Arsenal’s north London derby day fixture had the potential to destroy the club’s season, and hand an added emphasis to Spurs’ achievements this season, and after half an hour it didn’t look good for Gunners fans. However, when faced with adversity, Arsene Wenger’s men showed a will to win, determination and a drive that has been missing for large portions of the season, and defied the Betfair football odds to claim a well-deserved 5-2 victory.
Tottenham fans were overjoyed when their team came from two goals down at the Emirates last season, and they were getting ready to gloat this time round as well when a deflected Louis Saha effort and an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty put the visitors into a commanding lead in the first half of Sunday’s fixture. Spurs were the architects of their own downfalls slightly, as Harry Redknapp’s team started to retreat, play deep and invite pressure onto them. The Tottenham defenders played a long ball game that left Adebayor isolated, and gave the hosts the lion’s share of possession, which after a few early wobbles, they used well.
Bacary Sagna headed the first of the five goals after Robin van Persie had hit the post, and the Dutch striker levelled things with an exquisite curling effort just before the break. There was only one side in it in the second half, as Tomas Rosicky, so often an underperformer this season, led the charge to victory with the third goal. Theo Walcott had endured the abuse of both sets of fans in the first half and looked like a candidate for substitution at the break, however he repaid Arsene Wenger’s faith in him with two well taken goals to put an added gloss on the victory.
Make no mistakes about it; if Arsenal had lost this game they were really staring into the abyss. They would have dropped to fifth, a whopping 13 points behind Spurs, and real questions over Wenger’s continued stewardship would have been forthcoming from the media and the Emirates faithful. Robin van Persie’s future at the club would have come under even more doubt, and it is now integral that the club finish in the top four to keep the marksman in north London.
However the nature of the victory should hopefully be a springboard for better performances and a drive towards the top four for the remainder of the campaign. It is going to be tight with Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle all fighting it out for two Champions League spots. Wenger’s men have no respite, as after the international friendlies they face a difficult trip to face Carling Cup winners Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.
Despite the small margins that may well decide whether the club’s season finishes as a success or failure, the win over Tottenham will have instilled some belief and confidence in the players, and pride in the fans. A strong end to the season is now needed to get back on track, and on Sunday’s evidence there is no reason why Arsenal can’t finish in the top four, and maybe above Tottenham this year.