Pochettino looked surprised. “Disappointed after winning a derby?” he replied. But the point was made. As impressive as Tottenham’s display and recent form has been, the Premier League leaders continue to elude them. The manager, though, insists his side will not give up the chase and remains confident they can close the four-point gap in the remaining four games.
His confidence is understandable given the way Tottenham claimed the victory that ensured they will finish above their near-neighbours for the first time since 1995.
Held to a first-half stalemate, they moved through the gears in the second half, scoring twice in two minutes in the early stages of the second period through Dele Alli and a Harry Kane penalty, and but for a fine display by Petr Cech, the victory could have been even more one-sided.
Last NLD at The Lane and it was a good one 😀 pic.twitter.com/XQJyQbbByi— Eric Dier (@ericdier) April 30, 2017
It was a positive response to Chelsea’s earlier win and with Spurs set to play West Ham on Friday night, three days before Chelsea face Middlesbrough, the gap could soon be reduced to a single point.
“It was a fantastic game and yes, we are in the race for the title,” said Pochettino. “We have reduced the gap to Chelsea again. And now we have to be focused because we have again on Friday a very important game against West Ham.
“It could be important to close the gap. We’ll see after. We will have the chance to play before and if we are able to win at West Ham... it will be a tough game and a difficult game and if we are able to win we will see what happens.”
For Wenger, the game threw up different concerns. The failure of the two Manchester clubs earlier in the day strengthened the Gunners’ top four chances. But now Wenger admits that may prove too much for his team who have five games left.
“It will be very difficult now to make the top four but we have to fight,” said Wenger. “We have an FA Cup final. We still have a chance to get into the top four. We have to recover from today and prepare for our next games.
“We couldn’t afford to lose the game today, we didn’t score today, we didn’t score at Crystal Palace or West Brom. We have to play more and create more than we did today.”
The opening moments of this match were high on tension and nervous energy and low on the kind of quality that has run through Tottenham’s season so far. The way Kane pounced on an early Arsenal mistake and forced an unconvincing save from Cech confirmed Pochettino’s side had no intention of easing their way into the game. But that proved to a rare opportunity during a frantic start.
Midway through the first half, an excellent Eric Dier pass sent Kane clear, exposing the gaps in the visitors’ back three, and his deflected shot looped tantalisingly towards Dele Alli who somehow directed a header wide from close range.
Four minutes later, the speed with which Tottenham broke from defence caught out Wenger’s side with Victor Wanyama’s pass starting a foot race between Heung-Min Son and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that the South Korean won too easily. Son’s attempted cross was diverted kindly towards Christian Eriksen by another deflection and the Denmark international should have done better than send a volley against Cech’s crossbar.
Tottenham would be less wasteful in the second period. They were ahead 11 minutes after the restart when Alli reacted first after Eriksen’s shot had been parried by Cech. Then two minutes later, Kane burst into the area and was brought down by Gabriel, getting up to convert the penalty himself.
Arsenal could conjure no meaningful response and the tame way in which they allowed Tottenham to open a 17-point gap between the sides was alarming for Wenger.
Loris 6; Trippier 6 (Walker 88), Alderweireld 7, Vertonghen 8, Davies 6; Dier 7, Wanyama 9; Eriksen 7, Alli 8 (Sissoko 90), Son 7 (Dembele 79); Kane 8.
Vorm, Janssen, Nkoudou, Wimmer.
Cech 8; Gabriel 5 (Bellerin 76), Koscielny 6, Monreal 5; Oxlade-Chamberlain 7, Ramsey 6, Xhaka 5 (Welbeck 65, 5), Gibbs 6; Ozil 3, Giroud 5 (Walcott 81), Sanchez 6.
Ospina, Holding, Iwobi, Coquelin.
M Oliver 7