Arsenal and Tottenham met in the 196th North London Derby on Sunday afternoon, and Unai Emery’s team were going into the game with an 18 match unbeaten run and looking to claim the scalp of their city neighbours and keep that run going – and that’s exactly what they did!
A fantastic footballing occasion ended in an outstanding win for Arsenal that seen them come back from an undeserved deficit at the break to win the match 4-2, scoring three second-half goals in the process.
The Gunners lined-up with three at the back in-front of Bernd Leno between the sticks. Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin provided extra defensive cover on the flanks, with Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira providing an anchor in the middle. The game began with 3 attacking players – Alex Iwobi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang.
With 10 minutes on the clock, Spurs fullback Serge Aurier conceded a free-kick, which Xhaka duly delivered into the away sides box – upon which, Jan Vertonghen handled the ball and a penalty was rightly given to the red half of North London.
Aubameyang stepped up to the penalty slot and made no mistake, sending Lloris the wrong way. The Gabonese striker notched his ninth goal of the season, which continued an incredible stat in that he had scored with each of his shots on target in the league this campaign.
In the immediate aftermath of the opener, Pochettino’s team tried to get back on level terms, with Son Heung-Min looking lively.
It was through a needless free kick that Sokratis Papstathopolous gave away after clipping the heels of the South Korean playmaker that Spurs managed to get back in the game. Christian Eriksen whipped the ball in at the near post, and English midfielder Eric Dier connected with his head to make it one-a-piece.
In celebrating the goal, Dier made things quite fiery at the Emirates. He went straight to the home contingent – and the Gunners warming up on the side-line – and a bit of a ruckus broke out. Dier only found himself with a yellow card, but the act set a precedent for the rest of the match.
Just moments later, it was Tottenham who had a penalty. Son made another fine run into the box, and was slid down by Rob Holding. At the time, it looked like a good tackle, but upon watching further replays, it was probably the correct decision from Mike Dean.
Harry Kane stepped up and went to Leno’s right, and somehow, Spurs were ahead with 33 minutes on the clock.
Just before the end of the first half, the lively Aubameyang nearly had his side going in with matters even. Kolasinac’s low-cross low from the left reaches the forward and he takes it first time, but Lloris did well to block, with it also being adjudged as marginally offside.
Just as the whistle was about to sound, Shkrodan Mustafi got his hand on a looping effort which came oh so close to finding the net. The Spurs stopper finished a decent half for himself by clawing it out from just underneath the bar.
Half time, Emery’s team went down the Emirates tunnel at 2-1 down – a really good half of football, which Arsenal was unlucky to find themselves behind in.
At half-time, Emery made some big changes – he removed the two players behind Aubameyang – Iwobi and Mkhitaryan – for Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey, which ended up being the catalyst for the eventual win.
The leveller was perhaps the goal of the game. Ramsey ran onto a through ball and managed to get a pass through to defenders and into the path of Aubameyang. He hit the ball first-time from just outside the box and with 56 minutes on the clock, the sides were level once more.
Arsenal was now playing for the win, and it made for a great watch. Mustafi had another header cleared off the line, this time from Dele Alli, who managed to keep his side in the contest with a clearance.
The atmosphere in the stadium appeared to be at boiling point, and the home side erupted as the last 15 minutes approached. The other substitute, Lacazette, was played in by Ramsey from the half-way line. A goal did not appear to be on – or at least there was certainly still a lot to do – but the Frenchman steadied himself and found a yard of space just outside the box, and managed to cut the ball past Lloris (with some help from a Dier deflection). 3-2, and the players were delighted.
That delight took one step further with the next significant piece of play – Aubameyang played a lovely through ball on 77 minutes for Torreira, who side-stepped Dier and angled the ball past Lloris to make it 4-2. As Gary Neville said in the Sky commentary box, the atmosphere was palpable – “It’s shaking. This stadium is shaking,”
Tottenham’s woes did not end there, however, as the game began to wind down, Vertonghen, already on a yellow, over touched the ball and then lunged into retrieve it from an oncoming Lacazette, but mistimed it and took the player out instead. A second yellow card, and Spurs were down to 10.
And that was that – what a game. Arsenal made their way into the Champions League positions, jumping over Tottenham on goal difference, with both sitting on 30 points.
Special credit must be given to the manager for this victory. At the half way mark, to make big changes and to motivate his side considering how well they had played in the first half and still found themselves behind. When Torreira’s goal found the net, his ecstasy was clear to see.
Prior to this game kicking off, a quick look at the fixture list would suggest that Emery was about to face up against perhaps his hardest couplet of matches since the opening two games of the campaign – Tottenham at home and Manchester United away.
This Tottenham side bested an undefeated Chelsea 3-1 last weekend, and Arsenal made them look ordinary at the Emirates – would you bet against them going to Old Trafford and making a mark? It will make for a very interesting midweek contest.
In terms of Spurs – Arsenal, it is a fixture that supporters will be seeing again very soon – this month, in fact, in the league cup quarter final. If the tenacity of this match was anything to go by, then that will be a cup game well worth tuning into.