Son Heung-Min’s second half strike was enough for Sp*rs to secure a 1-0 win over Arsenal in this afternoon’s pre-season friendly at White Hart Lane. Here are a few thoughts from the press box.
Sambi you’re a star
The signs are very promising that Arsenal have secured a player who is more than capable of holding his own in a Premier League midfield. Disciplined in his positioning, tidy on the ball and unfazed by the physicality and pace of a feisty first half, Lokonga was very polished alongside Granit Xhaka.
He rarely gave away the ball, showed a canny knack for getting out of tight spaces and sprayed a couple of eye-catching balls to Tierney that allowed the left-back to charge forward. That he constantly showed for his teammates was very encouraging.
Out of possession, Sambi, like Thomas Partey, seems to have an impressive ability to stick out a telescopic leg to nick the ball from his opponents. Moura and Alli both had the ball stolen off them in the early stages helping us turn defence into attack. Aside from one long-range effort on the hour-mark, he wasn’t overly inclined to push forward. Instead, he kept a close watch of Bellerin’s runs up the flank and hung back to cover the space alongside Ben White.
Whether he can do 90 minutes week in, week out remains to be seen. He looked pretty shattered when he came off with 18 minutes remaining but I’d definitely be giving him a start on Friday night.
A wand of a right foot, a Koscielny-like ability to steal the ball early from opponents, a canny knack for spotting danger and a willingness to carry the ball out of defence; Ben White’s full repertoire was on show at White Hart Lane. It’s early days but on this showing the £50 million price tag doesn’t appear to be weighing heavy around his neck.
One of the (many) criticisms aimed at Arsenal in recent seasons has been how slow and laboured we’ve been on the ball at the back. White should go some way to solving the issue. He has the same range of passing as David Luiz – crisply struck, raking balls that fly like arrows – but also the confidence to take on players around him when such options aren’t available. Midway through the first half, he waltzed past a couple of Spurs players to carry the ball 50 yards before being hauled down. More of that please.
We know that Kieran Tierney is an incredibly important outlet for us, so it’s positive the Scot is already on White’s radar. A couple of times in the early stages, the left-back bolted forward to collect passes. It was defence into attack in the blink of an eye. Not all White’s passes made their intended destination but he seemed unfazed by that.
Defensively, he didn’t put a foot wrong. He won the headers you’d expect, covered when long balls were lofted over Pablo Mari and left the pitch on 63 minutes with the scores level. As he reached the bench, his teammates were quick to fist bump him. They were obviously impressed by the new boy.
This was no friendly
Quite why Arsenal decided a match against Sp*rs on the eve of a new season was wise, I’ll never know. While White Hart Lane was far from full capacity, the tension in the terraces was palpable and players from both sides felt compelled to put on a show. It was full-blooded, it was fast and Mikel Arteta definitely didn’t want to lose. On the touchline, the Spaniard paced around waving his arms in disgust every time the referee failed to award us a foul. At one point, he screamed at the fourth official who looked slightly dumbfounded. You can’t fault the passion but given the circumstances, it was a bit over the top.
Dele Alli went in the book for a nasty challenge on Pepe in the first half and Kieran Tierney and Granit Xhaka followed after the break in a period when things threatened to get out of hand. Having lost Thomas Partey to injury last weekend it was a relief that we got out relatively unscathed. I’d be more than happy to see Arsenal return to the days of playing 4th division Austrian sides in the Alps. My heart can’t take matches like this.