In the early Sunday morning kickoff, Spurs took a short trip to the Emirates for the first North London Derby of the year against bitter rivals Arsenal. Ahead of the crucial match, many Spurs fans (myself included) were understandably nervous about how it would unfold. While remaining the league’s only unbeaten side, Spurs have struggled of late; dropping points with draws in the league and losing in midweek to Leverkusen in the Champions League. With Arsenal in significantly better form, the chance was there for a hiding. Fortunately, that’s far from how things played out in the game, and after 90 minutes Spurs’ unbeaten streak was preserved with a 1-1 draw.
Though a solitary point is always somewhat disappointing from a match of such magnitude, this one had a feel-good factor for Tottenham, as it marked the return of front man Harry Kane from his long injury layoff. The Englishman’s goal-scoring talents have been badly missed by the Lilywhites since mid-September, and he wasted no time getting up to his usual mischief against Arsenal. His second half penalty pulled the game level, and that he managed to last 73 minutes will no doubt have been an encouraging sign for manager Pochettino.
With Kane back in the lineup, Spurs looked a different team, and gave off an air of danger in the attacking third that they have struggled to muster in the past month or so. It was a performance that would have had Kane’s replacement, Vincent Janssen, kicking himself on the Spurs bench the entire match. The Dutchmen has failed to take his considerably long opportunity during Kane’s time on the sidelines, and isn’t likely to feature regularly once his positional rival reaches full fitness. Even half-fit, Kane looked much more up to the pace than Janssen did when he replaced the Englishman on 73 minutes, which certainly doesn’t bode well for the backup striker.
Pochettino will take plenty of positives from the match besides Kane’s involvement, though. He watched his side contain a very dangerous Arsenal outfit, who didn’t manage a goal of their own making the entire game. While Kevin Wimmer’s own goal was disappointing, Spurs’ make-shift back 3 of the Austrian, Dier, and Vertonghen defended well for most of the game and kept their side in with a chance at the draw. In midfield, Wanyama and Dembele were again impressive, with the latter earning the penalty Kane converted early in the second half. It’s also worth pointing out that Spurs had several notable absentees as well, with Dele Alli (injury), Erik Lamela (injury), Toby Alderweireld (injury), and Moussa Sissoko (suspension) all unavailable. With an international break just around the corner, these players will all have ample time to get back to playing shape, providing Pochettino with a deep, refreshed roster of players to choose from when league play resumes.
Spurs’ next league match will be home against another huge rival, West Ham United. The Hammers have struggled for consistency this season, and will present the hosts with a great chance to get back to winning ways. Pochettino will be looking to do just that, because as nice as it is to remain undefeated, the Argentine knows that a piling up of draws can be fatal to the top four ambitions of his team.