Three things we learned: Tottenham v. Arsenal

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal went at it in a wild 1-1 draw in the north London derby at Wembley on Saturday.

Aaron Ramsey‘s opener was canceled out by Harry Kane‘s controversial penalty kick, as Hugo Lloris then saved Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s spot kick in stoppage time and Lucas Torreira was sent off in a wild finish.

Here’s what we learned from a pulsating clash at Wembely, as Spurs stay four points ahead of Arsenal in the table.


VAR CONTROVERSY REIGNS SUPREME

VAR is once again a talking point in the Premier League. Tottenham’s penalty kick came after Harry Kane was legitimately bundled over by Skhodran Mustafi, but he was clearly offside when the free kick was swung in. The linesman couldn’t see around the defenders as he wasn’t in the correct position, and if VAR had been used the penalty decision would have been overturned. Simple as that. The incident for Spurs’ penalty kick is exactly why VAR is arriving in the Premier League for the 2019-20 season, and highlights that it was a mistake to not introduce it this season. Once again we are talking about a mistake being a game-changing one, and Arsenal’s top four chances have taken a hit due to VAR not being used this season. Throughout the game there were other moments of controversy as Granit Xhaka hit Kane hard early on, Danny Rose could have seen red for a challenge on Bernd Leno, then on the penalty kick Arsenal missed in stoppage time there was clear encroachment from Jan Vertonghen who eventually cleared the ball on the rebound. Officials need help and VAR can’t come soon enough to help eradicate these major mistakes in huge games.


ARSENAL’S TWEAKED LINEUP LOST MOMENTUM

Emery surprised many by leaving the likes of Lucas Torreira, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil on the bench, but his lineup choice and tactics were spot on. At least in the first half…

The Spanish coach set up his team to sit back and launch counters, with Alexandre Lacazette popping the ball back and some incisive one touch football opening Spurs up easily. The way Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ran riot with their midfield runs in the first half set Arsenal up for victory.  The former scored the first goal and will be sorely missed when he heads to Juventus in the summer. His clever runs allow Arsenal’s entire side to push higher up the pitch quickly and quite how Ramsey has been allowed to leave for Juve boggles the mind. Yet when Aubameyang, Ozil and Torreira came on in the second half, Arsenal lost the momentum and danger they had on the break and bringing on Ozil at 1-0 up was a strange decision. Maybe Ozil’s arrival subconsciously impacted the Arsenal players, as he is not the ‘closer’ you need in these type of games just as Tottenham were building a head of steam. Emery got his tactics right in the first half but in the second half they couldn’t cope with Spurs’ extra attacking player.


TOTTENHAM’S TOP FOUR CHANCES IN TROUBLE

Tottenham avoided a third-straight defeat in the Premier League for the first time since November 2012, but it was not pretty. Pochettino’s men are struggling at precisely the moment everyone thought they had cracked it. Last week they were genuinely in the title race despite having several injury problems to contend with. One of those who has returned recently, Harry Kane, looked shattered once again and in the first half he failed to control the ball on several occasions and he lost the ball in the box in the build up to Arsenal’s first goal. A lot has been made about Kane’s return to the team coinciding with a string of defeats for Spurs and if he’s fit enough to start, but the issues run a lot deeper than that.

Kane rallied in the second half and bullied Arsenal’s defense, and even though he may not be at his sharpest, he is still a menace. In truth, in the four Premier League games Kane missed, Spurs snatched victory against Fulham, Newcastle, Watford and Leicester, both they were poor for large spells of those games and got out of jail on several occasions. Their good luck has run out and just a week after they were supposed to be in the title race, their top four chances are in serious trouble with Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United hunting them down and all three have greater momentum than Spurs. The latter have trips to Liverpool and Man City coming up and even though they nicked a point against Arsenal, the cracks are showing. Big time. Spurs look shattered.


AFCON Wrap: Nigeria beats Tunisia for third-place

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After two years of not qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria completed its run at the tournament as the third best team in Africa.

The Super Eagles defeated, Tunisia, 1-0, in Cairo, Egypt in the third-place game. Former Watford forward Odion Ighalo scored his tournament-leading fifth goal in just the third minute.

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Ighalo took advantage of a terrific cross from Jamilu Collins and a mistake between Tunisia’s Moez Ben Cherifia in goal and centerback Yassine Meriah. Ben Cherifia parried the cross away but Meriah ended up right next to Ben Cherifia and the ball deflected off Meriah towards Ighalo. Ighalo was quickest to the ball and toe-poked it home for the early goal.

Both teams had chances to score later in the match, but they lacked the finishing touch. Ferjani Sassi put a shot just wide for Tunisia, while Wilfried Ndidi skied a chance of his own.

Nigeria could have made it 2-0 if not for a great save late from Ben Cherifia. A free kick from Samuel Kalu in the 90th minute was tipped just over the bar by Ben Cherifia, a highlight save but one that was a bit too late for Tunisia.

Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi started and went the full 90 as a support striker. He’ll likely get a few weeks off before joining up with the rest of Arsenal for the tail-end of preseason, and he’ll likely miss the first few weeks of the Premier League season due to the late finish for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Must-See Goal: Gustavo Bou

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Gustavo Bou had his ‘Welcome to MLS’ moment on Wednesday, and it didn’t even take an entire half in his league debut.

The Argentine, just a week after signing with the New England Revolution, announced himself to the home fans with an incredible golazo on the volley off a corner kick. The goal put the Revolution up 1-0 over the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first half.

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Bou joins MLS coming off a half season where he scored 10 goals in 16 games for Club Tijuana in Liga MX. He spent the Apertura, or fall half of the season with his former club in Argentina, Racing.

Watch the goal below.

Must-See Goal: Jozy Altidore

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If Jozy Altidore keeps up his current scoring pace, U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter will have no choice but to start him in the future.

[FOLLOW LIVE, MLS Wednesday]

For the second consecutive game since returning from the Gold Cup, Jozy Altidore found the back of the net, and once again it was in tremendous fashion. Taking a cross in from the right, Altidore realized his near-post run was too close to goal. Instead of controlling the pass or letting it by him, Altidore caressed the ball with the inside of his right heel, directing the ball past New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles and in for a goal.

Altidore scored a brilliant free kick last week to help secure all three points. Toronto FC inside ten minutes is already on its way to another three.

Watch the goal below.

FOLLOW LIVE, MLS Wednesday: Atlanta, TFC, Red Bulls in action

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It’s an exciting four-game slate in some Wednesday MLS action, headlined by Toronto FC hosting the New York Red Bulls. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore always seem to relish playing their old club, but it’s also a crucial game for the playoff picture

Toronto FC is right on the red line to make it into the playoffs, and three points tonight will go a long way to helping them make it there. The Red Bulls meanwhile can jump into second place with a win and will be just two points back from the first-place Philadelphia Union.

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Elsewhere, Atlanta United looks to rebound from a 2-1 defeat to the Seattle Sounders with a trip across the continent back home as Atlanta hosts the Houston Dynamo. Emerson Hyndman has earned the start for his new club while Brandon Vasquez starts ahead of MLS record signing Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez.

New addition Mo Adams also makes the bench for Atlanta.

Also tonight, the New England Revolution host the Vancouver Whitecaps, and new signing Gustavo Bou makes his first start for New England. In addition, the Chicago Fire host the Columbus Crew in a match between two struggling Midwest clubs.

Follow along with us at the link above and stay right here at PST for plenty of postgame analysis.