Tottenham weaknesses brutally exposed by Arsenal but rebuilds are never easy and fans should hold their nerve

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Tottenham nearly launched another stirring second-half home comeback but could not find a late equaliser as they went down 3-2 to Arsenal in another chaotic north London derby.

The visitors raced into a 3-0 lead at half-time, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg heading into his own net and Kai Havertz meeting Declan Rice's delivery as Spurs' weakness at defending corners was twice exposed.

In between, Bukayo Saka scored a brilliant breakaway goal to leave Arsenal in complete control at the interval but Spurs rallied in the second half.

Cristian Romero capitalised on David Raya's howler to make it 3-1 and Heung-min Son's penalty, after Ben Davies was caught by Rice, set up a tense finale.

Here are three Spurs talking points from the match…

Mixed emotions for Postecoglou

The upshot of a derby day defeat is that Arsenal remain in the hunt for the League title, a sickening prospect for Spurs fans (most of whom will be desperate throw the game against Manchester City here next month), while Postecoglou’s side now trail Aston Villa by seven points in the race for fourth-place - albeit with two games in hand.

A place in the next season's Champions League appears an increasingly distant prospect, particularly with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City still to play in the final five games.

Every defeat to Arsenal is grim but this was a difficult match to properly analyse: Mikel Arteta's side did not deserve to be 3-0 up at the interval, Saka scoring either side of goals from corners, but Spurs arguably did not do enough to make the finale so tense.

Spurs could feel especially aggrieved that Micky van de Ven's equaliser at 1-0 was ruled out for a fractional offside and that referee Michael Oliver waved away Dejan Kulusevski's appeals for a penalty moments before Saka's goal.

Ultimately, it was an afternoon when Arsenal found a way to win in the manner of top sides and illustrated the significant gap to their neighbours.

But Spurs could also take heart from the way they stayed in the game and made it so tense for the League leaders after Cristian Romero’s cool finish and Heung-min Son’s penalty in the second half.

They pushed Arsenal close and showed commendable spirit, which Postecoglou will hope to harness in the run-in.

Arsenal exploit Spurs’ big weaknesses

By half-time, Arsenal led 3-0 and Spurs were heading for a humiliation, but it had actually been a fairly even game.

Spurs had more of the ball and some great chances, with Romero heading onto the post and Son firing over - not to mention van de Ven disallowed goal for an offside which everyone would have considered level pre-VAR.

But Arsenal were clinical and exploited Spurs two big weaknesses: defending corners and stopping transitions.

If there was an element of bad luck about Hojbjerg’s own goal, it was embarrassing how easy it was for Havertz to head home Arsenal’s third. Postecoglou has insisted he does not need to hire a specialist set-piece coach (Arsenal have one, of course, in Nicholas Jover) but Spurs cannot hope to progress if they cannot do the basics of the game.

They are also consistently too open to counter-attacks, and here Arteta deserves credit for setting up his side to counter-punch, which they did with devastating effect for Saka’s goal.

That said, defending corners and staying attuned to counter-attacks are as much a part of the game as anything else, and Spurs paid the price for their weaknesses.

Pressure mounting on Postecoglou ahead of Chelsea

Postecoglou is not under pressure - the bigger picture is still encouraging for Spurs - but it is fair to say there are some grumblings from some sections of the fanbase and perhaps a growing divide between the ange-nostics and ev-angelists (sorry).

Those frustrations will only have been exacerbated by losing the derby, even if Spurs made a game of it and can be encouraged by their second-half display.

Spurs fans should hold their nerve and be patient with the team’s growing pains. Rebuilds are never easy - just ask Arteta, who finished eighth in consecutive seasons with Arsenal.

But next up for Spurs is another huge derby against Chelsea, which has the added spice of another reunion with Mauricio Pochettino, another poor result for Spurs would turn up the heat on Postecoglou and threaten to colour the perception of Spurs’ whole season.