Tuesday 17 September 2019

Alli lands knock-out on Gunners

Arsenal 0-2 Tottenham

Granit Xhaka squares up to Dele Alli after an incident in the second half of their match at the Emirates last night. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Granit Xhaka squares up to Dele Alli after an incident in the second half of their match at the Emirates last night. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Miguel Delaney

In a week of so much speculation about his Tottenham Hotspur future, Mauricio Pochettino gets that bit closer to the feat still seen as missing from his club legacy: a trophy.

And he did it in the sweetest way possible, with a comprehensive and calculated 2-0 revenge win away to Arsenal.

Security staff member removes the bottle from the pitch that hit Tottenham's Dele Alli during the match. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
Security staff member removes the bottle from the pitch that hit Tottenham's Dele Alli during the match. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

That put Spurs into the last four of the League Cup, and the fourth semi-final of Pochettino's time at the club.

He forensically found a formula to get revenge on Unai Emery's reshaped side for the recent 4-2 defeat at this same stadium, as Spurs repeatedly got at Arsenal through the centre and in the most brutal of ways.

That also brought the glorious peak of the night in Dele Alli's supreme dinked finish to make it 2-0, but the same player was involved in some lows, not least when he appeared to be hit on the head by a plastic bottle thrown from the crowd.

His response of turning around to remind Arsenal supporters of the score was in that context completely understandable, but he did then get in a few confrontations with opposition players.

Dele Alli scores Tottenham's second goal. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Dele Alli scores Tottenham's second goal. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

There was also the controversy of Mesut Ozil again getting left out of the Arsenal squad, with Emery citing tactical reasons. He didn't even get on the bench. Arsenal didn't really get close to Spurs, who always looked a step ahead.

The omission of the German actually became even more relevant, because this was the match almost played without midfields.

There was certainly little pause or poise in that area. The game quickly developed into the two sides essentially exchanging quick counters right through the centre of the pitch.

It was just Tottenham who were so much quicker and clinical in this area, not to mention in terms of speed of thought.

They soon realised exactly how to get at Arsenal, and that key difference was signalled by the first meaningful moment of the match: Henrikh Mkhitaryan's bad finish.

He was at the centre of one of the best moves of the match, but also one of its worst misses.

Having so fluently completed a one-two with Aaron Ramsey to put himself inside Paulo Gazzinaga's box with so much time and space, the Armenian couldn't finish it. Mkhitaryan hit a poor shot that made it much easier for the goalkeeper than it should have been.

Influential

Gazzinaga then continued to make it very hard for Arsenal, as he developed into one of the game's most influential players - from the very next big move.

On 20 minutes, he punted a ball straight up the pitch that Lucas Moura jumped for but was most effective in leaving Sokratis on the ground.

Alli immediately fed the ball to Son, who did not make the mistake Mkhitaryan did. He finished well to put Spurs into the lead.

It maybe should have been 2-0 minutes later with an even better move, although again from a borderline Lucas foul, this time on the edge of the box.

This time, too, Moussa Sissoko finished in an even worse manner than Mkhitaryan as he skied the ball when through on goal.

The game just continued at a frenetic pace, which made some of Gazzinaga's saves in the Spurs goal even more creditable.

One was especially impressive, as he got across to just about touch a Ramsey effort from close range onto the post. This was also that difference. Spurs' footing, amid so much swirling about this pitch at gale-force speed, seemed that bit sturdier.

Arsenal put them under real pressure, especially at the end of the second half, but Pochettino's side were resolute in every response.

They knew to just stand their ground, and wait for their chance, because they also knew exactly how to get at Arsenal: right through that soft centre.

The source of the second goal was identical to the first, as Gazzinaga again went for that rudimentary punt. What happened next was anything but rudimentary.

On as a sub, Harry Kane lofted the ball over the top of the high Arsenal defence for Alli to run onto and straight at Petr Cech's goal.

The forward took the perfect touch to set himself for a likely goal… but through a style that was anything but likely.

It was gloriously imaginative. In the same movement as the initial touch, Alli decided to next just nonchalantly clip the ball over Cech and in.

Divine, deft and devastating.

That was that for the game, if not for the events of the night, as Alli soon had that bottle thrown at him.

It may bring censure for Arsenal. But that's for another day. This was Spurs' night.

They carry on, Pochettino carries on, getting that bit closer to the feat many feel he needs to make that step-up as a manager.

To where, who knows. That remains one for the future. Here, they only left Arsenal behind.

Independent News Service

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