Ingrained in Arsenal fandom is the love of the North London derbies. If Arsene Wenger has brought anything to the table it’s the consistency in which we dominate them. Today was no different. We lined up exactly the way most expected and we delivered. Was that helped by a pathetically self serving idiot of an ex-striker of ours? Undoubtedly. Was it all good news? Absolutely not. Perspective and rational thought need to be laced around the result today. Obviously though, there will be over the top moments of gushing sentiment.
The Arsenal online community often slate the contribution of the fans. Today, I challenge anyone to disregard the input of the home support. Exceptional. A joy to be a part of. Serious credit needs to be apportioned to the club for the clear relaxation of standing rules. I didn’t sit all game. Multiply that by 50,000 and you have yourself a united vocal set of fans.
It proves a point, it’s not the stadium that’s soulless. Energy is a people thing and you can create that in a cardboard box if the collective desire is there.
It was certainly there today.
After controlling possession for most of the opening portion of the game, Defoe and one other managed to breach our defence down the right after Koscielny played them onside, the Englishman fired a shot at the back post, Chesney saved but pushed it into the path of Adebayor who side footed home. I’d say it was bad keeping, but the shot was very accurate and he did well to get down to it. it was a big ask for him to push it wide.
Ade didn’t need an invitation to celebrate in front of the home fans, no yellow card, which was upsetting.
Spurs went frighteningly close moments later after Sagna let Lennon in with some sloppy play, he dragged his shot nail bitingly wide.
Arsenal didn’t cave. Nor did the fans. Jack pulled off a masterful turn in the middle of the park, powered forward slipping ball into Theo, his cut back was unfortunately met by no one in a red shirt.
It didn’t take long for Ade to lose his hero status. A loose ball bounced on the half way line, Cazorla made it there first, Adebayor wasn’t having it, he flew in with a wild studs up tackle and took out the Spaniard. He was shown the straight red card. That’ll learn him. Learn him good I tell you.
That gave us a massive boost. It wasn’t long before we were level pegging. Theo Walcott did superbly outwide with some neat footwork, he chipped a delightful cross into Mertesacker who took a step back then powered a header into the top corner. An outstaning piece of technique from our ‘Big F*cking German’!
Arsenal nearly took the lead in exactly the same circumstances a few minutes later but this time it was Giroud doing the heading. Lloris was equal to this one, performing a supremely acrobatic one handed save to deny his national team mate. Our centre forward had another chance to put us ahead with his… errr… head… this time he placed it low and too close to Lloris who made an easy save. I know he misses a lot of headers at the moment, but after consulting my Opta stat pack, I can confirm he’s had more headers in the opening few months of the season that we’ve had in the previous 5. Once they start dropping in, we’ll be a serious aerial threat, something we’ve never been under Arsene.
The next name on the scoresheet was Lukas Podolski. The move was half beautiful… like a pint of Peroni in a Sports Direct pint glass… Arteta one two’d with Jack, there was a bit of confusion with the ball falling into the path of Podolski, he duffed his shot and it slipped into the bottom corner. Who cares what they look like as long as you score eh (Lad banter Kavos 2007)?
The crowd erupted into ‘We’ve got two f*cking Germans’! Indeed we did have. The energy really started to buzz around the ground. We were a way into the game and the stewards had backed off in a big way. The team were playing with a bit of swagger. The ball was zipping around the park, confidence was seeping back into our system, confidence began to brim.
The third came when Cazorla picked up the ball on the from a freekick, went on a mazy run, powered into the box and cut back for Giroud for the poachers finish. A chorus of ‘La La la la lalala Girooooooud!‘ reverberated around the Emirates noise bowl!
At half time the camera cut to Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell hanging out in the corporate box. Those guys didn’t taste defeat at the lane back in the day, perhaps some of their magic was rubbing off on the team?
The second half started under a bit of pressure, which was worrying. Spurs had a play around with their formation and and pushed their full backs further up the pitch. They controlled the tempo of the game and carved out a few half decent chances.
We picked up the fourth goal, which came from a very busy Giroud. It started from a goal kick, Giroud won the header, as he seems to do with impressive regularity, Theo picked up the second ball, played it to Podolski who headed for the byline, crossed into the box where Cazorla was present at the back post to slot home!
