Son double helps Tottenham rally to draw with rivals Arsenal
- Cristian Romero own goal gave hosts the lead before Son Heung-min equalised
- Bukayo Saka converted penalty awarded after VAR consultation but Jorginho mistake allowed Son to make it 2-2
- London rivals retain unbeaten records and now sit in fifth and fourth respectively
Tottenham Hotspur’s guarded optimism in the heady early days of the Ange Postecoglou era was always going to be largely measured by whether it survived a visit to Arsenal intact.
Spurs have only won twice away to Arsenal in the Premier League’s three decades, so this is a fixture that is approached with trepidation, even after the expert manner in which the charismatic Postecoglou has navigated the club through the departure of their great goalscoring talisman Harry Kane.
Tottenham are unbeaten so far this season under Ange Postecoglou
If not quite the acid test of their aspirations under the Australian, everyone connected with Spurs knew this visit into enemy territory would provide the sternest examination so far.
And while they have still not won here in the league since a 3-2 win almost 13 years ago, the reaction of players, manager and supporters at the end of a gripping 2-2 draw confirmed the early impression that, after the entertainment-free zones provided by the loveless reigns of Nuno Espirito Santo, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, Spurs might just be on to something with Postecoglou.
Every analysis of Spurs must be viewed through the prism that this season is still in its infancy, but Spurs showed here that they have taken big strides already under Postecoglou and they were all on show at Emirates Stadium.
Spurs, as was always going to happen, came under stress from an Arsenal side and supporters who always relish this fixture.
Indeed, the game’s big moment arguably came when Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus robbed James Maddison in the area in the first half with the score 1-0 to the Gunners, only to blaze wildly over the top with the goal at his mercy.
Postecoglou will not be sacrificing his principles, even though that Arsenal chance came from his insistence that Spurs play out from the back on the basis that the risk might reap great rewards.
It almost brought a nightmare for the outstanding Maddison, with Arsenal already ahead through Cristian Romero’s own goal – but better moments lay ahead for a player who looks a perfect fit at Spurs.
With Kane gone, Spurs had to find other avenues of creation to compensate for his cast-iron guarantee of goals and Maddison’s link with Son Heung-min already looks a fruitful route.
Maddison crossed for Son to equalise before half-time then robbed Arsenal substitute Jorginho, on for the injured Declan Rice, to set up the South Korean for another leveller after Bukayo Saka’s penalty, given following the intervention of the Video Assistant Referee on Romero’s handball.
Kane and Son was the perfect partnership for Spurs. Maddison and Son, in a footballing context, have only just been introduced but the early signs are richly promising.
Postecoglou will not be getting carried away, nor should he, but it was easy to see why this Spurs performance brought so much delight to their supporters packed in one corner of Emirates Stadium, sharing a mutual love-in with manager and players after the final whistle.
Spurs did not simply adhere to the attacking principles Postecoglou has made his trademark but they also showed the requisite levels of grit and basic fight when required, commodities that have often been in short supply in recent seasons.
Maddison is a superb addition but great significance must also be attached to how Postecoglou has rejuvenated players such as Yves Bissouma, who had a lost year under Conte following his move from Brighton. He was outstanding in midfield. This is what the good coaches do – they improve players.
The Spurs talent spotters should also take credit, too, for the signing of goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario, a relatively unheralded purchase from Serie A side Empoli for an initial £17.2m as successor to Hugo Lloris.
Guglielmo, the 26-year-old Italian, looks reliable, calm, and produced big saves when required, showing athleticism to save from Jesus in the first half and then when he blocked crucially from Eddie Nketiah after Destiny Udogie’s back-pass sold him short.
For all the talk of attacking progression under Postecoglou, just as much pleasure will be drawn from how Spurs performed when Arsenal pushed for a late winner in a spell which also included 10 minutes of added time.
Spurs not only threw bodies on the line but there was no sense of panic, all bolted on to a willingness to attack when the chance presented itself, Postecoglou throwing his hands in the air in anguish when Richarlison’s shot in the last seconds took a deflection wide.
