With Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur heading into Thursday’s Premier League meeting against Arsenal knowing that they simply must secure victory over their north London rivals in order to have any chance of sealing a top-four finish this season, the 52-year-old Spurs manager will certainly not have been disappointed by his team’s performance, nor the result.
Indeed, Cedric Soares’ needless barge into the back of Son Heung-min gave Paul Tierney no choice but to point to the spot after just 22 minutes, with Harry Kane coolly tucking the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to give Tottenham the lead.
Matters were made worse for Arsenal just 11 minutes later when, having already made a quite astonishing three fouls, Rob Holding was shown a second yellow card for an elbow on Son – a numerical advantage on which Spurs wasted no time in capitalising, with Kane again heading home just before the break to double the hosts’ lead.
The game was dead and buried a little over 60 seconds after the restart, when Gabriel Magalhaes first failed to hold off Kane, before scuffing his clearance straight into the path of Son, who slotted home to give Tottenham an unassailable lead and move his side to within one point of the Gunners in the Premier League table.
However, while it was very much all about Kane and Son in attack on Thursday night, one player whose performance perhaps went under the radar was that of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, the 26-year-old midfielder who has recently been linked with a £30m move away from north London in the summer transfer window.
Indeed, over the course of the 90 minutes last night, the £60m-rated talent was imperious in the heart of Conte’s midfield while he had the ball at his feet, enjoying 91 touches, completing 73 of his 79 attempted passes (92%), finding his man with five long balls and making one key pass.
The £100k-per-week Dane also impressed out of possession, winning three tackles, making one interception, completing three clearances and winning four of his five attempted duels, a success rate of 80%.
These returns saw the midfielder who Graeme Souness once dubbed “useless” average a highly impressive SofaScore match rating of 7.5, while football.london journalist Alasdair Gold awarded the 26-year-old an eight in his own player ratings, stating of his performance: “Won some big tackles to get Spurs on the front foot and was a constant thorn in the side of the Arsenal midfield.”
It is indeed true that Kane and Son stole the show on Thursday, while Davinson Sanchez also impressed after being a late replacement for Cristian Romero. However, it was undoubtedly Hojbjerg who most proved his worth to Conte against the Gunners, with it now appearing as if the Denmark international is an indispensable part of the Italian’s side.