The London derby
London derby seems to be a constant fixture in Premier League. With 7 clubs from English capital in the league, it’s easy to understand why.
However, this weekend took place North London derby, Arsenal versus Tottenham, over 100 years of fierce rivalry between neighboring boroughs.
With Chelsea’s rise in the last 2 decades other hot derbies are taking place in London but given the short history, it still can’t get the same pedigree.
In total Arsenal has an upper hand in head-to-head count with almost 20 victories more than Tottenham, 82 to 63 with 51 draws. 20 vs 12 in Premier League.
Gunners have advantage also in trophy collection with 3 Premier League titles and 13 FA Cup, among other, while the Hotspurs tasting success 8 times in FA Cup with no Premier League winners medal to show.
But fortunes have changed recently with Tottenham placing above the arch-rivals last few years and participating regularly in the Champions League. Building an international reputation in the process.
Meanwhile, Arsenal took too long to part ways with a manager who brought a lot of honors to the club but ultimately couldn’t keep up with game’s evolution. Once regarded as a trend-setter, in later years couldn’t quite make it work.
And once Wenger couldn’t catch the famed Champions League spot it was time for fresh ideas. Please enter Mr. Unai Emery.
New manager same old story?
Taking over from a manager after 20 years is an arduous task itself. Taking it in a club in constant spotlight where results must be achieved is another thing. Check further North, in Manchester, for additional explanation.
Anyhow Emery had a few details working in his favor. Firstly, he can hardly do worse than his predecessor. At least lately.
Secondly, inherited squad has a lot of talent.
Thirdly, after his adventure in Paris, he’s used to demanding crowd and dressing room full of stars. He’s used to volatile characters and big egos which need to be addressed adequately.
Oh, and he also won things. Taking French championship for granted, he’s had some success with Sevilla. International. Three in a row to be precise! It was in Europa League, second European competition but still, nobody else did it.
So, an undoubtedly talented bunch of players with international pedigree and a manager in the same mould. Match made in heaven!
Well, not at first. First points came only in match-day 3 in another London derby, against West Ham.
That opening two games were against defending champions and one of the contenders wasn’t helping the Spaniard settling in.
Big against small
But Emery survived heavy criticism and continued with his ideas. The team was playing better and better but more importantly getting results.
Schedule didn’t offer first class opposition until beginning of November and Unai had time to asses material at disposal and find some kind of balance. A run of wins followed before Liverpool came to town.
Arsenal was coming from a draw in another London derby, against Crystal Palace. Who, by the way, has a better defensive record.
Winner-less big match against the Reds carried two messages; Arsenal can compete against the best. But can’t win in direct confrontations.
Reds challenge was the first maturity test. After suffering loses against other two title contenders a draw was a step up. A baby step, but still up.
Third draw in a row came in Wolverhampton. Discontent between fans and pundits was loud again.
Defensive phase still leaves a lot to be desired but at least they don’t have problems with scoring.
Second attack in the league behind well oiled Manchester City has to mean something.
Another month of fine tuning before next maturity test – London derby against high flying Tottenham. But this time Arsenal passed it, cum laude!
The Spurs were in red-hot form! After completely outplaying Chelsea the weekend before and doing the same to Inter in midweek no doubt Tottenham was the favorite. Especially considering Arsenal’s struggles when facing top opposition.
But Emery and his team learned their lesson by now! Relentless pressing, high line, and speedy attacks surprised Pochettinho’s men. Arsenal took control from the kick-off and never let it go.
Early lead was just reward for a strong start. It came from a penalty converted by Aubameyang after Vertonghen’s handball.
The mantra “who doesn’t score, concedes” once again proved correct. Totally against the run of play Tottenham equalized thanks to Eric Dier. And also Bernd Leno who let a seemingly innocuous header somehow squeeze in on the near post.
Gunners didn’t absorb equalizing shock when they were surpassed! Son was released on goal and brought down in the box. Penalty which Kane transformed without any issues!
Déjà vu! Arsenal playing and creating chances but unable to complete the job and paying the price. Just on the stroke of halftime.
New manager new story
This is not the same Arsenal anymore! This Arsenal has grown and knows how to react when punched in the face.
