Tottenham top-four hopes in jeopardy after North London derby defeat

Tottenham Hotspur’s top-four hopes took yet another massive blow as they fell to a disheartening 3-2 defeat against fierce rivals Arsenal in the north London derby.

After a dismal first-half display, Ange Postecoglou’s side mounted a late fight back, but it wasn’t enough to salvage a draw at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Following a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Newcastle United, Spurs had a fortnight to stew on the disappointing result at St. James’ Park and prepare for the derby.

Both sides set out to establish dominance from the get-go, paving the way for a high-octane start to proceedings, but it was Arsenal who struck first in the crucial six-pointer.

A 16th-minute set-piece proved pivotal, with Bukayo Saka’s inswinging corner deflecting off Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and agonisingly finding the back of the net for an own goal.

Tottenham roared back as Cristian Romero rattled the woodwork before a well-taken Micky van de Ven goal was chalked off for offside. 

Arsenal capitalised on that reprieve, with Kai Havertz lifting a perfectly weighted ball to find Saka, who slotted past Guglielmo Vicario to double Arsenal’s lead just before the half-hour mark.

The German then got on the score sheet just before half-time, rising above the Spurs defence to nod home a Declan Rice cross.

Yet again, Spurs were undone by set-pieces. They were nowhere near good enough and needed an early second-half goal to get back into the game.

However, it was Arsenal that came close to adding a fourth in the second half, but a superb save from Vicario spared Spurs’ blushes.

Tottenham looked devoid of ideas in the final third. None of the attackers could find a much-needed spark to get them back in the game, with Arsenal’s rearguard proving stubborn.

However, the tide began to turn with 25 minutes remaining when a calamitous error from David Raya saw him gifting the ball to Romero, who pulled one back for Spurs.

A reckless challenge from Rice on Ben Davies inside the box handed Tottenham another lifeline. Son Heung-min stepped up from the spot and coolly converted, setting up a nerve-wracking finale. 

The home side pushed for an equaliser, but Arsenal’s defence held firm to leave Spurs heartbroken and their top-four hopes hanging by a thread.

Tottenham needed at least a point against their north London foes to bolster the confidence in the dressing room ahead of a daunting run of fixtures.

While they remain seven points adrift of Aston Villa with two games in hand, the Lilywhites face consecutive games against Chelsea and Liverpool before hosting relegation-battling Burnley.

They must regroup quickly ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge, knowing anything but a win against the shaky Blues will leave their Champions League dreams dead in the water.