Arsenal (5) – (2) Tottenham Hotspur
Sagna (40′), Van Persie (43′), Rosicky (51′), Walcott (65′, 68′)
The Emirates Stadium, London
Last week I got slated for suggesting Arsenal weren’t in crisis and some perspective was needed.
And today’s match started badly. Louis Saha opened the scoring after 4 minutes with a fortuitous goal which deflected off Vermaelen and looped over Szczesny. Then 25 minutes later, Spurs doubled their advantage after another lucky goal – after Gareth Bale’s blatant dive won Tottenham a penalty, which Adebayor duly converted.
After the previous games against AC Milan and Sunderland, the nature of Tottenham’s 2 goal lead would have added to the frustrations.
But what followed wasn’t an Arsenal team in crisis. If anything, the performance reminded us why we love this Arsenal team so much.
Yes, we are capable of collapsing at the worst times, and yes, we are sometimes defensively fragile. But it must also be noted that Arsene Wenger’s philosophy and style of play is capable of producing stunning comebacks like we saw today. If we were managed by Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or Fabio Capello, we wouldn’t have scored 5 goals in 27 stunning minutes.
And the performance reminded us that overturning a 4 goal deficit against Milan is not impossible. Incredibly difficult, but not impossible – especially if we get it right and click on the night.
The biggest difference, and something I had been waiting for for a while, was the starting eleven. Yossi Benayoun has been in the shadow of Arshavin, Oxlade Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey for playing time and finally he was given his chance. Benayoun is one of the few players at the club that have ingenuity and intelligence on the ball. He is capable of playing smart reverse passes, and penetrating balls. Benayoun needs to play more than he does, which is a trend amongst supporters when he was on Liverpool’s books. Liverpool fans thought Yossi should have played a lot more than he did.
Tomas Rosicky also had his best game for a long time. His passing was top draw and he was all over the pitch. Van Persie was sensational as usual, Arteta was solid and Song was defensively strong. Theo Walcott was on the periphery for most of the first half but came to life in the second, which is something he seems to do a lot – burst into life and has spurts of quality.
Apart from the two lucky goals, Szczesny had nothing to do. From the 30th minute onwards it was all Arsenal and that is something all supporters can take comfort from. In a game billed as the biggest North London derby in Arsene Wenger’s career, we came out on top – and how. The scenes of the travelling Tottenham fans in pure ecstasy only to be put back in their place 15 (playing) minutes later was really something special.
We were sensational today. Arsene made the point that this was the first time for 3 games that we played on a top quality pitch. While that is valid to an extent, the bottom line was we were badly due a performance and it came today. This is something which we need to build on and if we can produce this kind of performance against Milan we have a fighting chance of progressing.
The lesson here is never write Arsenal off.
So bring on AC Milan and let’s show them what we’re made of.