In pictures: Arsenal v Tottenham
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Nuno Espirito Santo’s mood was as frosty and cold as the early Autumn climate at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Fortunately, Tottenham were able to calmly breeze past Slovenian side NS Mura as early goals from Dele Alli and Giovanni Lo Celso, and a second half hattrick from Harry Kane secured an easy 4-1 win for the North Londoners.
Spurs only needed four minutes to take the lead, after Dele Alli was brought down in the box by Nasr goalkeeper Matko Obradovic. The Englishman emphatically converted the resultant penalty to bring a very feint smile from a very exasperated Santo.
Before the contest, Santo’s blunt and unenthusiastic answers to BT Sports’ reporter Jeff Brazier’s questions before the match, were representative of the atmosphere around the team.
Mura were inexplicably poor from the first whistle, but they did score the goal of the game through a sensational, 25-yard volley from right-wing-back Ziga Kous, which left Gollini with no chance. The Slovenian minnows’ belief in the game grew after the fine strike and at one stage they looked very dangerous, but their momentum lasted no longer than 15 minutes.
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Tottenham were completely rocked by the surprise strike, and Santo’s anger grew to the point he introduced Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min, and Lucas Moura for Billy Scarlett, Dele Alli, and Bryan Gil.
Santo was very difficult to read such was his frustration heading into the contest. Only he knew whether the triple substitution was made out of preparation for the weekend or anger from the team’s start to the second half. Santo’s frustration and concerns around Spurs’ horrific recent run of form will not have been swept aside by this result.
However, he can at least take comfort by the first half performances of Alli and Lo Celso. If there were two players who desperately needed a game like this, then it is certainly the two playmakers.
Before the contest, goalkeeper Huge Lloris had created more chances (1) than the former England midfielder had during the new season.
If that horrifying statistic does not dent your confidence then nothing well. Mura, as expected, came to North London with a strategy to defend in numbers and try to nab a goal on the break.
Alli and Lo Celso combined immediately to break through the block and tempt Obradovic in goal to take a penalty. Points may have been hard to come by for Tottenham in recent weeks, but goals and chances have departed the club the whole season.
The fact it only took two minutes for the two creative midfielders to combine and break the crowded defence is certainly a positive. Alli has scored two penalties this season and taken both with equal aplomb and conviction.
Lo Celso’s second half strike was just as emphatic. The Argentine made an intelligent run in between the right back and centre-back, before latching onto pass and smashing into the top corner.
His £28m arrival from Real Betis is yet to yield strong results, but if he can replicate the attacking nous and finishing against better opposition, then he could become a very dangerous player.
Santo made several changes for this contest, resting the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.
However, the Lilywhites, perhaps aided by the quality of the opposition, attacked with greater speed, directness, and precision, particularly in the opening stages.
Tottenham did take their foot of the gas after Lo Celso’s goal, but the 25-year-old and Alli continued to threaten on the break.
Bryan Gil also looked threatening on his favoured left-wing.
The summer singing from Sevilla recently said his favoured position was operating on the left flank, and with Son rested, he was able to show what he can do.
The early scare from Kous’ fierce strike may have prompted the introductions of Kane, Son, and Moura, but it would be unfair to suggest this move was more of a punishment than an insurance.
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