Arsenal vs Tottenham: Five things we learned as Erik Lamela goes from hero to zero in north London derby

Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham: Lacazette’s penalty wins the derby as Lamela scores and gets sent-off

Karl Matchett
Sunday 14 March 2021 18:35
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Arsenal took a deserved 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Sunday as the away side finished with 10 men.

The Gunners struck the woodwork twice in the first half, Emile Smith Rowe hitting the bar and Cedric Soares smashing against the post, either side of an outrageous rabona goal from Erik Lamela which gave Spurs the lead with their only shot of the opening 45 minutes.

Arsenal’s dominance continued despite Jose Mourinho making all three of his permitted subs by the hour mark, with the away team’s second shot of the game not arriving until after the 70th minute: a weak, looped header from Lamela which was easy to save.

Meanwhile, Alexandre Lacazette tested Hugo Looris with one save, before Davinson Sanchez fouled the striker to concede a penalty - which Lacazette coolly finished.

Lamela was then sent-off for two yellow card offences in less than 10 minutes, with Spurs’ best late chance seeing Harry Kane strike the post from a free-kick.

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Here are five things we learned from the North London Derby.

Aubameyang absence

Even before kick-off there was a notable talking point, with Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left out of the line-up.

Manager Mikel Arteta confirmed that it was due to a disciplinary breach in the lead-up to the game, without specifying the nature of the incident.

Leaving the captain out was perhaps a risky choice in the context of three points in the derby, but Arteta has made the point that this Arsenal project is a much more long-term affair than looking at any particular game.

As such, laying down a marker for unacceptable behaviour was clearly the priority and perhaps the rest of the squad appreciated that ‘same rules for everyone’ approach, given how much better than Spurs they were right from kick-off.

Spurs’ “special” attack

In the lead-up to the game Mikel Arteta had labelled his rivals’ front line “special”, noting it would be difficult to stop Gareth Bale, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane.

But for one reason and another, they managed exactly that.

Son’s departure early on was a blow for Spurs, before he had really had any impact on the game. Kane played the whole of the half but was not much more involved - only 11 touches of the ball in the entire 45 minutes, while his first real effort of the second half being ruled out for offside.

He did strike the post with a late free-kick, but that was all.

Bale, meanwhile, had little effect from the right, was given 10 minutes through the middle and then subbed off to his disgust.

Left flank double-act

Emile Smith Rowe was handed a few games in the No. 10 role before moving left upon Martin Odegaard’s arrival - but he has not marginalised by the switch to the channel.

Instead, he is at times finding more space, more involvement in the build-up play and, importantly, forging a good tactical outlet for Arsenal where he roves infield and leaves the left flank free for Tierney.

The left-back is exceptional, Arsenal’s most consistent player and best outlet, but Smith Rowe more than plays his part.

He almost scored a chip, left Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg for dead with a brilliant dribble to tee up a chance for Lacazette and worked hard off the ball throughout.

Lamela’s ludicrous hour

Erik Lamela was originally signed as a Gareth Bale replacement and it’s more than a little notable that he’s still yet to really become a guaranteed starter for Spurs - for form and fitness reasons - now that Bale is back on loan and has taken half a season to win his own spot back.

His impact was...enormous, but at both ends of the scale.

Lamela’s goal could be the goal of the season, no question: A fantastic piece of technique, but also of opportunism and self-belief, finding the bottom corner after nutmegging a defender en-route to the back of the net.

The Argentinian also had a few other good moments launching counters and showing his work rate...before the other side of his game showed up, with two minor off-the-ball incidents even before his first booking. That card was followed by another foul and a warning, which he failed to heed, and the red card duy followed.

Table talk

Spurs missed a big chance to gain ground on the teams above them with this defeat, having been hoping for a Champions League boost.

One of Man United and West Ham must drop points in the later game and both Everton and Chelsea did so earlier in the weekend - so this is a big disappointment all-round, even without the context of the derby.

As for the Gunners, it keeps their Europa League hopes alive, though they remain in 10th, four points behind Spurs.

Inconsistency continues to blight the teams around the top end of the league.

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