Jubilation as Arsenal beat Tottenham 2-0
Arsene Wenger has had the best part of two weeks to brood upon that previous defeat to Manchester City and so when it came to the point that the legitimacy of his team’s two goals in this north London derby were called into question the Arsenal manager already had his answer.
This had been a vintage Arsenal performance, conjured from who knows where, one of intensity supported by good organisation – ruthless when they had to be, stubborn at other times. The only caveat being that both goals, scored in the first half by Skhodran Mustafi and Alexis Sanchez, were marginally offside and when that was pointed out to Wenger, a whole international break spent fast-forwarding and rewinding that 3-1 Etihad defeat was brought to bear.
His team, he said, had been the victims of David Silva’s offside goal on Nov 5 and if no one else remembered it then Wenger was going to make damn sure that they were reminded.
He ended his press conference thin-lipped and quietly furious but that is the way it can go at Arsenal, even on these days when they look every bit as impressive as they should do, given the undoubted quality of their players.
The balance of power in north London stays very much where it has done for all but a small part of the last 21 years of Wenger’s reign, with Spurs resisted and conquered just 17 days after they beat Real Madrid, champions of Europe, at Wembley.
Harry Kane and Dele Alli were substituted before the end; Christian Eriksen got no closer to another hat-trick than striking a post with a shot that Petr Cech had covered, and the unstoppable rise of Mauricio Pochettino was slowed.
The young Spurs manager took a couple of steps on to the pitch after the final whistle and then seemed to think better of it, turning back down the tunnel while his players went to thank an away support that had all but emptied before the end. He too was fuming afterwards with Mike Dean’s decisions for both goals, including the free-kick for Mustafi’s header.
The inquest into the nerve of this Spurs’ team begin again with, among others, their former striker Gary Lineker pointing out that in 86 games away to Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea, Spurs have won just four. Not since 2010 have they won in the league at the Emirates and instead of being the day they changed that, it was Arsenal who extended their run to 11 home league wins in a row, a record for the Emirates.
This was Wenger’s first victory over Pochettino in a league north London derby and the Frenchman was not prepared to countenance that he had the benefit of referee’s decisions.
“Suddenly when we concede goals it is absolutely normal,” Wenger said, “even when they are a yard offside and when we maybe [are offside] I have to answer that in a press conference.
“I believe we do not listen too much, as much as you think, to the national debate. That is among you. We live inside our own club and focus on what is important for us.
“People have a perception of us and the game and we have to live with that. We can only give one answer and that is on the pitch.”
It was a great derby, with no margin for error on either side and although Arsenal might have surprised their own fans with their quality, the old tensions were not far from the surface. The home support reacted furiously to Wenger’s decision to replace Alexandre Lacazette with Francis Coquelin 17 minutes from the end.
For his part Pochettino was angry that he had to field questions about the absence of Danny Rose, who was not even selected on the bench and instead trained alone at the club’s Enfield base while Spurs’ Under-23s took on their Chelsea counterparts. The full-back came on for England against Brazil on Tuesday night and Pochettino said that his eight-month injury absence meant that he was better served working on his fitness.
In Rose’s place, Ben Davies had a tough game at left wing-back, an area which Arsenal attacked relentlessly in the first half and from where their second goal came. The scorer Sanchez was a key figure in the game and so too the other contract refusenik Mesut Ozil. Mustafi was exceptional.
In the first half in particular, Arsenal pushed up into space and pressed as a single unit. They were on top by the midway point of the half and Spurs looked stretched. The crosses from their left side required some drastic interventions from the Spurs defence and Hugo Lloris had to be quick off his line to tackle Sanchez outside the box.
The opening goal originated with a questionable free-kick awarded by referee Dean for a foul by the impressive Davinson Sanchez on his Arsenal namesake. It looked like a clean tackle although in the aftermath, Dean seemed to point out that the Spurs defender had grabbed his opponent’s shirt at the shoulder. Telegraph UK