Until this Sunday my favorite derby was April 25, 2004 at White Hart Lane when we clinched the title. It’s highly likely that I’m am still caught up in the euphoria of our 4-2 victory, but this game was special. Yes, we have had a strong home record against Spurs for years, but this felt different. It was a signal to the rest of the premier league, the doubting pundits and the fans that this team has quality and will not be bullied.
Emery named the same eleven that beat Bournemouth with Mesut Ozil missing out again through injury (that’s a conversation for another day). We started with a fierce intensity that has been lacking from our first half performances and took the lead on 10’. Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen ridiculously handled in the box and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang calmly slotted the resultant penalty past Hugo Lloris.
Arsenal 1 – 0 Tottenham
Our fantastic intensity continued and Spurs were rattled, but the finesse wasn’t there to convert that pressure into goals. Ultimately we were punished in a manic five minute spell which flipped the balance of the game. On 30’ Eric Dier headed home a Christian Eriksen free kick. The goal should have been ruled out for offside, but Leno didn’t crown himself in glory. Spur’s 12th man Mike Dean then awarded an extremely soft penalty. Heung Min Son threw himself to the floor in the box as Rob Holding went to ground. It was naive from Holding, but it wasn’t a pen. Harry Kane was never going to miss.
Arsenal 1 – 2 Tottenham
The balance of a football game can change at speeds quicker than any other sport, so it’s important not to panic. That’s what impressed me most about our reaction. There was a ferocious and passionate aggression we haven’t seen in a long time. After Dier goaded the crowd with his goal celebration the squad responded like a group of players finally willing to stand up for themselves and their club. Lucas Torreira’s reaction to Kane’s penalty also highlighted the will to win blossoming under Emery. He didn’t feel sorry for himself or aggrieved by Mike Dean’s efforts. Instead he immediately picked the ball out of the net and got on with the game.
Although we lost another first half, you knew we were not out of this game.
Half time: Arsenal 1 – 2 Tottenham
The second half once again belonged to our decisive manager whose nerve and conviction continue to impress. He immediately brought on Lacazette and Ramsey for Iwobi and Mkhitaryan to wrestle back control from Spurs. Emery cleverly managed to get Spurs worrying about threats in behind using Ramsey to exploit space between their centre backs with excellent runs from deep.
The reward for the tactical shift came on 56’ when Bellerin played an excellent ball down the centre. Aaron Ramsey latched onto the pass immediately squaring to Auba who curled a first time shot past Hugo Lloris. A beautiful goal by the hottest striker in Europe at the moment.
Alexandre Lacazette got his reward on 75’ for a great performance, curling a deflected shot from outside the box with his left foot. As I’ve said time and time again, with great strikers you always have a chance.
Torreira then cemented his status in Arsenal folklore with an iconic closing goal on 77’. The Uruguayan force of nature was slipped through by Auba and smashed his shot past Lloris who conceded his third goal of the day diving to his right.
What a way to end a thrilling derby.
Full time: Arsenal 4 – 2 Tottenham
Man of the match: Lucas Torreira
There were eight of ten performances all round. I have criticised Sead Kolašinac but he was dynamic and effective, displaying how good he can be when his aggression is maximum. Auba was a match winner again and Ramsey displayed huge professionalism and passion (I’m starting to think we should have kept him and made him captain). However, the award has to go to the new heartbeat of Emery’s red and white army, Lucas Torreira. His goal celebration, his response to going 2-1 down and all round performance were remarkable. He refused to be beaten today and that intensity rubbed off on his team mates.
Next up: Manchester United at Old Trafford
Old Trafford is a ground that often gets the better of us. It is where the invincibles lost their unbeaten record and where we suffered our most humiliating Premier League defeat. However, that was Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and the players must go into this game with nothing to fear, knowing we have the chance to write a new history at Old Trafford. This Man Utd are having a public meltdown with Mourinho and look miles away from the classy club I grew to respect. Emery is rewriting the narrative around Arsenal and a win at Old Trafford will give us a monumental boost in our efforts towards top four.
I’m going bold with my prediction and hopeful that we can seal Mourinho’s doom as Manchester United manager.
Prediction: Manchester United 1 – 3 Arsenal
Come on Arsenal!!