Arsenal (3) – (0) Tottenham Hotspur
Van Persie (42′, 62′) Fabregas (42′)
The Emirates Stadium, London
Before the game, I was thinking that this match was Arsenal’s chance to prove they are worthy title contenders.
After the big disappointment of throwing away leads both at AZ Alkmaar and West Ham United last week, the North London Derby was the perfect chance to see if Arsenal had learnt their lesson and could close out games, keep a clean sheet and obviously get all 3 points.
And Arsenal delivered.
Tottenham had impressed in the opening games of the Premier League season but have recently been going off the boil, and Arsenal simply had too much for them today and completely dominated for large portions of the game. And it wouldn’t have been an exaggeration to say Arsenal could, and should, have won 6 or 7 nil.
The first half was a little cagey and Arsenal’s best chance came to Fabregas who saw his left foot shot saved well from Gomes after some quality work from Arshavin. As you would expect, Arsenal were pulling the strings and Almunia’s comeback was mainly uneventful, bar having to collect a few crosses.
Bendtner came off with an injury and was replaced by Eduardo after 36 minutes, after the Dane looked lively and was having a decent game.
And on 42 minutes, the game sparked into life.
A quick throw in from Sagna on the right was returned to him by Fabregas, and the Frenchman’s low cross was inch perfect as he found the in-form Robin Van Persie who darted in front of Bassong and nicked the ball under Gomes for the opening goal.
I have to say that Van Persie has been a revelation this season, and his game has adapted and improved greatly. From a natural second striker, he has become the target man we’ve needed and his passing, vision, control and team play has been just fantastic this year. Credit to his ability and desire to change the way he plays for the team, and as well as having a rocket shot from distance his positioning in the box shows real intelligence.
After that, Tottenham collapsed and a moment of brilliance from Cesc Fabregas almost blew the roof off the Emirates.
Straight from kick off, a lazy pass from Palacios was intercepted by Van Persie and the ball rolled into the path of Fabregas who started running at Spurs. He breezed past Palacios, nutmegged Ledley King and brushed off Corluka before coolly placing his shot into the near corner.
A stunning goal!
Then Arsenal saw out the remaining few minutes and led in the North London Derby at half time.
As the second half kicked off, the big question was how would Arsenal perform after conceding similar leads over the last seven days.
But after 20 minutes, Van Persie essentially killed the game off.
Eduardo had the ball on the right wing and was hacked down by Assou-Ekotto but referee Mark Clattenberg waved play on. Sagna stopped, played on and then crossed for Van Persie who tapped in from close range after Bassong and King could deal with it.
With the game dead and buried, it was a case of making sure Arsenal could show that they had learnt from previous games and keep Tottenham at bay and whether Arsenal could keep a rare clean sheet.
Eduardo and Diaby had chances to make it 4 but were guilty of profligacy and the scoreline stayed a only 3.
Arsene Wenger was clearly animated on the touchline despite the 3 goal margin and this was hugely encouraging to see.
We was absolutely livid as he was shouting instructions to his midfield to sit back and make sure that we didn’t concede another sloppy and unnecessary goal.
Obviously the last 2 competitive games and the dropped points have been discussed behind closed doors and while this is only the start, it is good to see that Wenger finally realises that we’re guilty of taking our foot off the pedal and are prone to throwing away leads. If Arsenal are even going to be considered real title contenders then closing out games is a vital part of fighting at the top of the table.
And fortunately, it looks like this issue is being addressed.
There is obviously a long way to go this season but sitting second in the league (with a game in hand after this weekend) is encouraging to see after a quarter of the season.
And from a usually pessimistic Arsenal fan, the signs at the moment are positive.
We have players such as Rosicky, Walcott, Denilson and Nasri to return and push for starting places, and with Vermaelen and Arshavin this season then we might just have that extra quality we need to really challenge.
If we’re near the top of the league come Spring, then that West Ham game might just have been a blessing in disguise.
Player & Referee Ratings
Manuel Almunia: 6/10
Mainly had to deal with crosses which generally, he did okay with. He did drop a couple and luckily the mistakes didn’t prove to be decisive. Was asked to make a one or two routine saves which were dealt with, but on the whole was a stroll in the park.
Bacary Sagna: 9/10
Excellent today. Full of running, dealt with the aerial threat from Peter Crouch well and more importantly his crossing was paramount in today’s win, with two quality deliveries for Van Persie’s brace. Robbie Keane drifted out to the left a lot throughout the game and didn’t get so much as a look in.
William Gallas: 8/10
On the whole, solid but made a couple of errors – one of which was giving away a freekick on the edge of the box for a handball. Did make an excellent last ditch interception though when Robbie Keane was through on goal to prevent and almost certain goal.
Thomas Vermaelen: 9/10
Sensational again. In the air he is colossal and dealt with most of Tottenham’s crosses with ease. Was extremely unfortunate to get a booking when he clearly won the ball fairly from Corluka.
Gael Clichy: 8/10
Up and down the left side throughout the entire game and looked very comfortable. Passing and decision-making seems to have improved and hopefully he can keep this consistency over the season.
Alex Song: 8/10
Excellent again and covered a lot of ground. Was quick to close down any Tottenham players and his distribution was top draw. Even managed to pull of some skills while beating players and was very commanding.
Abou Diaby: 5/10
For me, far to sloppy in possession and his unwillingness to track back was disappointing. I kept an eye on him closely and his positioning is poor as well. The passage of play which summed up his performance for me was when he had the ball on the edge of the box, tried to stupidly beat a player and then lost possession. Tottenham then proceeded to have their most threatening move of the match. If Tottenham would have scored from that, I, like Arsene, would have been f*cking livid. Also somehow managed to ‘head’ the ball with his shoulder from 2 yards out and with the goal gaping.
Cesc Fabregas: 9/10
Along with Song was very commanding and controlled midfield with ease. Again, he was pulling the strings with some glorious passing and really should have had more assists when Diaby and Eduardo spurned good chances created by the captain. Great ability and desire to score that stunning goal and it was hugely deserved.
Andrei Arshavin: 7/10
Not his best game, and was only influential at times but did oozed that quality in everything he did.
Robin Van Persie: 8/10
Scored two poachers goals, and technically set-up the other for Fabregas. Clever movement in the box and his desire to score was there for everyone to see. Not everything came off for him, but delivered when it mattered.
Nicklas Bendtner: 7/10
Looked lively when he was on but his game was cut short after only half an hour.
Eduardo Da Silva: 7/10 (Replaced Bendtner on 36′)
Did well when he came on and I would have given him an 8 or 9 if he scored his chances, which you would have to say in Eduardo terms are sitters – that’s how high we all regard his finishing. But still finding his feet and will get better with more games under his belt.
Emmanuel Eboue: 6/10 (Replaced Arshavin on 78′)
Didn’t really have much to do, but did release Ramsey with a great ball near the end of the match.
Aaron Ramsey: 6/10 (Replaced Van Persie on 86′)
Not enough time to make an impact, although had a glorious chance to play in Eduardo but failed to beat the solitary defender.
Referee – Mark Clattenberg: 4/10
I have to mention the referee because I thought he was awful. Although Arsenal won, he was shocking poor in my opinion. He failed to book David Bentley for a blatant handball, and then minutes later failed to issue a card after a terrible (and late) challenge on Vermaelen. It was a highly dangerous tackle and his studs were up and it could have seriously injured Thomas. I understand that he may have tried to ‘keep the game flowing’ but his reluctance to blow his whistle was, at times, ridiculous. And how half the Tottenham players didn’t get booked and Vermaelen did for a clearly good tackle is beyond me.