Jamie O’Hara insists Tottenham’s north London derby defeat to Arsenal is not a disaster, as he stood by his claims about managers Antonio Conte and Mikel Arteta.
Spurs went into Saturday’s Emirates Stadium showdown with an unbeaten record in the Premier League, but it was ended in some style in a 3-1 defeat.
It was a dominant victory for Arsenal, who outran, outfought and outgunned their arch rivals in every department in what was a statement win for Arteta’s team, who remain top of the table above defending champions Man City.
And there was some serious banter being thrown around between Team NaijaOnPoint as Gooner Laura Woods teased former Spurs midfielder O’Hara after her side painted north London red.
Ahead of the derby, O’Hara claimed Conte ‘had Arteta’s number’ with his greater experience, winning record and expertise with impactful substitutions – and while he was licking his wounds when he came into the NaijaOnPoint Breakfast studio on Monday morning, he came out fighting.
“Right, so, listen, I want to get this out there because social media is on you and I’ve been stitched up, big time,” he began.
“If you actually listen to what I said on the Sports Bar, I never said Spurs were going to win this game, I said all week this is a tough game and I’d take a draw. What I said was that Conte is very good with his substitutions, and Arteta has shown in the past – like in the Man United game – that he isn’t great at substitutions and he’s got it wrong in the past.
“The problem was Emerson Royal gets sent off and the game is over. Arsenal were brilliant, take nothing away from them, and Spurs were rubbish and we lost the game, but in the end Conte throws the towel in, makes changes and protects the players for the Champions League – which Arsenal aren’t in, by the way.
“It’s a bad defeat for us and we were miles off it, some of the players, honestly, it was awful to watch. It’s the first time this season I’ve looked at Spurs and gone, ‘yeah, we need to sort this out, maybe tweak the formations a bit’. Conte has got to be adaptable. I know he likes this formation, but we got overrun by Arsenal – we made Granit Xhaka look like Guti.
“We weren’t good enough, simple as that.”
Asked about his comments that ‘Conte has got Arteta’s number’, O’Hara was unwavering despite the defeat.
“He has! But he just didn’t have the chance [to show what he can do with substitutions] because Royal was stupid and got sent off. It’s the first time this season that’s happened. I think he’ll maybe look back at the game and think about what he could have done differently – played Sessegnon instead of Royal, who is a liability and shouldn’t be playing in big games because he lets you down too much.
“But I never said Spurs would win this game! Woodsy is coming out, she’s very chirpy on Instagram and Twitter when Arsenal get a result – she’s an armchair fan! It’s the first game I’ve seen her at in ten years! Posting pictures with her hands up like she’s got a season ticket! It’s the first time she’d been!”
And Laura wasn’t going to let him get away with that…
“Right, here we go then, Jamie,” said the Breakfast host. “Talking of biting, when I retweeted what you said, this was his reply: ‘Woodsy only pipes up when Arsenal beat Spurs, the red card changed everything, we didn’t have a chance to tweak anything. The game was gone, [Conte was] protecting players then for Champions League – you enjoy Thursday night’.
“The red card didn’t change anything! You weren’t winning the game at any point before the red card anyway, you weren’t dominating that game. You have to give Arsenal more credit than saying the red card is what changed it, Arsenal were dominant.”
O’Hara, though, reckoned Arsenal were always going to be dominant due to the way the teams are set up. “I don’t agree with the way we’re playing, I don’t like it, but it’s been getting results. That was always going to be the test – can you do it against a big team that’s flying at the moment, is confident and plays attacking football.
“The answer was no. We sat too deep and we weren’t pressing. We were too nice and too easy to play against. There’s none of that nastiness in that side, and Arsenal were very good.
“You can’t say Conte has got it wrong. His players didn’t turn up for him, they weren’t good enough, they were scared. We just have to accept it. It’s a big game to lose but it’s the first game we’ve lost this season, so let’s not get carried away.
“We’re playing in the Champions League and Arsenal are playing on a Thursday night, so we need to remember that and think we’ve come a long way. Arsenal have come a long way, but our aim is to be in the top four, and at the moment we’re well in it.”
Woods: “Wasn’t your aim to actually challenge? Didn’t you say Spurs are back?”
O’Hara: “Spurs are back! We’ve lost one game! And who can keep up with Man City? Look at this side. At the moment the only team that looks capable of putting up a challenge is Arsenal, and fair play to them, and if they do – well done.”
But Laura had the last word: “We haven’t heard Jamie this rattled since Kim Woodburn in the Big Brother house…”