Penalties, red cards and mistakes: Arsenal must avoid historical blunders in North London Derby


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This is one of the most painful nine-year records in Arsenal’s history. Without an away league win in the derby since 2014, the Gunners travel across north London tomorrow with a goal not only to win this clash but to continue their charge to a first title in 19 years – it could be worse, it could be nearly 62.

Jokes aside, Arsenal know that they are walking into a game that they must win to keep their foot on the neck of the title race. Tottenham have their own motives beyond the derby bragging rights as Antonio Conte tries to fight back from a poor start to the season.

But what has prevented Arsenal from ending this streak which began after a Tomas Rosicky goal in the first minute of the 2014 away league derby, the final winning Gunners goal for nearly a decade? In short, looking back over the last nine years provides answers, although it certainly was a painful experience having to sift through the evidence.

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Harry Kane has scored in seven of those last eight derbies. His rise to become the best striker in the country, prior to the arrival of Erling Haaland, has come at the expense of the Gunners in these derby games.

The narrative is set for the weekend too with Kane able to break Jimmy Greaves’ record if he does indeed score. For Arsenal, should he do it, what a way to pour salt on the Tottenham cornflakes (yes, that is the politest way to use that analogy) than taking away the mark of a win by claiming victory themselves.

A Kane goal feels like an inevitability and to be brutally honest and at risk of coming across even more biased than I perhaps have already, some questionable decisions have aided the forward with plenty of spot kicks.

There have been three penalties for Kane in the derby when Spurs have played at home. The first came in 2017, Gabriel Paulista stuck a leg out that Kane gladly took and met with his own outstretched leg to guarantee contact before Michael Oliver pointed to the spot.

The next one came in 2019 at Wembley, Shkodran Mustafi was deemed to have pushed Kane in the back as a free-kick came in – despite it being soft, Kane was actually offside as the ball was played in.

The most recent was in the last clash and likely the most controversial of all. A Dejan Kulusevski cross aimed at Son Heung-min saw Cedric Soares make minimal contact with the forward who was never reaching the ball and the South Korean international went down with Paul Tierney, a now infamous referee in Arsenal circles, pointing confidently to the spot with VAR deeming it not a clear and obvious error.

Arsenal would lose this game, knowing a win would’ve handed them Champions League qualification, after Rob Holding saw red for a mindless challenge on Son. Red cards have also cost the Gunners in these games.

Francis Coquelin was red-carded for a rash challenge in 2016 although the Gunners did manage to salvage a point in the 2-2 draw thanks to Alexis Sanchez. But beyond the cards, mistakes have been the Gunners’ downfall, at both ends of the field.

Alexandre Lacazette missed a huge opportunity in 2018 when through on goal as the Gunners lost from another feature of this fixture, a Kane header. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed both a penalty and the resulting follow-up in 2019 which would have surely broken the streak and given Arsenal a 2-1 win.

Defensively some of the characters responsible have been mentioned already. Mustafi and Gabriel Paulista are two but Sead Kolasinac in 2020 gifted a goal to Son after Lacazette’s screamer had given Arsenal the lead in a game they’d dominate but still lose.

Read more – Football.London

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