Three quick thoughts from Tottenham Hotspur’s superb 2-1 comeback win over Arsenal in the north London derby.
1. Kane the perfect fit for Poch
Really, it was not just that Harry Kane scored two strikes of such distinctive styles. It was that they were a direct consequence of a style of play that Kane himself is so central to. The 21-year-old is the personification of Mauricio Pochettino’s high-intensity, high-pressing approach.
At a time when the Argentine is still getting this team to adapt to his approach, the manager has found someone who understands it and applies it. His running is so important to their overall game and was again crucial as Spurs so impressively pegged Arsenal back around their own box for basically the entirety of this match.
Both goals were also consequences of that pressure. Eventually, Arsenal just caved. For the first, one of David Ospina’s many touches eventually fell right for Kane, as he was quickest to react to tap it in at the far post. It was supreme poaching.
For the second, it was supreme precision, and again classic Pochettino, let alone vintage Kane. The manager has routinely found success through those dangerous cross-field balls, and Spurs did here. Nabil Bentaleb’s cross was excellent, but Kane’s jump and header were even better as the ball nestled beautifully in the far corner. This was Kane’s day, and he is so important to Pochettino’s approach. Spurs battered Arsenal back and had the most perfect battering ram.
Kane and Spurs fully deserved this win. Arsenal deserved nothing more than defeat. Their meekness was brushed aside by Tottenham’s tenacity.
In that regard, the sweeping and plundering nature of the winning goal was so appropriate — and the scorer so fitting.
2. Arsenal bus stuck in park
Whatever Arsene Wenger says post-match, taking off Santi Cazorla for Tomas Rosicky probably said it all. The Spaniard has arguably been Arsenal’s best player in their recent resurgence, while also doing a lot of the dirty work, and this was perhaps an admission that form had been disrupted.
Initially, it did seem that Wenger’s approach was another sign of the new Arsenal, the one that has apparently turned a corner in terms of tactics. They tried the same sit-and-break approach as in the win over Manchester City — except for two key differences.
First of all, trying that at Spurs is nothing new. Arsenal played exactly the same way in March last season and won 1-0, thanks to a Rosicky goal. Wenger basically out-thought Tim Sherwood. That wasn’t the case with Pochettino.
Secondly, there were long stretches of this game when Arsenal just couldn’t get out of their box, let alone their half. This wasn’t so much about Wenger imposing this approach but Spurs imposing their game on their archrivals.
Francis Coquelin did a decent job of replicating his work at the Etihad, except Spurs found much more space around and behind him than the champions did. It was the source of the winning goal. Eventually, Spurs produced the guile to get beyond the otherwise resilient Ospina.
This was an insipid display from Arsenal that showed the tricky balance in keeping it tight. They were callow rather than constraining and on this occasion paid for their lack of adventure rather than paying for their lack of nous.
3. Spurs find their style
They say he’s one of their own, but the effervescent Kane has now made the north London derby his own. There can be no better way to win such a fixture, no better way for a local Chingford boy to ensure the songs about him are belted out even louder.
Kane headed in a brilliant 86th-minute winner to add to his equaliser earlier in the second half as he continued his brilliant spell of form. It also meant Tottenham’s fine surge under Pochettino is extended.
They have leapt over Wenger’s side in the table and temporarily sit in the Champions League places. Now, they will rightly have more belief that they can finish there.
The nature of this game will only help. Pochettino’s big thing at Spurs has been about changing the mentality, about rendering so many supposedly solidified club traits obsolete, and this game will aid that.
There have only been two occasions in the Premier League era when Tottenham have come from behind to beat Arsenal; it would have been so Spurs to just fade away once Mesut Ozil had volleyed in his 11th-minute opener. The German reacted superbly to Olivier Giroud’s strike, and called for the ultimate response from Pochettino’s side. They provided it.
This is a new Spurs, and they have a new star — one to herald a brighter future, rather than conform to a more frustrating past. Yet another late winner says that. Yet another Kane wonder show emphasises it.