in derby win

Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham: A first-half blitz gave the Gunners the points in the north London derby

Karl Matchett
Sunday 26 September 2021 18:23

Arsenal gave Tottenham Hotspur a hiding in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium, winning 3-0 to move up to 10th, leapfrogging their rivals.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang forced the first save of note with a low strike, parried by Hugo Lloris, but it was merely a sign of what was to come and it wasn’t long before the home side took the lead through Emile Smith Rowe’s close-range finish.

Spurs failed to mount any sort of response and the Gunners extended their lead on the counter-attack, Aubameyang and Smith Rowe linking up to see the Gabonese forward fire in the second before Bukayo Saka made it three after a driving run into the box.

Tottenham did improve mildly after the break but never looked like getting back in the game and suffered a third straight league defeat, despite Son Heung-min’s consolation.

Here are five things we learned from the north London derby on Sunday.

Another Spurs shocker at the Emirates

In the entire Premier League era, Tottenham have managed precisely two league victories on their rivals’ turf, with one coming in the very first campaign.

Just one win, then, at the Emirates Stadium - and right from kick-off it was clear they were unlikely to add to that paltry tally on this occasion.

It was slow, unambitious and hesitant from the visitors, the shape was unhelpful both for defending spaces and moving the ball upfield and the overall tempo of the team was far from capable of matching their hosts.

Attacking trio

Plenty of Arsenal players deserved acclaim for the first-half showing in particular, but it’s impossible to ignore the fluidity and creativity offered by the three attacking midfielders behind striker Aubameyang.

From right to left, Saka (age 20), Martin Odegaard (22) and Smith Rowe (21) were excellent on and off the ball.

They linked with each other, worked hard off the ball and were lightning quick in counters and transition play, picking the right pass at the right time and clocking up two assists and two goals between them.

None of those stats are awarded to the Norwegian, but Odegaard’s influence on the match was ceaseless, keeping the Gunners on the front foot, drifting into channels and behind Spurs’ midfield to create space and always, always offer himself to receive the ball. Either side of him, the English pair were excellent.

Nuno calls it wrongly

Team selection and tactics for the derby, any derby, generally have to be spot on. A double change by Nuno Espirito Santo at the break - and the scoreline, of course - pretty much highlighted that the Tottenham boss had got it badly wrong.

Emerson Royal and Oliver Skipp came on to add more steel and defensive running, but in the attacking half of the pitch there were no ideas and no clear plan to break through the Gunners’ back line - which hasn’t exactly been an impregnable barrier this year.

Aimless crosses, hoisted balls from deep and constantly turning back when faced with having to try and pass through midfield were the order of the day for an unimaginative Spurs.

Season turning point?

The big question for Arsenal will be: can they keep it going? Mikel Arteta was keen to speak about them being on an upward spiral after wins over Norwich, Burnley and AFC Wimbledon, but victory in the derby is altogether more convincing.

Fans won’t be duped too early, though: false dawns have come often for the Gunners in the modern era and the problems haven’t all disappeared in the past couple of weeks.

Brighton, Palace, Villa and Leeds now presents an interesting upcoming run either side of the international break, where points can be earned regularly for a team which can find consistency.

Tomiyasu earns admirers

Arsenal right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu was the pick of the bunch from the defensive players on show, with the Japense defender producing a consistent, committed and above all else concentrated performance.

He was more than once in the right place to sweep up and clear after Aaron Ramsdale had only managed to parry back into dangerous areas, plus on another occasion in stoppage time clear one which the keeper tipped onto the bar.

His positional work was good, his passing was in keeping with the team’s game plan and Tomiyasu won more aerial challenges than any other defender on the pitch.

The performance won’t attract headlines, but he was a key part of the win.

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