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Arsenal 0 - Tottenham 3 match report: suboptimal

A match that went about as poorly as it could have gone.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Well, that wasn’t ideal. With a chance to clinch a Champions League spot and St. Totteringham’s Day, Arsenal laid an egg. They weren’t helped by, we’ll call it the influence of the home crowd on refereeing decisions, but thems the breaks. The match spiraled out of control after the penalty decision and that was all she wrote. There’s not much to be taken from the match, honestly. Things went off the rails early because of phantom penalty call.

The opening 20 minutes of the match were fantastic. It was intense, it was physical, and the teams were evenly matched. Arsenal were a bit more open than I expected them to be but didn’t give up any big chances as a result. Gabriel Martinelli was looking a menace down the left and Bukayo Saka was wreaking havoc on the right. It was going to be a great North London Derby.

Then an extremely dodgy penalty award to Spurs changed everything. Everyone, and I mean everyone, including most Spurs fans admit the call was Charmin-soft. There was slight contact between Cedric and Son on a ball into the box (that Son wasn’t going to do anything with anyway, I’d add), and the Tottenham player, as he’s wont to do, threw himself over theatrically. Harry Kane converted. And it all unraveled from there.

About 10 minutes later, Rob Holding, who was playing a bit too physically and tight to Son for my taste, got himself a second yellow card and was sent off. Was it foolish from Rob Holding to try to bump Son off his stride? Absolutely. Should he, as a veteran player, know better? Absolutely. Was it a second yellow card? Eh, maybe, maybe not.

Son isn’t looking where he’s going and runs into Holding as much as Holding runs into him. I promise you the yellow was given for Son’s reaction (again), what looked like Holding following through with his elbow, and the reaction of the home crowd. If you watch the replay, there’s no contact with the elbow, it’s all with the shoulder. Stepping back from this particular match, it seemed like we’d reached an equilibrium where the 50-50 calls were being called about evenly. Today, we hard swung to all of them going against Arsenal. The second yellow for Holding was one of those. Maybe skewing a bit more towards a yellow than not, but certainly a play where you’ve seen a yellow not produced as well.

I’ll just leave this here. Not for any particular reason, of course. But nothing came of this.

Spurs got a second a few minutes later from Harry Kane at the back post off a corner. The entire Arsenal defensive line stepped up save for Eddie Nketiah, who held Kane on. Spurs had a corner because for some reason, Bukayo Saka was called for a foul when he knicked the ball away from Hojbjerg and got his foot stepped on for his troubles. Both players went to ground and the call when against the Arsenal man. The ensuing free kick was headed out for the corner. There isn’t much to be done about that.

Spurs got a third at the start of the second half. Kane came out better in a grappling match with Gabriel Magalhaes that left the Arsenal defender on the ground, and Son put the ball away. The entire Arsenal defense wanted a foul given. They didn’t get one. They did, however, get two calls in extremely similar situations within the next five minutes. Again, not much to be done about that. A close call doesn’t go Arsenal’s way, and the other team scores.

The good news is that Arsenal still control their own fate. If they beat Newcastle and Everton, they qualify for the Champions League. It’s as simple as that. The bad news is Rob Holding will miss out with suspension from his two yellows. Gabriel Magalhaes left the match in the second half holding his hamstring. Ben White wasn’t fit enough to start today and while he warmed up and looked like he might go, didn’t come on. And Gabriel Martinelli possible picked up a knock as well. Arsenal are going to have to regroup and rebound quickly from a deflating loss.

But I’ve still got confidence in this bunch. Two more matches to go.