Tottenham showed their flexibility by impressively adapting to a three-man defence at Arsenal, who were once again undone by thorn in their side Harry Kane.
Wenger went for broke – but Pochettino will be happier manager
Arsene Wenger has been accused in the past of not being bold enough with his substitutions and team selections, but it seems after 20 years in the hotseat, the Arsenal manager now has the attacking options at his disposal and is prepared to gamble when required.
So when the Gunners boss brought on Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud with 20 minutes left, being unambitious is not something you could accuse the Frenchman of being.
However, while Arsenal pressed and probed – Ramsey trying his luck with a couple of long-range efforts – the better chances arguably fell to the visitors, with Christian Eriksen forcing Petr Cech into a smart low save and the same player seeing a free-kick into the box hit the woodwork.
Spurs were more than worthy of the draw on the back of a solid second-half display with the result meaning Mauricio Pochettino is yet to lose a match as Tottenham manager against the Gunners.
Tottenham’s draw not only extended their unbeaten start to the Premier League season, it’s also the first time they have opened a league season without defeat in their first 11 games since 1960/61 – when a certain Bill Nicholson was in charge and the team went on to win the Double!
5 – Mauricio Pochettino is the first ever Tottenham manager to remain unbeaten in his first five top-flight games against Arsenal. Spur.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 6, 2016
History repeating? Well, that certainly looks a long way off, but this derby draw will build confidence for Tottenham on the back of some indifferent results of late.
The draw also means Arsenal missed the chance to go top, but they can probably have few complaints from the result either.
Alderweireld absence felt – but Wimmer stuck to his task
When Toby Alderweireld was stretchered off at West Brom six games ago, Spurs not just lost a huge player in their side, they also lost the man who arguably holds their entire team together.
Is there a player whose absence could be felt more by Tottenham? I’d argue not.
The very fact that Spurs have failed to win in those six matches since the Belgium was ruled out tells it’s own story – and would manager Mauricio Pochettino have been quite so tempted to start with three at the back had Alderweireld been fit?
The Spurs boss opted for a three-at-the-back system in the hope that marauding full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose would stretch Arsenal (and possibly in light of the success Chelsea have enjoyed from it). And while the tactic appeared to work well initially, Arsenal soon clawed their way into the game and took a deserved lead just before the break, albeit through the unlikely source of Kevin Wimmer.
Pochettino had previously opted for Eric Dier as a temporary replacement for the crocked Alderweireld alongside Jan Vertonghen so it was something of a surprise that the Austrian was selected to start his first Premier League game this season.
Wimmer had been restricted to just two EFL Cup outings so far this season, and when he showed his rustiness by allowing two Arsenal players to get on the wrong side of him before planting a firm header into the bottom corner of his own net, it seemed like the gamble had backfired.
However, Wimmer didn’t let the mistake get him down and he stuck at his task admirably as a well-organised Spurs defence shut out Arsenal thereafter. In addition, as Tottenham became more accustomed to their formation, it was they who created the better chances in the second half and continued to pose questions of Arsenal.
Certainly, Tottenham’s well-organised display gives Pochettino another option knowing his side are more than capable of tactically shifting from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2 when required.
Speaking after the game, Pochettino described his side’s performance as “fantastic”.
“This was a very good game for us. I congratulate the players. I am very happy at this fantastic performance.
“It was a very tough match for us, but we showed big, big big character to fight back. In the second half we did very well and I’m very happy.”
Kane a thorn in Arsenal’s side
He may have missed a good opening in the first half, but there’s no doubting the North London derby is simply an occasion Harry Kane thrives in.
His selection before hand was certainly debatable; was Pochettino recalling the player too soon after a two-month lay-off with an ankle injury?
However, all those doubts were eased with the player putting in an energetic shift and then calmly slotting home from the spot after Mousa Dembele had been fouled by Laurent Koscielny early in the second period.
The England man has now played five times against Arsenal – and has scored five times – to not only underline his importance for Spurs, but also his love of the derby occasion.
The striker was withdrawn in the 72nd minute for Vincent Janssen – but there’s no denying who the main man in Tottenham’s attack is and his return to action will provide the club with another timely boost.