Assist king Ozil thwarts incisive Spurs: 5 things from Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham

1) Arsenal relied heavily on Ozil

Things were not looking good at all for Arsenal midway through the second half at the Emirates Stadium. Tottenham Hotspur were leading 1-0 and looking like scoring a second every time they attacked.

Santi Cazorla had gone off and Alexis Sanchez was proving surprisingly anonymous, with only 1 shot on goal and 1 chance created in the entire match. Whether it was their lengthy injury list or the confidence knock of Wednesday's 5-1 loss at Bayern Munich - or a combination of both - the Gunners were well below their best.

They missed the chance to go top of the Premier League and would have lost this derby clash had it not been for one man: Mesut Ozil.

The German completed 44 passes during the match - equalled only by defender Per Mertesacker - and more significantly created a massive 7 chances. Christian Eriksen was the next highest with only 3. Four of the opportunities that Ozil fashioned came from superb set-piece deliveries, with Olivier Giroud unable to make the most of them. The French striker was often in the right place at the right time, but his 5 attempts delivered no goals.

As it turned out the goal came from an Ozil assist in open play, with Kieran Gibbs arriving at the back post to equalise. It was Ozil's 8th assist in his last 6 Premier League matches and his total of 10 for the campaign is the highest of all five top European leagues.

Ozil solidified his position as the top assist-maker in Premier League history. His 24 assists in 59 outings means he needs only an average of 2.46 games to set up a goal, the best ratio of any player who has provided more than 20 assists. Eric Cantona is second, having provided an assist every 2.79 matches.

2) Spurs were the more effective team

Tottenham were actually outpassed in this game by 344 to 287 but they were the better side for long spells, looking far more incisive in attack. While Arsenal were shot shy, having only 1 shot from 200 passes before half-time, Spurs peppered the Gunners' goal with 6 attempts before the interval.

A further 8 followed in the second half, giving them a final shot count of 14 to Arsenal's 10. Spurs were prepared to work hard to stop Arsenal creating much in open play, making 28 clearances to the hosts' 17, while Erik Lamela made an impressive 8 tackles - only surpassed by Mathieu Debuchy (9).

Tottenham's more direct and high-paced approach in attack was best illustrated by the fact that they attempted 32 take-ons to Arsenal's 15. This was the sort of performance that will give Spurs real belief that they can qualify for the Champions League this season. It extended their unbeaten run to 11 matches in the Premier League, longer than any other team, and boss Mauricio Pochettino felt they deserved to secure what would have been only their second victory in their last 26 visits to Arsenal.

"My feeling was that we deserved to win the game," the Tottenham head coach commented afterwards. "I was very proud of my players. Maybe we tired late on, that's normal because we played Monday, Thursday and Sunday. But today was a good example of the way we believe and the way we want to play."

3) Dembele and Dier won the midfield battle

Mousa Dembele has been in fine form since being restored to the Spurs team and played well again at the Emirates, making 9 ball recoveries, winning 7 out of 7 tackles and completing 5 out of 5 take-ons. He used the ball effectively, with 38 of 43 attempted passes proving successful.

Dembele started the game just behind Harry Kane but switched with Dele Alli early on to take on a holding role instead. It was a switch that helped Tottenham get on top in midfield.

"We thought we needed to drop Dembele back," Pochettino said afterwards. "You need to read the game and have the possibility to change to give more options to the team."

Dembele's smart use of the ball helped start the move for Spurs' goal. Eric Dier fared well alongside him, days after his first England call-up, completing 38 of 44 passes and making 4 headed clearances.

In contrast, Arsenal's holding duo Cazorla and Francis Coquelin faded after starting brightly. Cazorla was the most influential player in the opening 10 minutes but Arsene Wenger revealed after the game that he began to suffer from dizzy spells, leading to his withdrawal at half-time.