Bale actually pulled one back after he was given the freedom of Islington just in front of our back four which gave him the impetus to fire a low shot past the keeper from about 20 yards out. Again, questions have to be raised over the keeping. How does he consistently get beaten from distance?
The fear settled in after they pulled a second back. It’s moments like this that make you realise we’re a long way off challenging for major honours. The whole ground was unconvinced we could hold onto a 2 goal second half lead against 10 men, including the players. We started hoofing the ball long, Arteta started giving the ball away, then, to shore up the set up, Wenger brought on Ramsey and Santos. Not the two I’d send on, but with a squad as light as ours, there weren’t really too many options.
Spurs best chance to make something happen happened before 80 minutes. Bale looped a corner over the 6 yard box, Chezzer came for it, then retreated, the rest of the defence missed it, lucky for us, Defoe ballsed up his back post volley.
Chamberlain entered the field of play as our final substitute. Arsenal started to wrestle back control, we started to keep possession which should be our bread and butter. Spurs started to fade through fatigue.
To top off a fantastic afternoon, Chamberlain did well out wide, he cut a ball into the Theo who buried a simple chance to cap off another wonderful performance. Spurs fans were no where to be seen, they’d slinked off early to the sound of ‘You’re fu*king useless, the same as last year!’… how humiliating. 5-2 twice in a row. Absolutely marvelous. Wenger gives himself some breathing space. The fans get their bragging rights.
For now, pride has been restored to north London…
It’s difficult to draw any defining points from the game. Adebayor kind of ruined things for the Spurs set up. A prime example of why he’ll never be an elite striker. He has no brain. That challenge was selfish, pointless and cost his team the chance of a victory. The on cost of that might be a terrible run in the league.
Wouldn’t that be a shame?
From our perspective, you can only beat what’s put in front of you. Not only did we beat them, we humiliated them. We scored a diverse range of goals from wide variety of players. Of key importance for me were the goals notched by the front three. Giroud is starting to look like a seriously dangerous Premiership striker. He’s finding the target more often than not, but most importantly he’s finding his positioning and his movement has moved up a level. We haven’t had a player who can dominate the area like him since Adebayor. Even then, he didn’t dominate aerially like Giroud. I’m excited about what he can bring to our side, especially if we snap up a more traditional Arsenal striker in Janaury.
A massive amount of credit has to go the way of Theo Walcott again. His control was sublime at times. His only mistake was the heavy touch when played through in the second half. Overall though, he was brilliant outwide. His crossing has stepped up a level as has his ability to beat at man and make a decsision. He also showed his prowess through the middle. Under no circumstances can we let him slip off out of the club. It’ll happen though, which is a real shame because he’s clearly loving his football at the moment and I think he’s at the best place to develop. The point is, though I don’t rate him as world class, where are we going to pick up someone as good as him in January?
The midfield still didn’t quite have me purring. Mostly because they left the back four exposed a few times. Santi Cazorla came to life because he was given more space than he has done of late. His brilliance came in pockets, but he’s still not quite at the levels he was early on in the season. Arteta seems to have developed a habit of giving the ball away when we’re under pressure, it’s almost Ramsey-esque. I’m not sure whether that’s form or tiredness, but he’s going to have to improve. For the time Jack was on the pitch, he really did look the business. He was fighting for the fans out on the pitch. He clattered a Spurs player early on and had the fans on their feet. He protected his team mates, he played some great football and he mucked in at the back. A real fiery game we all love to see. I’m just waiting to see a game where the midfield really click, I don’t think it’s far away.
The back four still have problems. The offside trap is still causing problems and our zonal marking is still causing confusion. I’m not a master tactician, but isn’t it just easier to attack the ball and mark players? An old fashioned view, but sometimes simple is better. In fact, when dealing with footballers, surely simple is always better?
Overall, the whole day was fantastic. I loved standing up and singing all game. I loved that the crowd stayed positive even when we went a goal down. I loved watching all the Spurs fans leave well before 70 minutes! Pride has been restored to North London, Wenger has placated the fans, but he must know, the only way to keep that going is to motivate the boys to play like every game is a derby. Those guys need to know they’re playing for the win regardless of who they’re up against. It’s not acceptable to turn it on when it’s a big occasion. Hopefully, this will be a springboard through December.