Sorry, Spurs fans. You’ll have to wait yet another year to attempt a league double over Arsenal, with the Gunners putting their neigbours to the sword with a superb 5-2 fightback at the Emirates Stadium today.
The game continued the goal-crazy trend for games between the big sides in the Premier League this season, with Arsenal turning on the style and showing great character after going two goals down.
Despite my pre-match article – in which I teased Spurs fans somewhat – I was one of a growing number of Gooners who was not particularly looking forward to today’s game, and could not see anything but a defeat, possibly a crushing one. After terrible defending allowed Louis Saha to score after just 3 minutes, my worries appeared to be confirmed.
However, the team responded and controlled much of the first half, despite not always looking that dangerous. Even at 2-0, the score flattered the visitors greatly; the penalty, slotted by none other than former gunner and serial North London derby goal-scorer Emmanuel Adebayor, should never have been given after a dive by Gareth Bale.
From then on, it was all Arsenal. Two brilliant goals in quick succession got us back in the game, first a thumping header from Bacary Sagna (his first goal at the Emirates, incidently) and a superb curler from Robin van Persie. Sagna had said before the game how much this game would mean to him after getting injured in the first fixture at White Hart Lane; how nice for a change to see a player deliver after some big words, unlike so many who have proven to be all talk down the years.
Which brings me, appropriately, to Tomas Rosicky – a player who so often disappoints; finally the Czech playmaker was controlling a game, and he capped it off with a goal in the 50th minute, bringing it to 3-2 and an exact reverse of what happened in this fixture last season. It was also Rosicky’s first league goal for two years, the last one coming in a 4-2 win against Bolton, a game in which we also came back from 2-0 down.
I worried at this point that we’d taken the lead too early. So many times over the winter period we would simply switch off after taking the lead in games, and I knew we would need more goals for this to be truly safe.
Thankfully they came. Theo Walcott produced a brilliant chipped finish after being released by van Persie, and then scored his trademark breakaway goal just three minutes later. Once again, Theo had produced the goods in a big game, just adding to the frustration that he can’t do it more often.
5-2 was a very nice scoreline indeed. Being the pessimist that I am, I was still haunted by the 4-4 in this fixture a few years ago and thought it could well end 5-5, even though Spurs were clearly finished by this point. They were out of ideas and out of energy and, with the benefit of hindsight, it was clear they were never going to get back into it. It was like the good old days, when they would regularly fall apart against us, no matter how well they started.
For me, Benayoun really justified his starting role. I was surprised to see him in the team ahead of both Gervinho and Chamberlain, but he showed his quality and work-rate that made him such a good player for Liverpool a few years ago. We forget that he missed a whole season through injury last year and would take time to find his best form. Hopefully he can push on from here and we’ll have a very good player on our hands. If not, of course, we can always just send him back to Chelsea.
Rosicky as well, finally played like the senior player we expect, and with the kind of quality that made him such an exciting signing when he first joined us in 2006. He took his goal very well, and gave us much more forward drive than Ramsey has in recent times.
It saddens me that Rosicky and Walcott can’t play like this more often. It’s puzzling and frustrating to so often see our players look like world beaters one week and relegation material the next. While this result is definitely one to be savoured, it’s sad knowing that a far more lazy and disinterested performance is just around the corner.
Elsewhere today, Liverpool won the Carling Cup in extremely fortuitous fashion, producing mildly less comical penalties than Championship side Cardiff City in the final at Wembley, where we were denied so cruelly last season.
It wasn’t nice to see a side far worse than ours, that has poured money away on extremely overpriced trash like Downing, Henderson and Carroll, end their trophy drought before us, and get the kind of luck that deserted us against Birmingham last year.
Still, the fact that they’re so poor at the moment will hopefully show when we meet them at Anfield next weekend. Today’s result was a big lift, taking us above Chelsea and moving us closer to Spurs. We’re in a good position, but Liverpool are still close behind and it would be great to end their hopes of finishing above us.
The side, and some players in particular, just need to conquer this bizarre mystery of inconsistency and play like today more often.