WITH ALL the pre-North London derby talk of power shifts, Arsenal re-focussed to beat their bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur to silence those who predicted that the visitors would add further woe to the Gunners.
Wounded after their controversial loss at the Etihad, Arsenal struck two first half goals to sink Spurs and deservedly took all three points in their first game following the international break.
Shkodran Mustafi rose to head in from Mesut Ozil’s free kick after 36 minutes with Alexis Sanchez doubling the Gunners’ lead rifling into the roof of Hugo Lloris’s net from Alexandre Lacazette’s square ball five minutes later. 2-0 that ‘awkward’scoreline and no one, not even the side commanding it was able to relax and especially given that the second half still to come.
What did transpire however was a robust Arsenal defence, coupled with an attacking flair which could have seen the Gunners further increase their lead though Alexis. Petr Cech was rarely troubled but when he was called into action, he produced a world class save to deny Eric Dier’s angled header to maintain a clean sheet.
Arsene Wenger was pleased to see that despite their ongoing contractual issues, Özil and Alexis shone with Lacazette in a trio which Spurs couldn’t shackle.
“If you have to give me one credit, it’s that I’ve never questioned that. I know them well and I know that when these guys go on the pitch, they want to win the game. They’ve shown their commitment again today. I’ve never questioned their commitment. They can have bad games but the problem is that, when a player gets near the end of his contract and has a bad game, everybody says it’s because he’s going. Their interest is to play.
“I just said that I’ve been in this job long enough to know that’s not enough. The quality of the contract has to be good and enough for them as well. I am convinced that they love the club and they love the team. All the rest will be decided [soon]. When? I don’t really know. I’m not alone in mastering that.
“The whole thing has to be right and they have to be happy. I believe that they love the club, they want to stay, but there are other top clubs out there who offer good contracts as well,” said Wenger.
This was the Arsenal performance which was absent at the Etihad stadium two weeks ago. Arsene Wenger bitterly complained, and with justification at the Gabriel Jesus goal in particular, but here Wenger may have been the unwitting beneficiary of referee Mike Dean’s decision making, and that is a rarity indeed in these parts. Arsenal were in truth more organised, more determined and better than Spurs, who never saw the best from Harry Kane or Dele Alli. Both were kept quiet by Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny and both were subbed to huge Emirates cheers after 75 minutes.
The Gunners’ firepower sparked into life when Lacazette narrowly failed to clip in from Hector Bellerin’s cross. Davison Sanchez struck out his long legs to deflect the ball for a corner. High pressing is the way Alexis likes to play and when he won possession to play in Lacazette, the France striker couldn’t keep his shot down.
Koscileny’s poor defensive header enabled Kane a chance which Cech held onto. Subdued for most of the the game, Christian Eriksen struck but saw his effort clip the outside of Cech’s post. That was as good as it got for the Dane.
There was the typical robustness associated with any derby, and especially this one. Tackles went flying in fair for the majority of the cases, but that from Davison Sanchez on Alexis was called back and up stepped Özil to take the free kick. Spurs have no shortage of aerial prowess in their back line, but that didn’t stop Mustafi from getting the leap on Jan Vertonghen and guide his header past Lloris for the opener.
Sheer joy from the Emirates faithful would soon double when Lacazette found Alexis with company. But his determination to power his way through and strike into the roof of the net have Lloris no chance as Arsenal went 2-0 up.
Wenger was doubly pumping his arms in true Wenger fashion, and all the pre-match talk of power shifts looked poor assessments. Arsenal were winning plus ca change n’est pas.
Spurs kept coming, but without anything of substance to worry Cech. Mousa Sissoko and Mousa Dembele’s power game was being stifled as Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey kept going. It was the front three of Lacazette, Özil and Alexis was what had the Emirates faithful on the edge of their seats. Alexis could have increased the Spurs’ pain, but stayed on his feet when being fouled by Sanchez . Lloris made the save.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino was concerned over the decision ,among leading up to the Arsenal goals.
“I do not need to say anything. It was obvious for everyone here and watching at home. It is not easy to accept because we lost the game but we have to move on and keep going. The free-kick for the first goal and the first goal was obvious offside, maybe the second was too. When you play against a team in the top six, the big details are up to you. Sometimes things go against you but that is football,” he said having taste his first defeat to Wenger in a North London derby.
Spurs have only won once in 12 league visits to the Emirates stadium, and never looked like adding to their winning tally. Mustafi and Alexis ensured that it was Arsenal who had won the day. – Voice
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