Tottenham put in a wholly underwhelming display as they were beaten by rivals Arsenal in the north London derby.
The two sides came into the game in totally contrasting veins of form, Spurs winning their opening three games without conceding while Arsenal lost theirs without scoring. Since then though, the tides have totally turned, with the Gunners winning their last two outings 1-0, while their rivals had suffered back-to-back 3-0 losses in London derbies.
It would be the side in red who started by far the brighter of the two, dominating possession and looking far more composed on the ball, and they would make their early domination count after just 12 minutes. Martin Odegaard drove the ball forward and fed it into Bukayo Saka down the right, the England international taking on his man before finding fellow academy graduate Emile Smith Rowe unmarked 12 yards from goal, who kept his first-time effort down to beat Hugo Lloris.
Arsenal were dominant and they doubled their advantage just before the half-hour mark through a scintillating counter-attack – playing out of the back before Kieran Tierney fed the ball up to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who held off his man and flicked the ball into the path of Smith Rowe. The Arsenal number 10 raced away down the left, before looking up and cutting the ball back into the path of Aubameyang who fired home smartly with his left to register his second goal of the season.
Seven minutes later and it was three, the Gunners again countering after dispossessing Harry Kane in their defensive third, before Smith Rowe picked out a pass to find Saka in acres of space down the right. The 20-year-old drove towards the box, and just as it looked as though he had run into traffic, Kane’s attempted challenge saw the ball fall kindly back to him, the youngster making no mistake as he fired low to Lloris’ right to send the Emirates into dreamland and some Spurs fans to the exits.
Spurs saw a little more of the ball in the early passages of the second half, but rarely looked like actually posing a threat to their nearest rivals as Arsenal kept them at arms distance.
They would though pull a goal back with 11 minutes remaining, Heung Min Son meeting a low Sergio Reguilon cross from the left, ‘keeper Aaron Ramsdale getting a hand to the South Korean’s effort but being unable to keep it out.
2 – Tottenham are only the second team in Premier League history to win their first three games of a season and then lose the next three, after Everton in 1993-94, who went on to finish 17th. Reversing. pic.twitter.com/27ga9CqCIr
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 26, 2021
They were, however, unable to build up any kind of momentum in those final minutes with a 20 yard effort from Lucas Moura that was tipped over by Ramsdale the closest they came to closing adding a second.
Speaking afterwards, Nuno Espirito Santo said that he accepted ‘responsibility’, suggesting that some players weren’t able to follow his game plan, suggesting that midfield was a particular point of weakness.
“The performance was not good. The game plan was not good. The decisions were not good. So it was not a good day for us. Definitely not a good day,” he told Sky Sports.
“I’m going to be honest. When you have a game plan you have to make the right decisions in terms of who you want to put on the pitch to develop that game plan. I take responsibility because the decisions were not right according to the game plan. I won’t name individuals but the game plan was not right according to the players who were on the pitch.
“We were not aggressive enough to control the dynamic of Arsenal in midfield. We suffered when we wanted to go in front and we allowed Arsenal to always come to us. By saying that, bad decisions.”
“We prepared the game, we had a good meeting, but then we were not able to do it,” he added. “We were not strong enough. I’m being very honest. It is not easy to tell this. The decisions were not according to the game plan. If you want to be strong in the midfield, they were maybe not right the decisions that I made.”
Asked about a potential lack of communication among his players, the Portuguese added: “That’s another issue. I would not say they are not doing what I tell them to do. They were not able to do it. Credit to our opponent, they were better than us.
Harry Kane’s game by numbers vs. Arsenal:
46% pass accuracy
33% aerial duels won
20% ground duels won
11 x possession lost
4 shots [1 on target]
1 big chance missed
0 chances created
His slow start continues. 😳 pic.twitter.com/qiepUN6wyA
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) September 26, 2021
“[We must recover] Very quickly. We have to separate each game. We lost against Palace and Chelsea in different ways. I think against Chelsea we had something to build on – today again we have nothing. We must find the right direction.”
Asked if he felt he was able to turn things around at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, he insisted that he can, but demanded hard work and an improvement in mentality from his players: “Of course. We need good communication, believe in the players, work much harder and we must improve mentally and physically the players.”