Mikel Arteta was left to rue Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat to Tottenham, claiming “the game was ours”, while Jose Mourinho has his sights set on the Europa League.
Arsenal were unbeaten in five games heading into Sunday’s north London derby and dominated possession – seeing 62.9 per cent of the ball – and taking the lead with a thunderous Alexandre Lacazette strike in the 16th minute.
But Tottenham took advantage of some sloppy Arsenal defending a couple of minutes later as Heung-Min Son slotted home before a late Toby Alderweireld header handed the hosts all three points.
It was a defeat that stung the Gunners, letting another lead slip after drawing 1-1 against Leicester in midweek, and Arteta believes it had been the little items that cost them at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“We are really sad, we wanted to give our fans a moment of glory and happiness,” the Arsenal manager told Sky Sports.
“We tried our best, I’m really happy with my players. I’ve never seen us play similar to this before, dominating an opponent as much as we did today. But we gave them a goal again, conceded at a set-piece and at that level you can’t do that.
“The game was ours, we’d total get a grip on. They did not generate such a thing, every time we pressed, they couldn’t emerge ball after ball. It’s difficult to attack a minimal block similar to this, but we created enough chances. But the small details cost us and that is the largest part we’ve to address as a team.
“We will keep trying to improve and coach the players to get that [the mistakes] out of the head. It happened today and when it happens in big games the margin isn’t big enough to win games.
Arsenal vs Liverpool
July 15, 2020, 8:00pm
“We played just how we wanted to play, the way we want to come to any ground and put the performance we devote, to take control the opponent. We will move forward and continue this way.
“It’s a massive blow, the players are gutted. You saw the effort they put in. We came here to win, that is the game plan we had. To lose it, it will take a few days to swallow that one because we know how much it means to our fans.”
Mourinho: We will fight for Europa League
It was a primary north London derby win for Jose Mourinho and, after a failure to register a shot on target against Bournemouth through the week they’d nine against Arsenal, nevertheless the Portuguese admitted the game was a tight encounter.
“I think the game was close… and was more tactical than others think,” Spurs boss Mourinho told Sky Sports.
“Mikel [has] found a way for them to play, to be stable and improve – they truly are improving – and we felt that people should adapt slightly to them and I think we did it well.
“And the first amount of the second half when they had more of the ball and more inside our half, we were quite comfortable because situation and the two midfielders did an excellent job. Then we found our chances, there was an excellent spirit plus it was really hot and no one thought about it, even myself, but Arsenal had 48 hours a lot more than us to rest.
“So it was hard, but it arises from their hearts, this effort and battle and even within the last few minutes of the game, there is zero dilemmas, everything was under control.
“There was more sharpness and aggression and in the transitions that people had, I do believe we could score a couple more goals but, to be honest, I do believe it would be unfair, a bigger huge difference than one goal, since the game really was hard.
“We are happy because we made the fans happy, because we are still in the fight for a Europa League position. I know that Chelsea and Liverpool they didn’t help us at all, but this is about us, we must do the points and we lost some important points. But now, there are nine to fight for.”
The win moves Tottenham above Arsenal in to eighth place, putting them in contention for a Europa League finish, and it’s also something Mourinho – who won your competition with Manchester United in 2017 – has in his sights.
“I’ve changed clubs a few times in my career and I could never say I was born a Manchester United fan or a Tottenham fan or Chelsea fan. I was not, I was born a Setubal fan,” Mourinho said.
“But in every club that I move to, I wear the shirt, I feel the spirit and I feel what is very important to the fans. I am aware how essential for Tottenham fans this victory is, specially because this year is not a season with many occasions to relish it.
“I’m happy for that but I’ve to have a little bit more ambition than to win a north London derby. We want to play in the Europa League and we are going to fight until the eleventh hour of the overall game against Crystal Palace to reach that.”
Redknapp: Spurs looked like more of a threat
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp saw an improvement in Tottenham from their goalless draw with Bournemouth.
He told Sky Sports: “It was [a better performance] to a specific extent. It was a performance of a team struggling for a little bit of confidence, Arsenal had the ball for very long periods and Spurs had to play on the counter-attack, but at the very least they looked dangerous. They just appeared to be a bit more of an attacking threat.
“Arsenal’s back three will always give you a chance. It’s a well known fact. They’re defending better nevertheless they can’t help it to, it’s inside their DNA at this time.
“But for Spurs, it was exactly about getting three points. There was some moments that went their way nevertheless they looked dangerous enough and also you thought something might go their way and it’s a fantastic header from Alderweireld. That’s what leaders do and also you need people like him to remain true when you have a hard period.
“Jose masterclass! That’s what they call it, isn’t it?!”
Former Arsenal and Tottenham defender Sol Campbell joined Redknapp in the Sky Sports studio and he believes the win can give Spurs the platform to end the season strongly.
He added: “Did Jose need that? Big time. It’s a massive confidence boost. The games before weren’t good; no shots on target against Bournemouth doesn’t go down too well but he’s redeemed himself with that. They didn’t have much possession but they got the win. Tottenham can kick on now.”
Spurs travel to Newcastle on Wednesday at 6pm, host Leicester on Super Sunday at 4pm before concluding their Premier League campaign away at Crystal Palace at 4pm on July 26.
Arsenal host champions Liverpool on Wednesday at 8.15pm, live on Sky Sports, take on Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday at 7.45pm, travel to Aston Villa on July 21 at 8.15pm and complete their Premier League season at home to Watford at 4pm on July 26.
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