Tottenham derby win has Mourinho eyeing Europe
Jose Mourinho is targeting a third Europa League career title next season after Tottenham won the north London derby to overtake Arsenal in the race for European qualification. A late header by Toby Alderweireld (right) earned Spurs a 2-1 victory, which moved them up to eighth in the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho has always relished a home fixture against Arsenal and how he delighted in again exposing their soft underbelly yesterday.
The Tottenham Hotspur head coach will not care that his players had just 37 per cent possession, or were dominated at times. “Three points” was the caption Tottenham posted on their social media with a smiling Mourinho, fist clenched, walking towards his players. And that said it all.
After some dispiriting performances, this was an opportune moment for him to stall Arsenal’s apparent momentum and optimism and sneer at the time devoted to whether or not young pretender Mikel Arteta was a more capable manager than he is.
Instead it is now 10 games without defeat for Mourinho at home against Arsenal, with six wins and four draws. This victory, in his first taste of this fixture, moved Spurs two points above their neighbours in the table.
That Spurs are eighth and Arsenal are ninth does, of course, put it all into context, as does the nature of the goals which all resulted from glaring errors. In fact, it always felt like the team that made the fewest mistakes would end up winning. And so it proved.
While this was not quite a “dogs of war” performance from Spurs, Mourinho will also be pleased by the statistic that Lucas Moura, of all people, made 10 tackles – a record in this matchup. Mourinho had called for more bite and the Brazilian provided it while the head coach will be pleased that, after the second drinks break, his side pushed on with four strong efforts on goal as they took all the points.
There was no two ways about it, though, Arsenal were undone at the back and it now means they have lost 12 points from winning positions in the league this season. They have gone to a three-man defence, with wing-backs, to try to shore things up and protect David Luiz but it is basic mistakes, not formation or tactics, which are their undoing. Again.
Early in the second half, for example, Luiz played a simple pass to Granit Xhaka who inexplicably swept it straight out of play.
Nevertheless the lack of organisation on show at Spurs’ winning goal was shocking.
Toby Alderweireld was allowed to rise unchallenged and meet a corner to guide his header beyond goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. He will not have scored an easier goal.
Before this fixture Arteta had suggested that Shkodran Mustafi, unwanted by his predecessor, Unai Emery, might be offered a new contract.
He might revise his opinion after this performance in which the German was ill-disciplined and erratic. Harry Kane, feeding off scraps, still managed to constantly get the better of him.
At the same time, it is curious that Arteta spends so much time cajoling his forwards – he continually implored Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe to work harder and close down the opposition with shouts of “Allez Laca” and “Nico” – but simply shakes his head when it comes to the defending. He needs to sort it out and of all the areas of his team that need reconstruction then it surely has to be there first.
It was even worse for Spurs’ equalising goal. Lacazette had put Arsenal ahead with a superb strike, a fierce, opportunistic shot that tore past Hugo Lloris from 25 yards, although that also resulted from a mistake as Xhaka seized on Serge Aurier’s heavy touch. But Arsenal could not even preserve their advantage for more than three minutes as Sead Kolasinac played an awful back-pass that wrong-footed Luiz with Son Heung-min stealing in. It was not Luiz’s fault but the 33-year-old was slow to react with Son running through to coolly lift his shot over Martinez.
Mustafi and Kolasinac are 28 and 27 respectively and should be in their prime. But the simple truth is neither is good enough and while Arteta is taking tough decisions, such as bombing out Matteo Guendouzi and ignoring Mesut Ozil, he has to address what is going on in defence – which is something that Arsenal have failed to do under Emery and going back to the second half of Arsene Wenger’s regime. Given Arteta was part of that, surely it is something he has identified.
Both sides struck the woodwork with a thrilling, swerving strike from 30 yards by Ben Davies in the first half that Martinez wonderfully tipped on to the goal-frame, and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s rising shot cannoning back of the bar after the break.
Kane grew in influence, meanwhile, after wasting an early chance when he tried to lift the ball over Martinez when faced by the goalkeeper but Aubameyang, in truth, remained mainly in the margins out on the left.
Instead it was a contest for the likes of Harry Winks, Giovani Lo Celso, Dani Ceballos and Xhaka in midfield, although no one really gained control.
It looked like Arsenal would hold on with Aubameyang, who later forced a smart save from Lloris at full stretch, and Pepe sending shots narrowly wide before Spurs gathered themselves with Kane cleverly finding space and running at Mustafi. It was from one effort, as the striker tried to steer his shot around Martinez, that the corner was won, and the match too, as Alderweireld rose unchallenged to head home.
Big finish: Toby Alderweireld jumps to head a late derby winner for Tottenham Hotspur