Unai Emery knows all about derbies. He’s been involved in them throughout his managerial career whether it was at Sevilla against Betis, PSG against Marseille, or CSKA Moscow against Spartak. His first experience of the North London Derby will live long in the memory as Arsenal thumped Spurs 4-2 at a vociferous Emirates Stadium.
There was no shortage of controversy on show, from Son Heung-min’s contentious fall to win Spurs a first half penalty and the brawl that occurred after Eric Dier celebrated his goal in front of the home supporters.
Most of the talk about Emery has centred around his intense training sessions, detailed pre-match analysis and strength of mind to make decisions in the best interests of the football club. As Mesut Ozil was ruled out due to back spasms suffered in training, Emery was left with a dilemma as to who would fit best in the No.10 role.
Once again it was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who became the star of the show as he netted a penalty after Jan Vertonghen handballed from a corner. The Belgium international would later see himself sent off for a second yellow card for a poor challenge on Alexandre Lacazette.
Aubameyang's the top scorer in the Premier League this season and the first player to score with 10 consecutive shots in the Premier League since October 2007. His ability to find the back of the net and come up with crucial goals has emphasised why he was brought to Arsenal for a club record fee last January.
"I think we did a great first half, but after the first goal we conceded we had a moment where we were a bit down," Aubameyang told Sky Sports after the game. "But at half-time we were confident – we knew in the second half we could come back, and we did it.
"We played very well in that second half, we don’t give it up, and that’s our mentality. We are still winning games, we are [on an] unbeaten [run], and we just have to keep going. The best performance of the season? I think so, yeah!"
There were question marks over the Gabonese’s attitude before he arrived, yet he has silenced those critics and proved why he is statistically and technically one of Europe’s most clinical marksmen.
“At the moment with him scoring 20 goals in 31 games he’s going to be ranked number one!” Arsenal legend Ian Wright said of Aubameyang ahead of the derby when asked about where the former Borussia Dortmund striker will be ranked among the Gunners' all-time goalscoring greats.
“He’s had a phenomenal start to his Arsenal career. He’s got him on the left-hand side, but for someone who has not had a consistent run in the team his goalscoring return will be way up there on the goalscoring charts.
“The rate in which he’s scoring is better than any of us. He’s got to 20 goals in 31 games - it took me and Thierry 40. I thought at the time I was playing every single game, he’s coming on as a sub. If he can continue scoring at this rate he will probably be well up there in the goalscoring ranks.”
Arsenal’s improvement under Emery shouldn’t be understated. His team are now 19 matches unbeaten in all competitions and continue to look likely to succeed in their target of securing a top-four spot. Lacazette’s cameo appearance and goal set the Emirates alight and prompted a red flare to be released in the north bank.
Gooners have struggled in games against Spurs in recent seasons but there was no struggling in this one. Determination, hard work and technical brilliance won this one for them – as Lucas Torreira’s sublime winner showed.
The Uruguayan celebrated by taking his shirt off and screaming into the heavens. He is one player who embodies the new Arsenal under Emery and those who wrote the Gunners off at the start of the season may be regretting their headlines.