As an Arsenal supporter, there are few more exquisite and satisfying pleasures in life than seeing the Gunners giving Spurs the sort of good hiding that silences all the pre-match talk from their manager, players and supporters and sends them all back down the Seven Sisters Road well-and-truly put in their place. Yesterday was one of those days and it was a match to savour.
To be honest, Arsene Wenger’s team were not at their best yesterday but they didn’t need to be. Tottenham’s much-vaunted improvement this season failed to materialise at Ashburton Grove and they looked very ordinary indeed. Manuel Almunia, who was finally recalled to first-team action, only had one meaningful save to make all afternoon when he palmed a David Bentley free-kick over the bar. That aside, the visitors had no real attacking ideas beyond punting hopeful long balls up to Peter Crouch.
The first forty-five minutes were fairly even in terms of territory and possession but Arsenal had the better of the half’s chances. The breakthrough - and the deciding moment of the match - came just before the interval. In the 43rd minute, Bacery Sagna fizzed over an intelligently low cross from the right. Robin Van Persie reacted quickest and beat Ledley King to the ball, tucking it in at the near post with Heurelho Gomes tied up in knots trying to keep it out.
If Van Persie's opener sent the home support into raptures, it was nothing compared to what was to follow 11 seconds later. Straight from the re-start, Cesc Fabregas won possession and set off on a solo run that saw him waltz through three Tottenham challenges before slotting the ball emphatically past Gomes and sending the Arsenal crowd into orbit. This was the moment of the season so far.
The celebrations continued around the stadium’s inner concourse all through the break but at the start of the second half there was still the nagging doubt at the back of supporter’s minds that the Gunners might let things slip from their grasp just as they had done against West Ham and AZ Alkmaar in recent weeks. We need not have worried. Some comical defending from Spurs presented Robin Van Persie with the ball and an open goal just yards away and he gratefully accepted the gift. From then, the Gunners coasted through the remainder of the match and really ought to have won by an even wider margin as Eduardo squandered a couple of one-on-ones and Aaron Ramsey made a hash of a break late on.
Apart from local pride and the joy of holding North London’s bragging rights for a few months, this was a vital win for the Gunners. Spurs have made a better start to this season than most observers expected and it was imagined that they would present Arsene Wenger’s side with a stiff examination. Thankfully, it was a test the home team passed with flying colours.
For Arsenal’s part, victory was required to maintain their momentum towards to the top of the table. Their recent Premier League form has been fantastic with six wins and a draw from their last seven matches. Had they not thrown away a two-goal lead at Upton Park last weekend, yesterday’s three points would have sent them temporarily top of the table. They are definitely moving in the right direction at the moment.
After the euphoria of yesterday’s derby win, it is back to business in the Champions League on Wednesday with the visit of AZ Alkmaar to the Grove. The Gunners will be seeking to atone for their last minute lapse in Holland and a victory would secure their passage to the knockout phase. With home games against AZ and Standard Liege still to play, the players ought to be looking to win their group rather than just merely qualify but, as the old adage has it, they need to take one game at a time and ensure they win on Wednesday evening.
Still, let’s worry about Wednesday when it comes. In the meantime, we can continue to bask in the glow of yesterday’s result and watch the replays of the goals over and over again. It is going to be a very long time before we get tired of seeing Cesc help himself to Arsenal’s second and put Spurs to the sword.