David Ospina’s excellence, ‘braindead’ Francis Coquelin and the excellent form of Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld are just some of our 10 talking points to emerge from Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal at White Hart Lane.
Ospina more than an able deputy for Cech
With first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech out of the game through injury, much of the pre-match talk was whether David Ospina could put in a solid performance for Arsenal in arguably their most important game of the season. Ospina was heavily criticised for his performance earlier on in the season against Olympiacos in the Champions League, but his display against Tottenham proved his doubters wrong after a man-of-the-match display.
With the score at 0-0, Ospina’s early save from Erik Lamela’s effort stopped his side from going a goal down and was no doubt a decisive moment in the game. Ospina denied both Kyle Walker and Harry Kane with brilliant saves in the second half, stopping out Kane with the ball within an inch of crossing the line.
Ospina made nine saves today, the most by an Arsenal goalkeeper in a Premier League game since Lukasz Fabianski v Liverpool in April 2009 (also nine). Spurs’ plan to target the second-choice goalkeeper was evident with a number of crosses directed towards the Columbian, but Ospina remained solid throughout the match thus silencing his pre-match critics.
Alexis Sanchez ends goal drought
The form of Arsenal’s 2014/15 player of the season, Alexis Sanchez, has been a major talking point with the Chilean international, who scored 16 league goals last season, having not scored in the Premier League since October prior to the match.
Since returning from a hamstring injury suffered against Norwich last December, Sanchez is yet to reclaim his top form but he may do so in the closing stages of the season after scoring the equaliser against Spurs to level the game up at 2-2.
With only nine games left in the Premier League, Sanchez’s goal will come as a major boost to manager Arsene Wenger – especially if it means that the confidence he looked like he was lacking earlier in the season, is now ebbing its way back.
Harry Kane becomes the masked hero
The goalscoring form of Spurs’ striker Harry Kane prior to the match would have not only come as a worry to Mauricio Pochettino, but also to England manager Roy Hodgson ahead of Euro 2016 this summer. Prior to the north-London derby, Kane had scored just one goal from open play in his last eight games.
When up against centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Gabriel, Kane was relatively quiet up until the 61st minute when the England international scored one of the goals of the season. Kane picked up the ball out wide and curled a shot from the edge of the box into the top corner of David Ospina’s goal.
Kane has been forced to wear a face mask since breaking his nose two weeks ago, and Pochettino even admitted that it was affecting his play. Kane got back to scoring ways with an emphatic goal that put Spurs into a 2-1 lead, proving he can produce when it matters, with or without the mask.
Dier deserves more credit
With the likes of Harry Kane and rising star Dele Alli claiming deserved plaudits this season, an unsung hero of Spurs’ unprecedented title-challenging campaign under Pochettino has been holding midfielder Eric Dier.
In only his second season in the Premier League, Dier has been reinvented by Pochettino having pushed into a defensive midfield role from his usual position of centre back. Dier has since thrived in his new role and is arguably one of the first players on the Spurs team sheet.
Despite being just 22-years-old, the England international possess confidence and provides stability to the heart of Spurs’ team. His ability to break up play and provide protection to the back four make him an important player for Spurs. A modern-day David Batty – or are we being harsh?!
Dele Alli – not at his best, but still a POTY contender
The rise of Dele Alli has been somewhat of a fairytale for a player who was plying his trade in League One for MK Dons only last season. Alli has emerged as one of England’s brightest young talents and a key player for Spurs.
The 19-year-old has provided seven goals and five assists in the Premier League this season, and he has proved he can cut it against the best with yet another assured display against Arsenal. With the teenager playing at such a high level he is nailed on for the Premier League young Player of the Year, and could even be in with a shout of taking the Player of the Year crown come May.
He was not at his best against Arsenal in the first half, but showed flashes of what he’s about and an on-form Alli could hold the key to whether Spurs end their long wait for title glory.
Welbeck selection justified
Alderweireld – Premier League’s best defender?
Toby Alderweireld has emerged as one of the best defenders in the Premier League over the past season after Mauricio Pochettino snatched him from under the nose of former club Southampton.
Alderweireld has been a constant figure in Spurs’ defence this season, striking a strong partnership with Jan Vertonghen. Spurs have the best defence in the Premier League, conceding only 24 goals in 29 games, and by scoring the equalising goal against Arsenal with a brilliant half-volley, the Belgian international proved he is capable of performing at both ends of the pitch. We should also give credit to Kevin Wimmer and it’s fair to say Vertonghen might not walk straight back into this side once he returns to fitness.
Walker best English RB?
Kyle Walker has vastly improved as an attacking full-back for Spurs, and exemplifies yet another player that has made big strides under Pochettino’s guidance. Walker was up against Alexis Sanchez and left-back Keiran Gibbs, and arguably posed more of a threat to goal than his opponents.
The England international forced a great save from Ospina in the second half, and after another impressive all-round display it could be argued that Walker is England’s best right-back.
With Arsenal leading 1-0 at White Hart Lane and set to go level on points with rivals Tottenham, a moment of sheer madness turned the game on its head. Harry Kane ran down the wing, providing no clear threat, and Arsenal holding-midfielder Francis Coquelin, who was already on a yellow card, stormed in and hacked the Spurs striker down.
Coquelin gave referee Michael Oliver no choice but to branding the red card, and within minutes of the Frenchman being dismissed Spurs scored two goals to take a 2-1 lead, meaning Coquelin’s rash decision arguably cost Arsene Wenger a memorable win at the Lane.
Wenger selections spot on
Arsenal manager Wenger has been heavily scrutinised this week after a shock 2-1 loss to Swansea City at the Emirates Stadium, with the “Wenger Out” brigade louder than ever. The north-London derby was therefore even more important for the Gunners boss, and his team selection proved him right.
Wenger opted to start Welbeck ahead of Olivier Giroud, and the England international caused Spurs’ defence all sorts of problems. Wenger brought Giroud on at the perfect time, and the striker made an instant impact by setting up Sanchez for the equaliser. Had it not been for Coquelin’s dismissal, Arsenal could have come away with all three points.