Kush Sharma states that although Spurs lie seven points ahead of Wenger's side, it's Arsenal who have won the North London bragging rights...
ANALYSIS By Kush Sharma
A sensational twenty eight minutes saw Arsenal score five goals as they clawed themselves back from being 2-0 in the early stages of the match to beat their North London derby rivals Tottenham Hotspurs 5-2, in what proved to be one of the most enthralling encounters of the season.
An early brace of goals from Louis Saha and Emmanuel Adebayor looked set to have further derailed Arsenal’s season after having conceded four goals without a reply at San Siro against AC Milan in the Champions League and being knocked out the FA Cup last weekend by Sunderland.
Arsenal needed a boost, and it came from the unlikeliest of sources, when Bacary Sagna headed in Mikel Arteta’s cross into the back of Brad Friedel’s net. It served as the perfect catalyst for a much needed comeback as Robin Van Persie curled an absolute stunner to level the game. Barely five minutes from restart, Tomas Rosicky put the Gunners ahead, before Theo Walcott bagged a brace to complete Harry Redknapp’s side’s decimation.
Here’s how the Arsenal team fared:
Wojciech Szczesny had his share of blunders and saves in the first half, as he bundled Gareth Bale to concede a penalty which led to Spurs’ second goal. However, he assuredly parried away and collected free-kicks and crosses, and made a spectacular save off Adebayor.
A brilliant shot stopping ability and vocal presence just about make up for his consistently poor distribution. During the last few games , including this one, the 21 year old Polish keeper has been found wanting in managing to get considerable distance from his kicks.
The first half saw an Arsenal defense at its recent usual panicky state. As it has happened too often in the past, incapability to maintain an immaculate high line was resulting in high vulnerability to counter attacks, and it wasn’t a surprise when the two goals conceded resulted from Spurs breaking with swiftness, much superior to that of Arsenal’s backline. Thomas Vermaelen was having an uncharacteristically poor game before Arsenal scored. Kieran Gibbs too looked jaded and unfit.
However, once the parity was restored, the back four seemed solid throughout the match, barely giving away any chances. Unlike in the corresponding fixture last season where Gareth Bale had tormented Bacary Sagna with his pace, the French Right Back was at his usual best, and managed to contain the Welshman with consummate ease later on in the game.
The midfield was guilty of over-committing as far as their attacking approach was concerned. Alex Song, in particular, was clueless as to what his role was in the first half , as he was found wandering aimlessly on many an occasion. Mikel Arteta coped much better in the second half than in the first. Some crunching tackles by the Spaniard got the fans going at a time when Arsenal were finding their feet in the match.
However, if there was one player in red and white, who inspired the team, not just with the goal that pulled Wenger’s men ahead of Spurs, but with driving forward from his own half to the opposition’s box and tracking back with the same desire, it was Tomas Rosicky.
The 31 year old Czech, regarded by Wenger as one of the most technically gifted players in the league, was virtually everywhere, effortlessly picking out Theo Walcott and Yossi Benayoun on the wings, as well as finding openings through the centre for Van Persie.
A typical penetrating run from the half line around the 50th minute split open the Spurs’ back four. Bacary Sagna was at the end of his perfectly weighted pass out on the right flank, who then delivered a low cross, which the Czech International finished with a classy flick putting the Gunners ahead in the cracking derby.
Consistency and an injury free period can really pave way for Rosicky’s place in the starting eleven ahead of Aaron Ramsey.
A trio of Yossi Benayoun, Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott struggled to break open a resilient and confident Spurs’ back four in the early stages of the match. As hard as Benayoun and Walcott tried, their efforts in penetrating from out wide went in vain. Van Persie received little service too.
But Sagna’s goal altered things considerably. The compactness in Harry Redknapp’s team almost vapourised and turned the events in Arsenal’s favour. The Arsenal captain, having probably his best season for the Gunners, twisted and turned, made space and fired in a beauty into the top corner from 18 yards, increasing his tally of goals this season to twenty nine.
From then on, the front three looked formidable. Wenger’s decision to keep faith in Theo Walcott paid dividends when the Englishman slotted two composed finishes into the back of Friedel’s net in the second half.
A mesmerizing display full of heart and desire in the one of the fiercest derbies in England, if not the world, was what was exactly what the fans demanded after a poor run of results off late. Barring the first quarter of the match, that is exactly what they got. It also provides some breathing space to Arsenal’s under-fire French manager.
And although Tottenham Hotspurs still lead the Gunners by seven points in the league table, few would disagree that for the moment, the North London bragging rights belong to only one team.
The team in red.