This was all acknowledged when Postecoglou joined the Spurs players in front of visiting fans, a low-key clenched fist, a quiet smile and applause reflecting his satisfaction. The deafening response revealed which set of fans were happier with this outcome.
Postecoglou is still finding his way at Spurs but everything about this performance – apart from the fact it did not end in a win – suggests he knows the right direction for a club that had lost its way.
GK: David Raya – 6/10 – Awesome footwork helped deny Johnson but could have helped Arsenal avoid the first equaliser.
RB: Ben White – 5/10 – Didn’t look to get round the outside that often and had a few unconvincing moments on the ball.
CB: William Saliba – 7/10 – Had some gorgeous moments in possession. Caught out and left stranded when Jorginho lost the ball for Son’s second.
CB: Gabriel Magalhaes – 6/10 – Not always dominant in the air but was pretty much fine otherwise.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko – 6/10 – Kulusevski drifted away from Zinchenko intermittently but the Ukrainian was sharp and precise in the build-up.
CM: Martin Odegaard – 6/10 – Not at his most influential, though some good pressing helped Arsenal win the ball back.
CM: Declan Rice – 6/10 – Recovered the ball well and wasn’t wasteful in possession. Half-time substitution came as a massive shock.
CM: Fabio Vieira – 5/10 – Was dispossessed a few times and never quite got up to the pace of the game.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 7/10 – Got the better of his interactions with Udogie before his deflected strike went in. Bagged the penalty but his influence drifted in the second half with less service.
ST: Eddie Nketiah – 5/10 – Had one shot on target but struggled to force himself into the game.
LW: Gabriel Jesus – 6/10 – Had to put Arsenal 2-0 up when he shot over. Did all the defensive work expected of him.
Jorginho (46′ for Rice) – 3/10 – Dispossessed far too easily by Maddison after Arsenal went ahead.
Kai Havertz (46′ for Vieira) – 5/10
Reiss Nelson (77′ for Jesus) – 6/10
Emile Smith Rowe (90′ for Saka) – N/A
Subs not used: Mohamed Elneny, Cedric Soares, Jakub Kiwior, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Aaron Ramsdale
Mikel Arteta – 6/10 – Faced with more of a difficult Spurs side to break down, Arsenal got their breaks from a deflection and penalty and didn’t get behind the visitors as much as they would have liked.
Tottenham player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Guglielmo Vicario – 7/10 – Couple of sharp stops were required in the first half to keep the game scoreless. A sound first north London derby.
RB: Pedro Porro – 5/10 – Not the flashiest contribution in the final third and was caught high up.
CB: Cristian Romero – 3/10 – Couldn’t get his positioning right when Saka’s strike deflected off him and was perhaps unfortunate to be penalised for handball at close range.
CB: Micky van de Ven – 7/10 – Had better luck than Romero and kept Arsenal away from Spurs’ box well.
LB: Destiny Udogie – 6/10 – Got booked early after a few fouls and nearly gave Arsenal a second with a poor back pass. Recovered well enough.
CM: Pape Matar Sarr – 5/10 – Had a couple of wild shots and just lacked composure in possession.
CM: Yves Bissouma – 7/10 – Got more of a footing in the second half and started to become more influential, easing opponents off the ball and moving forward with confidence.
RW: Dejan Kulusevski – 6/10 – Didn’t get many chances to shoot but his weight of pass was spot on at times.
AM: James Maddison – 7/10 – Almost gifted Jesus Arsenal’s second but showed his quality with two assists for Son.
LW: Brennan Johnson – 6/10 – Searing pace was an evident threat on occasion. Arguably should have scored when Raya sprang to save his central effort.
ST: Son Heung-min – 9/10 – Struggled to hold the ball up at times and was caught offside but finished brilliantly from Maddison’s pull-back.
Manor Solomon (63′ for Johnson) – 5/10
Richarlison (77′ for Son) – 6/10
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (77′ for Maddison) – 5/10
Subs not used: Alejo Veliz, Oliver Skipp, Ben Davies, Emerson Royal, Eric Dier, Fraser Forster
Ange Postecoglou – 7/10 – Spurs were much more composed in the second half and controlled the game well in spots. Will be pleased his side showed character to get a point.
Source:BBC and 90min.com