Former Arsenal centre-back Martin Keown waxed lyrical about Arsenal trio Kieran Tierney, Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe after the roles they played in the Gunners’ North London derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Gunners, who face Olympiacos in the second-leg of their UEFA Europa League last-16 tussle on Thursday evening, recovered from a goal down to run out 2-1 winners.
Erik Lamela, who had stepped off the bench to replace the injured Son Heung-min, opened the scoring for Spurs with a sublime opener, getting Jose Mourinho’s men off to the perfect start.
However, Arsenal came roaring back, drawing level just before half time through Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard’s second goal in as many games. The Gunners then completed the turnaround just four minutes past the hour mark when Alexandre Lacazette netted his tenth Premier League goal of the campaign from the penalty spot, after he was brought down inside the box by Davinson Sanchez.
Although Lacazette may have proven to be the match-winner, securing Arsenal their first North London derby triumph since December 2018, former Gunners defender Keown, who is now a pundit for Match of the Day, heaped praise on the performances of Tierney and Smith Rowe, who caused no shortage of problems down the Gunners’ left-wing, and Odegaard.
Addressing the link-up play Tierney and Smith Rowe produced down the left flank, Keown, who also praised Odegaard’s development, told BBC Sport: “Tierney and Smith Rowe, the positions they took up, were outstanding.
“He [Tierney] kept finding him into the pockets of space and pulling Tottenham’s midfield wide where they didn’t want to go, Bale didn’t offer anything defensively.
“Eventually, that’s where the goal comes from because they’re proving all the time.
“Smith Rowe has gears, he can run with it, pick a pass and he was too much for Tottenham. Odegaard is getting better all the time, he finds pockets of space.”
Whilst Keown was full of praise for the trio, he did hint at Smith Rowe’s importance to Mikel Arteta’s plans. The Gunners academy graduate, who was starting for the first time since recovering from a recent hip problem, went off with 13 minutes of the contest remaining and was replaced by Willian.
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And according to Keown, the Gunners lost their way when the youngster was withdrawn.
He added: “When Smith Rowe went off they lost some impetus, it’s a young team, and emotional team and they didn’t press as well.”
The win has moved Arsenal to within five points of the Europa League places with ten games of the season remaining, meaning they are still very much in the running to secure European football ahead of next season.