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Tottenham turn in classic Jekyll and Hyde display in frantic north London derby

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The north London derby has emerged as perhaps the best game in English football in recent years and Sunday was no exception.

Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal went toe-to-toe at The Emirates Stadium and there was no desire to sit back whatsoever; this was two heavyweight boxers slinging haymakers at each other.

Indeed, there hasn’t been a 0-0 draw in the game since 1998, and on Sunday, there was a 2-2 draw.

For the neutral, it was brilliant. This was a chaotic, fevered encounter that saw Spurs take a 2-0 lead, only for the Gunners to fight back. Arsenal could have won it. Harry Kane scored a penalty and hit a post; it could have ended 3-3 or 4-4, like that famous derby in the same ground in 2008.

Yet it also suggests that something is amiss in the white half of north London.

This was, at its core, a Jekyll and Hyde performance from Tottenham.

The positives first: Spurs came out like a house on fire and threatened to overwhelm Arsenal with their counter-attacking threat. Mauricio Pochettino instructed his side to sit back, soak up the pressure and break with speed.

It led to both the first and second goals, as the likes of Christian Eriksen, the first goalscorer, Kane, Son Heung-min and Erik Lamela sliced through the Gunners defence like a hot knife through butter. Harry Winks, too, played superbly in midfield, playing the pass that led to the penalty and generally mopping up assiduously in the centre of the pitch.

Indeed, this is a player who can do this regularly; he is an exceptional midfielder and showed as much against the Gunners.

And then. Well, it all stops. Aside from Giovani Lo Celso’s excellent cameo in the second half, there isn’t much more you can give Spurs.

Defensively, they were absolutely atrocious. This is a far cry from the Spurs defence that had Kyle Walker on one flank and Danny Rose on the other. Through injuries and circumstance, Pochettino played Davinson Sanchez at right-back and Rose on the other flank.

Both of them were appalling. Now, this is not Sanchez’s fault. He is an exceptional ball-carrying centre-back and a good tackler. He is a fine centre-back. Yet to pick him over Serge Aurier was beguiling, to say the least; a penny for the Ivory Coast international’s thoughts.

Sanchez struggled and it led to numerous overloads on the right flank and a number of chances for Unai Emery’s men. They had a total of 26 shots on goal, per WhoScored. That’s double Spurs’ number of 13. It was an even starker situation when Spurs played Manchester City earlier this season, in another 2-2 draw. The Premier League champions had 30 shots on goal; Pochettino’s men had three.

This is not how a big team is meant to operate in big games and it speaks to a tactical uncertainty that Pochettino has to fix.

It is all very well instructing your team to counter-attack but it has to be built on a defence that can repel the initial foray forward from the opposition. This is defending 101. Too many times, against both Arsenal and City, Spurs simply allowed the opposition to have a shot on goal.

A similar thing happened in the north London derby at The Emirates last season; the Gunners won 4-2 and had 22 shots to Spurs’ 11.

This is a recurring issue.

Think, too, of the fact that Spurs headed into half-time in that game with a 2-1 lead, just as they did on Sunday.

And yet there was never a measure of control to their performance. Perhaps this was deliberate and designed to bring Arsenal onto them; maybe Pochettino felt his side could manufacture more openings if they continued to cede possession.

Or perhaps it speaks to an inability to control the ball, to get their foot on it and slow the game down.

The best sides in England and in Europe win the majority of their games when they are 2-0 up.

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Even if they are pegged back on the stroke of half-time, they regroup, refocus and come out with the same intensity that gave them the lead in the first place.

That didn’t happen on Sunday. There was an inevitability to the visitors dropping points as soon as Alexandre Lacazette hit the back of the net.

That is a major problem for Spurs.

Of course, they didn’t have everyone fit: Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon, Dele Alli and Kyle Walker-Peters were all either injured or not fit enough to start.

But this was a performance that should fill the majority of Spurs fans with doubts.

In isolation, this was a good point for the club, particularly in the context of the second-half.

Throwing away a two-goal lead, though, is a cause for concern; it must be fixed over the international break.

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Article title: Tottenham turn in classic Jekyll and Hyde display in frantic north London derby

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