Five talking points from Tottenham's 1-0 victory over Arsenal

Harry Kane celebrates scoring his side’s winner with Dele Alli (left)
Harry Kane celebrates scoring his side’s winner with Dele Alli (left)

Harry Kane scored the decisive goal as Tottenham beat Arsenal 1-0 in the north London derby at Wembley. Here are five talking points:

  1. Fernando Llorente is omitted from the squad

There were few surprises in the starting line-up – Mauricio Pochettino simply selected the same XI that had beaten Manchester United and drawn at Liverpool in the previous two Premier League matches.

Of greater interest was the make-up of Tottenham’s bench.

With a fully-fit squad squad to choose from for the first time this season, Pochettino was forced to pick six outfield substitutes from a list of 11 senior players – not an easy task.

Predictably, youngsters Juan Foyth and Kyle Walker-Peters missed the cut, but so did Toby Alderweireld, Harry Winks and Fernando Llorente – all senior internationals.

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Alderweireld and Winks will have been disappointed but probably unconcerned. They have only just returned from injury and there was little need to take a risk with them when there were so many other options.

However, Llorente’s absence bodes badly for him. The 32-year-old is essentially in the squad to provide a different option to Spurs’ other attacking players; to give Pochettino the option of taking a more direct approach if necessary.

Yet Spurs’ manager decided to name January signing Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela among his reserves instead, opting for pace and trickery rather than strength and aerial prowess.

The Spaniard has not even shown those supposed attributes all that regularly – he was poor against League Two outfit Newport in Wednesday’s FA Cup replay and missed a free header towards the end.

If Llorente is no longer the Plan B, and cannot secure a place on the bench despite being Spurs’ only specialist back-up forward, then what exactly is he offering?

There were rumours in January that Tottenham were willing to sell him if they received an acceptable bid, and they may well be looking for yet another deputy striker in the summer.

Fernando Llorente was left out of the Tottenham side
Fernando Llorente was left out of the Tottenham side
  1. Build-up play is easier against Arsenal this time

Tottenham were playing with three centre-backs when they travelled to the Emirates for the reverse fixture in November, and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger came up with a shrewd plan to stifle Spurs’ attacks.

The Gunners went man for man against Davinson Sanchez, Jan Vertonghen and Eric Dier, pressing the trio and stopping them for playing out from the back.

It worked well and Pochettino’s side struggled to carry their usual attacking threat as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat.

Since then Spurs have switched to a 4-2-3-1 system, so Arsenal were unable to employ the same tactics. Instead they sat back inside their own half, allowing their hosts to string their passing moves together, and Tottenham eventually got on top.

3. Kane maintains his extraordinary goal-scoring record in north London derbies

After a tight first half, Tottenham made a bright start to the second period and took the lead within four minutes of the restart.

As Ben Davies floated in an arcing cross, Kane seemed to defy gravity as he hung in the air before heading down and into the bottom left corner.

It was the 24-year-old’s seventh goal in seven Premier League north London derbies – only Emmanuel Adebayor has scored more (eight), having played for both clubs.

Another goal in a derby for Harry Kane
Another goal in a derby for Harry Kane

Kane nearly matched that record, going close twice more in the following five minutes – he headed inches wide from Dier’s right-wing cross and then lashed a powerful volley at Petr Cech from the edge of the box.

Tottenham went close to extending their lead on a number of other occasions in the next 25 minutes.

Cech tipped Christian Eriksen’s free kick out of the top corner. Jan Vertonghen headed wide from the ensuing corner. An unmarked Heung-Min Son skied a shot over the bar from a good position. Dele Alli intercepted a loose Cech pass but could not capitalise, and he then prodded wide when clean through on goal. Substitute Erik Lamela and Kieran Trippier were both denied inside the six-yard box.

In all, Spurs registered 18 shots on goal, with six on target, but they only scored once. They very nearly rued their profligacy at the end – Arsenal substitute Alexandre Lacazette volleyed over the bar in the 90th minute and then got through on goal in injury time, only to miss the target. But an equaliser would have been very harsh on Tottenham given their visitors only managed one shot on target.

The drama all unfolded in front of a record Premier League attendance. There were 83,222 people at Wembley this afternoon, beating the crowd of 81,978 that turned out to watch the home win over Manchester United 10 days ago.

Jan Vertonghen repelled attack after Arsenal attack
Jan Vertonghen repelled attack after Arsenal attack
  1. Tottenham’s defenders keep a fifth consecutive clean sheet at Wembley

The absence of Alderweireld proved not to be a problem for Spurs’ rearguard, who produced another excellent performance at home against tough opposition.

Having kept Man United’s array of stars quiet at Wembley recently, the back four of Kieran Trippier, Jan Vertonghen, Davinson Sanchez and Davies – protected by Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele – was again highly resilient.

Vertonghen repelled attack after attack while Sanchez used his pace to good effect against Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, even if he allowed Lacazette to get in behind at the death.

Trippier and Davies would not necessarily be Spurs’ first-choice full-backs when everyone is fully fit, and both have had difficult games against top opposition in the past, but they were entirely reliable again today – as they had been against United and Liverpool in their previous outings – and they provided threats going forward too.

This was Tottenham’s fifth successive clean sheet at Wembley in all competitions, with the last two in the league coming in crucial victories over United and Arsenal.

Kane may get the headlines again, but the effectiveness of Spurs’ back line has been key to their recent success.

  1. Spurs finish a tricky trio of league fixtures lying inside the top four

While Tottenham travel to face Juventus in the Champions League next week, this match completed their hugely challenging run of league fixtures against Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

They have ended up with seven points from a possible nine from that spell, and that could be vital in the top-four fight. Indeed, at full time this afternoon Spurs found themselves in third place.

Liverpool and Chelsea can overtake the Lilywhites again in the coming days, but Tottenham have finished their toughest run of the season in a strong position and now lead arch-rivals Arsenal by seven points.

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