Perfect outcome for Tottenham fans as Arsenal hurt but defeat to Man City offers plenty of promise

Heung-min Son missed a huge late chance for Spurs (REUTERS)
Heung-min Son missed a huge late chance for Spurs (REUTERS)

Rarely can a 2-0 win have left both sets of supporters so completely satisfied but for Arsenal fans, Manchester City’s victory over Tottenham must have been agony.

If Mikel Arteta’s side miss out on the title to City on the final day, as now seems probable, they will replay Heung-min Son’s late miss as frequently as any moment from their own season.

The Spurs captain shot straight at substitute goalkeeper Stefan Ortega after racing clear in the 85th-minute, and within moments Erling Haaland scored his second of the game from the penalty spot to leave City one win from a record-breaking fourth consecutive championship.

For the majority of the 60,000 Spurs fans in the ground, however, the match played out in the best way possible after so much discourse in the build-up about what they really wanted from the occasion.

Ange Postecoglou’s side were beaten, ensuring City will pip Arsenal to the title by two points if they win their final game of the season at home to West Ham on Sunday.

But Spurs more than held their own, sticking to Postecoglou’s core principles and taking the game to the champions in one of their best performances of the season.

The upshot is the end of Spurs’ chances of playing Champions League football next season – Aston Villa are now guaranteed fourth-place – but that will feel like a small price to pay for City ensuring Arsenal do not win a first title in 20 years.

As expected, the atmosphere was strangely subdued, more like an evening session at Wimbledon than a high-stakes Premier League game.

Punctuating the background babble of conversation, Spurs fans applauded their side but at no point were they roaring them towards a win that would have kept a top-four finish alive.

When Haaland found a yard in the box to convert Kevin de Bruyne’s trademark cross in the 51st-minute, some of the tension briefly drained away and both sets of supporters came together in a chant of ‘Are you watching Arsenal?’

But it was not until Haaland scored his second from the spot that Spurs fans finally found their voice, safe in the knowledge that their side could not mount a characteristic comeback.

Erling Haaland’s goal fired Man City back to the top of the table (Action Images via Reuters)
Erling Haaland’s goal fired Man City back to the top of the table (Action Images via Reuters)

The reaction would have been fascinating if Son had finished his big chance, with then ground seeming to hold its breath when the Korean bore down on goal, with City’s title suddenly on the line.

But Ortega, who had replaced the injured Ederson minutes before, stuck out a leg and saved. There was probably as much relief from the home fans as the away end.

Too many Spurs supporters simply had mixed feelings about their side getting a result and, in the circumstances, the eerie atmosphere was fully understandable.

It was also a shame because here was a Spurs side playing with real discipline, commitment and verve.

Postecoglou ripped up his usual system and played a kind of 4-4-2, but with two wide wingers in Brennan Johnson and Son rather than two centre-forwards. Pape Sarr pushed forward as a false nine and Micky van de Ven filled in at left-back, and James Maddison acted as conductor.

The result was a Spurs side with far more balance than in the recent defeats to Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

They were well covered defensively but had plenty of willing forward runners from midfield and pace up on either flank.

There were no mixed feelings for Ange Postecoglou and his players (REUTERS)
There were no mixed feelings for Ange Postecoglou and his players (REUTERS)

In the first half, Postecoglou's only frustration was his side's lack of end product when they beat the City press, summed up when Rodrigo Bentancur could only pick out Josko Gvardiol despite having three options in white ahead of him.

It was a glimpse of what Spurs might look like next season: still high-risk but more controlled, compact and full of attacking menace.

Even before Son’s chance, they twice went close to an equaliser through substitute Dejan Kulusevski, Ortega again saving well from the Swede’s first effort.

It was obvious the Spurs players had no mixed feelings about the outcome, summed up when Bentancur – who was outstanding – planted three fierce kicks on his seat in the dugout on being substituted shortly after Haaland’s goal.

Neither the players nor Postecoglou will be happy with the result, but they have given themselves a platform for Sunday’s game against Sheffield United – which they may need a result in to guarantee fifth-place – and the future.

The Spurs fans, meanwhile, could leave relieved but optimistic, not emotions usually associated with a home defeat.