Huge injury blow
Tottenham were handed a major blow ahead of kick-off following the news that Cristian Romero had missed out on the matchday squad. Playing a pivotal role in the team’s fine form since the end of February after his return from a hamstring issue, the Argentina international was not included against Arsenal due to a hip injury.
The player had in fact sustained the problem last time out against Liverpool, with Antonio Conte confirming that Romero took a hit at Anfield and had not recovered in sufficient time. Davinson Sanchez came into the side as a result, partnering Eric Dier and Ben Davies in the backline.
A huge miss for Spurs in such a crucial game after some towering performances of late, fans did have their concerns given the change with Sanchez going into the game having not started for the Lilywhites since February. Despite a nervy ten minutes or so from the team, they really should not have worried with the Colombian playing his part in a huge win in the top-four race.
READ MORE: Tottenham player ratings: Kane and Son lead from the front as 10-man Arsenal are shot down
Romero absence clear to see early on
Needing to make a fast start against their rivals and lay down an early marker, it was Arsenal who actually started the better of the two teams in the derby. The Gunners had plenty of the ball in dangerous areas in the first few minutes and Spurs just couldn’t get out of their own half.
Even when Spurs did have the ball they could not get it forward and instead just passed across their own box and did not progress up the pitch with it. Their failure to make any progress resulted in the fans showing their frustration as a few groans could be heard around the stadium.
Liking to play out from the back with Romero key to their plans, the absence of the ex-Atalanta man did appear to hit them hard as they had no one in the backline with the confidence of the Argentine to get possession and get the team upfield . However, Spurs soon took charge of proceedings, notably helped by Rob Holding’s red card, and that meant it was Arsenal under pressure with all the action at the opposite end of the pitch.
Conte’s contrasting celebrations
All action in the opening exchanges with both teams looking to attack, Spurs had failed to bring Aaron Ramsdale into action but they were given the perfect chance after 22 minutes. Dejan Kulusevski swung a ball from the right towards the back post and Son Heung-min went to ground after a barge in the back from Cedric Soares.
The referee had no option but to point to the spot, handing Harry Kane the opportunity to add to his 11 North London Derby goals. He did just that, sending the Arsenal goalkeeper the wrong way from the penalty spot as he calmly found the bottom corner.
Usually so animated when Spurs find the net, Conte was rather reserved this time as he watched on from his technical area. Rather than jumping about and running towards his coaching staff, the Italian, who had received a booking earlier in the match for remonstrating with the fourth official, just stood there with his arms crossed and barely moved a muscle when the Spurs fans went berserk.
However, he was back to his usual self 15 minutes later when Kane grabbed his second as he jumped about and pumped his fist into his technical area to celebrate a crucial goal.
Son closes in on Salah
Heavily involved early on with Holding fouling him three times and receiving a red card for his actions, Son was always going to have a huge say on the North London Derby due to his outstanding form at present. Winning the penalty after Cedric fouled him and putting in the corner that led to Kane’s second, the South Korean got his name on the scoresheet seconds after the restart.
With Tottenham’s No.10 unable to get his shot away in the box, the ball fell kindly into his path and he coolly slotted the ball home to give the Lilywhites a three-goal cushion. It was his 21st Premier League goal of the season and he has now really upped the pressure on Mohamed Salah heading into the final two games in the race for the Golden Boot.
Looking like the Liverpool man was going to run away with the award a few months ago, Son has hit ten goals in his last eight league games to close to within one of the Egyptian. He was not able to draw level with the Liverpool star, however, with Conte withdrawing the player and Kulusevski late on as Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn were introduced.
Son did not look happy at all about his early exit, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg having to go over to him and have a quick word as he trudged off with his head down. Still upset as he took his seat on the bench, the TV cameras showed Pierluigi Gollini with his arm around his teammate speaking to him.
Pressure on Arsenal
The North London Derby really could not have gone any better for Conte and his Tottenham team. Going into the contest needing a win to keep their top-four hopes alive, the Lilywhites did just that as they breezed past their rivals to seal a 3-0 victory.
Tottenham’s triumph now means they are one point behind Arsenal with two games of the season to play. It is very much still in Arsenal’s hands to finish fourth and clinch a Champions League spot, but the pressure on them has intensified to new levels with Spurs breathing down their necks.
Spurs do have the easier run-in out of the two with Burnley and Norwich City to come, with Arsenal facing a tricky away game at Newcastle United and then hosting Everton on the final day. What perhaps helps Tottenham out is that they play Burnley at midday on Sunday and they can move into fourth with a win prior to Arsenal traveling to St James’ Park on Monday night.
A game Newcastle will want to get back on track in after their 5-0 hammering at Man City last Sunday, Arsenal’s confidence will have taken a battering following their capitulation in the derby, while they’ve not been helped by Gabriel limping off midway inside the second half. The 3-0 win in N17 really could be pivotal to who comes out on top in the race for Champions League football in 2022/23.