Arsenal 5 Tottenham Hotspur 2

Arsenal recovered from a two goal deficit to thrash Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates to seal a much needed victory for Arsene Wenger and his players. Seven years have elapsed since his last silverware, out of both domestic cups, and all but eliminated from the Champions League, Wenger has possibly been under the most pressure since his arrival at Arsenal sixteen years ago. There was always going to be fireworks in any north London derby, but what transpired at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon, spoke volumes of the strength and character in his Arsenal side that Wenger has always alluded to.

 

Van Persie reflects on thrashing Spurs

 

Superb

Two goals down just past the half hour mark when Louis Saha and a controversial Emmanuel Adebayor penalty saw Spurs take a lead, and threatened a rout. The fact that a rout did in fact materialise was always on the cards, but to a dominant Arsenal side who replied with five unanswered goals? No one would have envisaged that. Bacary Sagna and Robin Van Persie struck to draw the Gunners level at the break, and then Tomas Rosicky and a superb Theo Walcott double that not only sunk Spurs, but also sunk their title challenge. To cap off a poor afternoon for Harry Redknapp’s men, Scott Parker was sent off late on after receiving his second yellow card for crude lunge on Thomas Vermaelen.

The Gunners are now seven points behind their north London rivals, but sitting back in fourth place in the Premiership table, and once again with all the bragging rights over their fiercest of rivals to bring some much needed joy to a hitherto beleaguered Wenger.

Silent

The game had hardly got going and Spurs took the lead. Referee Mike Dean failed to stop play for an offside decision against Arsenal. Adebayor held up the ball to find Saha, and with a backtracking Arsenal rearguard, the former Everton striker let fly with a shot that deflected in off Thomas Vermaelen and over Wojciech Szczesny. Spurs doubled their lead from the penalty spot from Adebayor, but replays showed there was no contact with the advancing Bale from either Gibbs or Wojciech Szczesny, and that was to just rub salt into the Gunners’ wounds.

An stunned Emirates crowd fell silent, all but for the cheering throng of travelling Spurs’ supporters. Arsenal had to re-group, and saw two penalty shouts go begging as firstly Kieran Gibbs was felled by Kyle Walker, and then Parker appeared to handle in the area. Parker had been touted as a player that Wenger should have snared, but the midfielder was ultimately not going to enjoy the best of afternoons. Slowly however, Arsenal began to build. Van Persie saw his smart turn and shot go just the wrong side of Brad Friedel’s upright from Sagna’s cross. The Holland striker then struck a shot that only a deflection by Younes Kaboul prevented from sailing beyond Friedel.

Glances

Midway through the first half and Rosicky reached a header from Van Persie’s corner that only a fine save from Friedel denied the Gunners, and then to much crowd indignation, Walcott elected to pass from a fast break when he alone could have netted. Having won the penalty, Gareth Bale was having the kind of game that has attracted glances from Europe’s top leagues. His combination with Luka Modric and Parker was frustrating the Gunners, but apart from Kyle Walker’s dipping drive, the away side seemed content to sit on their two-goal advantage, a policy that would cost them dearly.

Buckle

Five minutes before the break, Saga headed in from Mikel Arteta’s cross and Arsenal were to dramatically level three minutes later. As the Spurs’ defence failed to clear, Van Persie controlled and turned to let fly with a sweat left foot shot that was too good for Freidel to level at 2-2. Harry Redknapp glumly looked on and was later to say that his side “ buckled.” The manner of the buckling however Redknapp could never have envisaged. Kieran Gibbs had a run that could have given Arsenal a dramatic half time lead, and with the momentum well and truly with Wenger’s men Arsenal took the lead six minutes after the re-start.

Walcott’s double

An under pressure Friedel had denied Yossi Benayoun but a resurgent Rosciky was to give the Gunners a lead they would not relinquish. Van Persie fed Sagna galloping on the right. His cross was timed just right for the Czech Republic man to nip in past Friedel. Sensing his chance, Walcott upped his game to fire just wide from Rosicky’s pass on 58 minutes. It was Walcott who doubled his sides lead to chip in deliciously after a fine flowing move involving Benayoun, Rosicky and Van Persie on 65 minutes. Three minutes later and the Emirates crowd were delirious as Walcott grabbed his second from Alex Song’s precision pass to make it an amazing 5-2 scoreline. By that stage, Spurs seemed resigned to their fate, but for Wenger after the most challenging of seasons thus far, it was to be a deserved and most memorable of north London derby wins.

An understandably satisfied Wenger departed the pitch to the chorus of “There’s only one Arsene Wenger.” After recent matches on poor pitches in both Milan and at the Stadium of Light, the Arsenal manager saw his side show the potential we all know is in his players. The trick for him is to now bring this kind of display at will.