Arsenal’s bid to secure a top-four berth took a real turn on Thursday evening as Mikel Arteta’s side endured a brutal and damaging 3-0 North London Derby defeat in an error-strewn display at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Gunners could well have secured their spot in next season’s competition for the first time since 2017 had they managed to win against Antonio Conte’s men last night but endured a dismal night to now stand only one point clear of Spurs with two games left.
In a raucous and fever-pitched atmosphere, star man Harry Kane gave Spurs the lead from the spot in the 22nd minute after Son Heung-min was stupidly fouled by Cedric Soares, then added a second before the break with a stooping far-post header after Rodrigo Bentancur flicked on a corner.
In between both goals, defender Rob Holding was shown a second yellow card for a body check on Son, before the South Korean international star finished off his opponents when he fired in from 10-yards after some more comical defending from the Gunners.
Their dismal night on 782 High Rd was in part caused by a headline-grabbing display – for all the wrong reasons – from centre-back Holding, with the Englishman seeing red inside 33 mins following two rash and needless bookable offences.
However, one man who was also far from at his best on the night and proved an unfortunate passenger was in-form striker Eddie Nketiah the 22-year-old failing to build on his recent brace against Leeds United putting in a largely uninspired display in attack, though none of it was his fault.
While inhibited by his teammate’s early dismissal, which largely left the youngster chasing shadows in the forward line, the £9m-rated goal machine did little to impress regardless, notably producing an almost laughable dive in the opening exchanges in an attempt to win a penalty for his side, while also failing to track the run of compatriot Kane at the back post as Antonio Conte’s men grabbed a second.
The numbers drawn from the forward in last night’s spectacle is one he would not like to set his eyes on, making just 19 touches in his 73-minute outing – fewer than his own ‘keeper, Aaron Ramsdale (42) – while he also made just eight passes in the match, losing possession on seven occasions.
Having also won just two of his nine total duels and failed to complete any of his three attempted dribbles, the academy graduate unsurprisingly received just a 6.3 match rating, as per SofaScore – the joint-third worst out of the visitors’ starting outfield players.
Indeed, he did work hard, constantly engaging the Spurs defenders with his movement and runs off the ball, he even had a tremendous effort well saved by Hugo Lloris but all in all it proved too little too late for the forward to spark something for his side.
There was indeed a stark difference in quality between the opposing centre-forwards with Spurs’ on-song Kane looking razor-sharp, as ever, while the younger man flattered to deceive.
These are the games Arteta will be wanting great performances up top if he to be entrusted with a regular berth next season. Despite his recent strong form, out-of-contract star has still actually only made six Premier League starts this season, yet to show that he is a figure to be relied upon on a consistent basis.
As for Arteta’s men in general, they have now handed back hope to their rivals with their lead now cut to just a point with two games left to play, ensuring there is still plenty of work to be done over the remaining week or so. Their European ambition still remains in their hands but they must pick themselves up quickly.