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Late Son strike earns Spurs pre-season victory over Arsenal

Highlight of north London derby friendly sees Gunners forward Bukayo Saka applauded by Tottenham fans

08 August, 2021 — By Steve Barnett

Bukayo Saka received a heartfelt round of applause from the Tottenham supporters

AGREEING to play your neighbouring rivals in your final pre-season match is only a smart move if you win it.

Lose, and you send your fans into the new campaign already fearing the worst: something that Arsenal supporters need little encouragement with.

So, when Heung-Min Son smashed home a late winner this afternoon (Sunday) to hand Tottenham the north London bragging rights it felt like the pressure surrounding Mikel Arteta was already being ramped-up.

The Gunners boss insisted that there were “positives” to pull from the 1-0 defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and from Arsenal’s pre-season as a whole.

But how does losing against Chelsea, and now Spurs, fill his players with confidence ahead of Friday’s Premier League opener at newly-promoted Brentford? Especially when followed by games against big-spenders Chelsea and Manchester City.

“In terms of preparation, we have done everything we could,” said Arteta after the north London derby defeat.

“With all the difficulties we’ve had with this Covid world and surprises, I think we improved a lot as a team and we worked on a lot of things.

“In some moments in games we put them the way we wanted and in some others we’ve still made some errors that are costing us games.”

The fans didn’t need pre-season to know that Arteta’s Arsenal make costly mistakes – a rare campaign without any European football is a stark reminder of that.

As for Arsenal’s progress under Arteta, against Spurs it was more of the same. Moments of hope going forward ending in missed chances. And at the back, yet more of those “errors” that Arteta has picked up on, but not yet managed to solve.

The winning goal saw Son break the deadlock 11 minutes from time with a venomous near-post drive past Bernd Leno. By the time the helpless Gunners goalkeeper saw the shot, the damage had been done as Arsenal’s defence was yet again found wanting.

Leno had already saved the visitors once in the opening 45 minutes, expertly denying Son from point-blank range after good work from Lucas Moura down the left flank.

The Gunners had their chances: Alexandre Lacazette beating Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris late in the first half, only to see his effort clip the outside of the post.

In the end, this was a victory that Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo will feel could have had more gloss: the rejuvenated Dele Alli twice being denied by the woodwork.

The highlight of the match was the Tottenham fans putting north London allegiances to one side in a stand of solidarity with Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka as he returned to domestic football for the first time since Euro 2020.

Saka, who was subjected to racist abuse on social media after missing the crucial final penalty in England’s shootout defeat to Italy, received a heartfelt round of applause from the home supporters when he replaced Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a 63rd-minute substitute.

A banner erected at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium read: “North London stands with Bukayo Saka and all players against racism and discrimination.”

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