More importantly, has a manager who admits his mistakes and corrects them immediately.
Wasteful Iwobi and timid Mkhitaryan remained in the locker room. Decisive Ramsey and Lacazette joined the fight.
Within 10 minutes after the break result was there. Bellerin found Ramsey in space. The pass wasn’t perfect but the Welshman somehow managed to deflect it just enough to serve Aubameyang.
Aurier allowed Gabon striker just a few centimeters and it proved costly. Auba smashed the ball in the corner and reinstalled parity. Only in terms of result because Tottenham was dominated throughout the whole match.
Perhaps last two nearly perfect games took a huge physical and emotional toll on the Spurs. Could be that Emery surprised his counterpart with a propositive setting and 3 man defense.
Whatever it was it’s hard to believe that the same team dismantled one of the contenders just a week ago. Tottenham looked disinterested and lacking concentration in key moments.
Arsenal took advantage of another black-out in Hotspurs’ defense and with a bit of luck took the lead again.
Ramsey caught Foyth in possession on the halfway line and served fellow substitute Lacazette. The Frenchman adjusted the ball and with a slight deflection found the bottom corner.
To put the game beyond doubt this time the Gunners needed just additional few minutes. Torreira found himself facing Lloris and finished expertly to give the home side a 2 goal cushion.
With Tottenham not threatening too much little Uruguayan’s first goal in Premier League seal the deal.
London derby justified the expectations and served us a real spectacle. It’s a shame that only one team played to its potential. And let’s not forget the small matter of Ozil’s absence.
The other derby
Right after the London derby, another one was played in the Beatles’ city. Reds hosted Toffees.
With Everton pushing for high places after a few seasons in the wilderness, it was a balanced affair.
And when it looked that there will be no winner Everton’s best player decided otherwise. Unfortunately for Everton’s fans not to their likening.
Last Liverpool’s assault ended with Van Dijk slicing the shot on the edge of the box and the ball flew towards the goal in a looping trajectory.
Even the Dutch defender turned around to re-take his position before the ball was anywhere near Pickford. Everton’s keeper followed the flight closely and decided to catch the ball instead of punching it over the bar.
Intervention wasn’t successful as the ball was bouncing on the crossbar and refused to go out. Origi was as surprised as everyone seeing the ball falling on his head with no defenders around him and Pickford picking himself out of the net.
Such a gift won’t go to waste! The Belgian striker thanked and accepted.
This goal is even harder to explain then Tottenham’s performance.
Manchester United did it again! Disappointed his fans! Southampton is languishing in relegation zone and didn’t manage a single victory in its own back-yard this season.
United nearly allowed the hosts their first internal joy but for two Rashford moments of craft and served golden chances to Lukaku and Herrera.
True, Mourinho has great problems composing the defensive line however if Southampton can’t be beaten with a personnel crisis, who can?
As the world is upside down Mark Hughes was sacked after the game. Internal draw against one of the biggest clubs in the world!
Of course, we all know that the sacking was due to all other results, not his one. However, it makes an impression; relegation strugglers fire the managers after home draw against Manchester United!
United’s problems are much deeper than just lack of central defenders. In fact, Matić and McTominay didn’t do to bad in the back three with Jones. Problems are further up the field and particularly in midfield.
Pogba looks to be playing in a game of his own, Fellaini can jump and win headers. Herrera can run the extra mile but who’ll bring the ball in dangerous areas?
Why was Fred bought? If he can’t play against relegation candidates in full emergency when can?
And next opponent is in-form Arsenal. What will The Special One prepare for this game? We’ll find out very soon but I’m not sure United’s fans will be pleased.
Manchester City continues with routine wins and Fulham with routine defeats. Albeit against redemption-seeking Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
New manager Claudio Ranieri already proved that he can dig a team out of the abyss and lead it to glory. Fulham won’t repeat Leicester City’s fairy-tale but staying up is possible.
Newcastle and Huddersfield Town lost important matches at home against West Ham and Brighton respectively in salvation battle. Same did Burnley away to Crystal Palace.
No London derbies in Premier League’s midweek fixture, therefore, all eyes will be at Old Trafford for Arsenal’s visit.