Kieran Trippier gets the nod for another key match
There was some surprise when the 26-year-old was chosen ahead of Kyle Walker for last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.
The justification seemed to be that Mauricio Pochettino was keeping Walker fresh for the following two league games against Crystal Palace against Arsenal. After all, the England international rarely plays three times in a week. If Pochettino was prioritising the title race then the decision made some sense.
However, having indeed started at Selhust Park on Wednesday night, Walker dropped to the bench again for today’s north London derby, with Trippier once again getting the nod.
Trippier has now been chosen for the two biggest games of the last week – both of them against top-six sides – while Walker was picked for the trip to the league’s 16th-placed team. It seems there has been some role reversal.
Should Manchester City’s interest in Walker now be taken rather more seriously? Is Pochettino already looking to the future with Trippier? Or does he simply feel his ‘reserve’ right-back has been in better form recently?
Either way, even if Walker is happy at Tottenham, he cannot be pleased about his role over the past eight days. Friday’s selection at West Ham will be interesting.
Pochettino switches to 4-2-3-1
Tottenham’s manager has had a tactical dilemma in recent weeks. While Spurs’ best result of the season – the 2-0 home win over Chelsea – came with a 3-4-2-1 formation, the team have looked better in recent weeks when using a 4-2-3-1 system.
Pochettino’s attempts to crowbar Heung-Min Son into a 3-4-2-1 set-up did not really work at Wembley last weekend, and the Argentinian switched to 4-2-3-1 midway through Wednesday’s match at Crystal Palace – a move that helped Spurs to win the game.
This time he stuck with that system from the start against Arsenal – despite Arsene Wenger’s own move to 3-4-2-1.
Pochettino’s decision was largely enforced, though, due to the absence of Mousa Dembele, who was only fit enough for a place on the bench after injuring his ankle at Palace.
With Eric Dier needed in midfield alongside Victor Wanyama, and no other trusted centre-backs in the squad, Spurs’ manager opted to play with four at the back.
That enabled Son to start in his most effective role on the left side of the front four, and the South Korean posed a threat, particularly when his rampaging run and shot created a gilt-edged first-half chance for Christian Eriksen, who hit the crossbar from six yards.
For now at least, this looks like Tottenham’s best formation.
Tottenham deliver another one-two knockout blow at the Lane
Spurs squandered two big opportunities in the first half – Dele Alli headed narrowly wide at point-blank range before Eriksen struck the woodwork when he should have scored.
It was the first time in seven games at White Hart Lane that the Lilywhites failed to score in the first half and take a lead into the break.
However, they got the breakthrough 10 minutes after the restart through Dele Alli, and then doubled their lead just three minutes later as Harry Kane won a penalty and converted it himself.
It has become a real hallmark of Tottenham’s recent performances at the Lane – when they have gone ahead, the second goal has generally been close behind.
Earlier this month they struck in the 33rd, 39th and 44th minutes against Watford. Then, against Bournemouth the following weekend, they registered in the 16th and 19th minutes.
Again, today’s goals came just three minutes apart, with Arsenal being stunned and then knocked out in rapid succession
An historic victory – and an unbeaten home record beckons
Spurs fans can breath a big sigh of relief and celebrate tonight – the record books will forever say that Tottenham won the last ever north London derby at White Hart Lane.
Having previously secured 2-0 home wins over Manchester City and Chelsea this season, the Lilywhites have enjoyed the same margin of victory over the Gunners.
Indeed, they have beaten all of their local rivals in N17 this season – Crystal Palace, West Ham, Chelsea, Millwall, Watford and Arsenal.
In the process, Spurs have extended their winning record at the Lane to 16 games in all competitions. Now one final challenge remains at their 118-year-old stadium – to finish the campaign with an unbeaten home record.
Tottenham have avoided a single defeat at the Lane all season, and only one match remains – against Manchester United in a fortnight’s time.
Spurs finally finish above Arsenal – but what about Chelsea?
This victory means Tottenham will be above their north London rivals in the table for the first time in 22 years – there will be no St Totteringham’s Day this year.
Indeed, Pochettino’s team have surely secured second place – they are 11 points ahead of third-placed Liverpool with four games left, and their goal difference is far superior.
Manchester United and Manchester City both dropped points this afternoon, falling further behind.
The only blow on an otherwise excellent day for Spurs was Chelsea’s victory at Everton, with the league leaders triumphing 3-0 in their toughest remaining fixture.
AS IT HAPPENED: Chelsea beat Everton to take big step in title stakes
Tottenham responded once again and remain four points off the top, while they can narrow the gap to one point when they visit West Ham for another London derby on Friday night.
However, Chelsea have cleared a major hurdle and, with their final four games coming against Middlesbrough, West Brom, Watford and already-relegated Sunderland, they have strengthened their grasp on the Premier League trophy.
Spurs are clearly not giving up the chase though…
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