Po­chet­tino suf­fers sys­tem fail­ure as Arse­nal roar back

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football - Matt Law

This should have been the re­boot mo­ment for the team man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino has la­belled Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur ver­sion 6.0, but, as so of­ten has been the case at the Emi­rates, the com­puter said “no”.

Two goals up and with the Arse­nal fans ready to lynch cap­tain Granit Xhaka, Spurs were mo­tor­ing to­wards a first league vic­tory in their ri­vals’ back­yard since 2010 and only a sec­ond in 27 games.

But Alexan­dre La­cazette pulled one back on the stroke of the break and Tot­ten­ham suf­fered a sys­tem fail­ure, as Pierre-em­er­ick Aubameyang lev­elled the scores and Arse­nal fin­ished dis­ap­pointed not to com­plete the turn­around.

Sokratis thought he had with 11 min­utes re­main­ing, but Sead Ko­lasinac had been off­side when he re­ceived the ball on the left be­fore cross­ing for the Arse­nal de­fender.

Al­ready billed as a “best of the rest” en­counter in the race to fin­ish be­hind Manch­ester City and Liver­pool, this en­ter­tain­ing north London derby only re­ally con­firmed what we al­ready knew. For all their fire­power, Arse­nal re­main ca­pa­ble of de­fen­sive calamity, while Spurs have not strength­ened enough to trou­ble the top two.

A draw at the Emi­rates is by no means a bad re­sult for Tot­ten­ham, fol­low­ing a home de­feat by New­cas­tle United, and there was en­cour­age­ment to be taken for Po­chet­tino.

Yet this will still feel like a missed op­por­tu­nity to kick-start their sea­son and there is lit­tle to dis­prove the feel­ing that Spurs are still re­ly­ing on the same set of star names to show that, as a col­lec­tive, they have not al­ready peaked.

For all the talk of this be­ing the lat­est in­car­na­tion of the Po­chet­tino era, there were nine play­ers in­volved yes­ter­day who also drew at Arse­nal dur­ing the Ar­gen­tine’s sec­ond sea­son in charge in 2015. Harry Kane net­ted for Tot­ten­ham four years ago and his 40th-minute penalty that gave this Spurs side a two-goal lead was his 10th goal in 12 north London der­bies.

Chris­tian Erik­sen, an­other vet­eran of Po­chet­tino’s reign, was brought back into the team and re­sponded with an im­pres­sive per­for­mance and his 50th Premier League goal to open the scor­ing.

The Dane looks likely to stay at Tot­ten­ham for an­other cam­paign, with the Euro­pean trans­fer win­dow clos­ing to­day, and, on this ev­i­dence, Po­chet­tino will lean heav­ily on him again.

Arse­nal had started the brighter and threat­ened through Ni­co­las Pepe and Ains­ley Mait­land-niles be­fore they were caught cold.

Kane beat Sokratis to a header and Son He­ung-min pulled David Luiz out of po­si­tion as he darted across the Brazil­ian be­fore pass­ing to Erik Lamela. Goal­keeper Bernd Leno should have dealt with the for­ward’s low shot, but he palmed the ball tamely into the path of Erik­sen, who could not miss.

All of a sud­den this was the Tot­ten­ham team who had won Po­chet­tino so many ad­mir­ers. The home de­fence could not cope with the di­rect run­ning of Son, who had a curl­ing shot well saved by Leno and al­most set up Kane with a cross that was cut out by Mat­teo Guen­douzi.

Danny Rose had pro­duced a bril­liant headed block to stop Pepe’s ef­fort at the back post from an Aubameyang cross, but it was not a sur­prise to see Tot­ten­ham dou­ble their lead – even if Kane’s penalty owed much to the stu­pid­ity of Xhaka. There were plenty of bod­ies be­tween Son and the goal as the South Korean tried to find space for a shot and yet Xhaka took him out with a late, wild chal­lenge.

Kane made no mis­take from the spot and the Emi­rates ex­ploded with anger to­wards Xhaka.

Had they made it to half-time, it is hard to imag­ine Tot­ten­ham would have given up their lead, but they let the hosts back in and Arse­nal seized the mo­men­tum. Alexan­dre La­cazette re­ceived Pepe’s pass, touched the ball past Jan Ver­tonghen and blasted it into the net.

La­cazette’s goal trans­formed the mood among the home play­ers and fans, and they came straight back out on the front foot with Pepe forc­ing Hugo Lloris to save from his header. The French­man did even bet­ter to tip Guen­douzi’s shot around a post, and from the cor­ner, Ko­lasinac poked La­cazette’s flick ag­o­nis­ingly wide.

Arse­nal looked cer­tain to equalise and yet Kane al­most buried them with a bril­liant move on the break. He played a one-two with Erik­sen be­fore beat­ing Leno with a shot only to see the ball bounce back off a post. There was a blow for the home side when La­cazette was forced off with an in­jury in the 67th minute. But Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan’s in­tro­duc­tion al­lowed Aubameyang to move into the mid­dle and he was in just the right po­si­tion to di­vert Guen­douzi’s pass into the net four min­utes later.

Arse­nal sensed a win­ner and they thought they had got it when Sokratis put the ball in the net, but Ko­lasinac was off­side. There was still time for some late con­tro­versy, as Kane was ac­cused of div­ing un­der a chal­lenge from Sokratis and Po­chet­tino punched the ground in frus­tra­tion when Moussa Sis­soko blazed the last chance of the game over the bar. Had that gone in, then there would be more op­ti­mism that Tot­ten­ham 6.0 will be a gen­uine up­grade on past re­leases.

Missed op­por­tu­nity: Tot­ten­ham man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino

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