In a truly unfamiliar circumstance, Arsenal came into their annual hosting of the North London derby desperately in need of 3 points to keep pace with the top 4 of which their opponents were firmly a part of.
Roles reversed and that is your typical North London derby, but this game had a zest about it that we haven’t seen in a very long time. And boy did it deliver.
Spurs were hugely motivated to complete their first sweep of the Gunners in decades, to hold pace with the two Manchester sides and condemn their neighbours to a darker place than they were previously in.
Arsenal were largely their predictable 1-11, although Yossi Benayoun surprisingly got the nod over starlet Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, in a move that to me suggested that Wenger wanted to control the game through possession, setting the tempo and not allowing Modric and Parker time to pick apart Arsenal’s suspect defense. Also it gave Arsenal the midfield stability for Gibbs and Sagna to roam forward and allow Walcott to play more centrally.
Tottenham started Adebayor with Saha, and both made their presences known early. Adebayor picked out the newest addition in Saha, who stayed composed and fired a deflected effort past a helpless Szczesny. It was the dream start for Tottenham as Arsenal had their heads down early.
However the home side slowly dragged themselves back into the game and were well in control from about the 10th minute onwards. It wasn’t until yet another defensive hiccup allowed Bale to accelerate through and offer his last ditch performance for an Oscar as he theatrically tumbled over the outstretched Szczesny, with Mike Dean awarding the penalty after some conjecture.
Adebayor stepped up, much to the horror of the home crowd of which he has heinously insulted over the past 24 months, and cooly stroked it past the young Pole. It couldn’t have been a worse start for Arsenal, who were staring down the barrel of another heavy defeat at home to their rivals.
But they continued to fight on and launched attack after attack at the Spurs goal as the away side failed to find any consistency in possession. With barely a handful of minutes left in the first half, Walcott played a clever back heel to van Persie who fired agonisingly wide, but it fell to Benayoun who found Arteta to lob it into the box and encourage a vicious header from Bacary Sagna to give Arsenal hope once more. Moments later Robin van Persie added to the growing legend that is this season with a stunning curling shot from outside the box to send the home team level right on half time.
Tottenham were clearly rocked and came out from the interval as cold as they entered it, allowing Arsenal to take full advantage. Tomas Rosicky combined with Sagna on the left to neatly flick a left footed shot past Friedel, sending the success starved home crowd into an unparalleled frenzy. The perfect time for the Czech international’s first goal of the season.
From then on it Arsenal continued their dominance as Tottenham upheld their decline. The much maligned Theo Walcott offered his best Usain Bolt impression as he tore down the middle of the park to collect a lovely pass from the hold up play of van Persie and gorgeously chip the ball over Friedel giving Arsenal a 4-2 lead. Not long after his first, Walcott made a superb run through the heart of the defense, perfectly controlled a stunning chip from the ever improving Alex Song and fired a low shot past the Spurs keeper from a tight angle to finish the rout.
It was eerily reminiscent of the Arsenal Chelsea game earlier in the year, where Arsenal were outclassed early but continued to fight and earned a dramatic and dominating win against their London rivals. They showed the same spirit in the face of a 2-0 deficit at home to their closest and most bitter rivals and even better results ensued.
The win sees Arsenal move above Chelsea into fourth and to within 7 points of Tottenham.
The Gunners now have the unenviable task of heading to Anfield to take on Liverpool, boosted by their Carling Cup success.