Arsene Wenger slapped the North London crown from the head of Pochettino’s with absolute ease in a thrilling North London Derby. The Spurs manager, who earns ridiculously favourable press considering how little he’s achieved, was well and truly outclassed from start to finish as Arsenal pulled their season back on track with a deserved 2-0 win.
Wenger opted to play his best players in their best positions. He sent them out with fire and passion, an intensity I’ve not seen since the cup final. Everyone put in a shift. The outcome was orchestrated by a forceful Mesut Ozil, he ran, he slid, he shoved and he offered his usual pinpoint accuracy with his sublime range of passing. He was shadowed by the equally immense Aaron Ramsey who put Spurs under pressure all game with a towering exercise in pressing and generally getting in the way of anything the Spurs midfield had up their sleeves.
It was also tough to ignore Granit Xhaka, the Swiss fake #10 opened up play, kept his concentration and maintained a strong discipline we’ve not often seen. No unforced errors, and a glimpse at the player we thought we’d bought.
Mustafi at the back was also a revelation. He was first to everything, he made himself available for the first goal with a towering header and generally played out of his skin. Laurent Koscielny had a bit of a shaky start misjudging some headers, but his desire to snuff out balls that were dropping just in front of defence really did nullify anything Spurs tried to do through the middle
Finally, our best front three gave the performance we’ve been holding out for since the summer. Lacazette landed a start, and though the game didn’t really fall for him, he was in the right positions and he did a good job hustling the ball back from the front. Mesut Ozil was a man-monster all game, dropping 12.6km. Alexis Sanchez, though petulant and childlike at times, really did give his all. His goal for our second showed great endeavour after a clunky first touch. It was amusing watching him throw himself at the floor in frustration at the end because the ball didn’t go his way.
The media are working hard to make the narrative about the Spurs goals. Was it a freekick? Was Mustafi offside? Please. Spurs were second-rate all game, and we were always going to win there. Today was all about Arsenal. Wenger showed he’s still the king. Arsenal showed they’re still a top 4 side.
Question is whether Wenger can inspire that sort of performance more than once every six weeks. As I’ve said all season, Arsenal has the best players between the two clubs, we just don’t have the best manager. Wenger needs to work out the reason his team can fire on all cylinders like that in a Derby game, but not against Stoke away.
If he can get to the crux of that problem, and solve it, we’re sailing the top 4 this season. If he can’t, we’ll be in our usual pool of misery come what May. It is unacceptable that this team of players is not challenging. We’ve just manoeuvred ourselves within striking distance of the top of the table. Now is the time to rally and make it happen.