He attempted 29 passes but did not create a single chance. Coquelin, nicknamed 'the pit bull' by his team-mates, did complete 6 tackles but, like Cazorla, did not create a goalscoring opportunity. "We suffered in the first half because Cazorla was at 30 per cent of his potential, he was his dizzy," Wenger said.

"So many times I was sitting there thinking: 'Should I take him off? Maybe he will get better.' He's not sick, he was just dizzy and couldn't move. He's usually the guide in our game but he didn't get the ball. At half-time I took him off and we had a better balance in the second half."

4) Harry Kane back to his best

Kane was starting to be labelled by some as a one-season wonder after netting only twice in 13 games, but he has hit back with a vengeance. The striker has now scored 6 goals in his last 6 games and was a constant menace at the Emirates. His movement troubled Arsenal throughout and led to his goal, as he escaped the attentions of Laurent Koscielny to get on the end of Danny Rose's fine pass and calmly slot past Petr Cech.

Kane had 6 shots, with Cech thwarting him as he tried to add a second. "The goalkeeper is the most underrated position in football," Wenger said, echoing what many Arsenal fans had been trying to tell him for years. "There's always a moment he can keep you in it. If it goes to 2-0, it's bye-bye."

"We always had confidence in Harry," Pochettino said of his star striker. "We are very pleased with him, he's a top player. It was hard for him because there was a period where it was difficult to score but I think he learned a lot and we are happy with that. When you are young you need to learn."

5) Joel Campbell looked out of his depth

Costa Rican Campbell has been thrust into the limelight following a succession of injuries, with Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joining Danny Welbeck on the sidelines.

He did well on his first Premier League start at Swansea last weekend, scoring Arsenal's third goal, but struggled on the right at Bayern Munich in midweek and found it tough against Spurs, too.

Seven of Campbell's 25 passes went astray, and his only shot was saved by Hugo Lloris, while both of his attempted take-ons were unsuccessful and he lost both of his aerial duels.

Spurs were able to exploit Arsenal's weak right side, with Debuchy also in the team following an injury to regular right-back Hector Bellerin. The visitors succeeded with 7 take-ons on the left wing, compared to 4 on the right, and focused more of their passing in the final third towards that flank.

Arsenal did have the option to start with Cazorla further forward and play either Mathieu Flamini or Mikel Arteta in a midfield holding role. They lost that option when Cazorla's dizziness forced him off, so eventually resorted to substituting Campbell, switching Sanchez to the right and playing left-back Kieran Gibbs on the left wing. It was Gibbs who came up with the equaliser, squeezing home an Ozil cross at the far post.

"Kieran gets in good positions," Wenger said. "I had very limited offensive options on the bench but putting Kieran on gave me the option to put Sanchez on the other side. Overall it worked."

Match facts

  • Arsenal have scored in 41 of their last 42 meetings with Tottenham in all competitions.
  • Spurs have won just 3 of the last 16 North London derbies in which they’ve opened the scoring (D8 L5).
  • The side scoring first has failed to win any of the last 3 Premier League North London derbies (D2 L1).
  • Pochettino’s side remain unbeaten since the opening day (11 games).
  • Ozil became the first player to assist in 6 consecutive games within the same Premier League season.
  • Ozil also became the first player to assist 10 goals in his opening 11 games of a Premier League season.
  • Ozil was the first player in the top five European leagues this season to reach double figures for assists.
  • Kane has scored 10 goals in 13 Premier League London derbies.
  • The England forward has scored 5 goals in his last 3 Premier League games. He also has 22 Premier League goals in 2015, 4 more than any other player in the competition.
  • Gibbs’ goal was the 24,000th scored in the Premier League.

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Chris Flanagan
Staff Writer

Chris joined FourFourTwo in 2015 and has reported from 20 countries, in places as varied as Jerusalem and the Arctic Circle. He's interviewed Pele, Zlatan and Santa Claus (it's a long story), as well as covering Euro 2020 and the Clasico. He previously spent 10 years as a newspaper journalist, and completed the 92 in 2017.