Football: Pochettino optimistic for Spurs' season despite blowing lead at Arsenal

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Winks (right) and Dele Alli applaud supporters at the end of the match.
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Winks (right) and Dele Alli applaud supporters at the end of the match.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino insisted he is more hopeful for his side's prospects this season after a much-improved performance in the north London derby, despite blowing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at Arsenal.

Spurs preyed on the Gunners' vacant midfield early on as Christian Eriksen tapped home at the end of a flowing counter-attack before Harry Kane's penalty doubled the Champions League finalists' lead.

However, Arsenal were always a threat going forward and earned a point as after Alexandre Lacazette reduced the arrears in first-half stoppage time, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equalised 19 minutes from time.

Tottenham remain two points behind Arsenal and have taken just five points from their opening four fixtures.

But Pochettino was pleased with the reaction of his side to last weekend's bitterly disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Newcastle.

"We recover the good feelings after Newcastle.," he said.

"We start to peform the way that the team can perform because in the past three games we did not show what we can."

 
 

The Argentine has persistently complained of having an unsettled squad in the first month of the season with Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld into the final year of their contracts.

Eriksen and Vertonghen were recalled to Pochettino's starting line-up and he hopes to have a fully focused squad after the international break with the transfer window closing across Europe on Monday (Sept 2).

"Today Christian, different players, they are going to be only focused on Tottenham and not other things that make managing so difficult," added Pochettino.

When asked if he could guarantee Eriksen would not leave the club in the next 24 hours, Pochettino added: "I don't want to say it is impossible, but it is difficult and hope everything will be clear."

Eriksen justified his inclusion after just 10 minutes when he tapped home into an empty net as Bernd Leno could only palm Erik Lamela's shot into his path.

Leno redeemed himself with a stunning save to prevent Son Heung-min making it 2-0 and also turned a dipping Eriksen free-kick to safety.

However, Arsenal were undone again when captain Granit Xhaka stupidly chopped down Son inside the area and Kane continued his excellent scoring record in this fixture.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery named the front three of club record signing Nicolas Pepe, Aubameyang and Lacazette together in his starting line-up for the first time, and even if they lack balance, the Gunners have plenty of firepower.

Hugo Lloris made a fine save low to his right to deny Pepe his first Arsenal goal, but moments later Lacazette burst through before blasting past his French international teammate from a narrow angle to give the Gunners hope.

"The problem is we conceded in the last action of the first-half. That gave belief to Arsenal and was a big emotional hit for us," added Pochettino.

A wild second period raged from end-to-end, but it was only once Lacazette was sacrificed to allow Aubameyang to move into his favoured central role, Arsenal leveled.

Matteo Guendouzi's cross was expertly turned home by the Gabon international for his third goal of the season.

"Above all the result I think we deserved more. We controlled the second-half better than the first-half," said Emery.

Arsenal did not settle for a point as Sokratis Papastathopoulos thought he had bundled home the winner from Sead Kolasinac's cross only for the latter to be ruled offside.

However, it was Spurs who passed up a host of promising positions to snatch the winner in stoppage time with Kane seeing appeals for another penalty waived away when he fell under pressure from Sokratis.

"The defender made a tired tackle. On halfway I think I'd get that foul," said Kane. "The ref probably thinks I'm looking for it. It is 50-50, I could get it in some games."