Dejan Kulusevski has told his Tottenham team-mates not to feel sorry for themselves after Sunday’s derby defeat to Arsenal but acknowledged they are at a loss over their first-half woes.
Premier League leaders Arsenal completed a first double over Spurs in nine years with a comfortable 2-0 win to move 14 points ahead of their rivals after Martin Odegaard’s stunning 25-yard strike backed up Hugo Lloris’ own goal.
The Gunners struck twice in the opening 36 minutes to take control and continue Tottenham’s terrible run of first-half displays. Antonio Conte’s side have not held a half-time lead since October 12 and have conceded the first goal in 11 of their last 14 matches.
“Yeah, bad result, bad first half, but we have to move on,” Kulusevski insisted.
“We cannot go home and be sad. We have another game soon and we just have to recover good. I have no idea, honestly. What I see is that when we score first we win the games and when we don’t, it’s much less per cent (of wins).
“It’s very hard for everybody but if we don’t start the games better we’re not going to win, so we have to stop doing that.
“We’re trying. Nobody wants to concede first but everyone is trying. To find a solution is a little bit harder.”
Much like in October’s north London derby at the Emirates, Tottenham were exposed in midfield with Arsenal’s trio of Odegaard, Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka too good and regularly swarming all over Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Premier League full debutant Pape Sarr.
It saw Arteta’s pace-setters produce a slick first-half showing with Eddie Nketiah and Odegaard denied by Lloris while Partey’s stunning volley from range crashed against the post to ensure it was only 2-0 at the break.
Spurs improved after the restart with Aaron Ramsdale making key saves to deny Ryan Sessegnon, Harry Kane and Kulusevski, having thwarted Son Heung-min in the opening 45 minutes, but it was too little, too late.
Kulusevski said: “We started good and then they scored a lucky goal and after that we didn’t play good enough.
“We couldn’t touch them. They’re a really good team, they not first in the league because of luck, so it was hard for us to keep the ball, to press them.
“But then second half was much better. We couldn’t score, that’s the bad thing, but we created a lot of chances.”
Controversy marred the end of the derby with a Tottenham supporter running down from the South Stand and jumping on an advertising hoarding before aiming a kick at Ramsdale.
The Football Association, Met Police and Spurs are all looking into the incident but the immediate focus for fifth-placed Tottenham is an ominous trip to Manchester City on Thursday.
Defending champions City are a wounded animal after losing their last two games but Conte’s side are in desperate need of points after losing ground in the top-four race.
Referencing last season’s 3-2 win at the Etihad, Kulusevski added: “We have good memories from playing there.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a very difficult game but we have to do everything right.
“Like I said, you cannot be sad. You have to move on. Never too high, never too low. We have to prepare, we have to show our character and we’re going to be ready.”