ARSENAL COMFORTABLY beat local rivals Tottenham 3-1 to stay top of the Premier League table in a pulsating encounter in front of an electric crowd at The Emirates, reports the Voice of Sport.
For this highly anticipated North London derby, Arsenal made two changes from the side that beat Brentford 3-0 with captain Martin Odegaard and Oleksandr Zinchenko overcoming injury concerns while Tottenham made three changes to the starting XI that beat Leicester 6-2, bringing in Emerson Royal, Son Hueng-Min and Cristian Romero.
Although the hosts made light work of the corresponding fixture last season which they won 3-1, they lost 3-0 away in the return leg when Rob Holding was sent off early – and the result allowed Spurs to eventually overtake them for a Champions League spot.
Arsenal began with a 4-2-3-1 formation and made an explosive start with lovely intricate play and over 70% possession in front of their passionate fans, exploiting the 3-2-4-1 set-up favoured by Tottenham who always looked light in midfield.
The away team finally got the ball out of their half and had a wonderful chance from a free kick after 13 minutes when a lovely dipping cross taken by Son fell into the path of Richarlison – who really should have scored – but it was well saved down low by keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, however, were winning all the loose balls in midfield and maintained constant pressure. While Ben White’s shot from distance went way over, Granit Xhaka teed up with his powerful left foot and narrowly missed wide of the left post after 16 minutes.
But finally, the deadlock was broken when Arsenal probed down the right-hand side and White rolled the ball invitingly to Thomas Partey, who took two steps to set himself before curling the ball home beautifully from outside the box to put Arsenal 1-0 up.
The away fans had a close view of that stylish finish – which would make the highlights reel of any game around the world. Somewhat surprisingly, it was only Arsenal’s second goal scored with the right foot from their 18 league goals this season.
Arsenal though, have not kept a clean sheet for eight games prior to this fixture, and defender Gabriel misjudged a tackle on Richarlison in the box and referee Anthony Taylor had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Spurs captain Harry Kane stepped up and fired down the centre to level the game 1-1 just before the half hour mark – and also scored his 100th Premier League away goal in the process.
The England captain has now scored 14 times in 18 appearances in North London derbies – an amazing record considering nobody else has more than ten.
The goal quietened the crowd and lifted Tottenham, who now gained more possession and were always a threat on the counter attack.
Ivan Perisic, who earlier had acres of space down the left hand side but blasted his shot over, this time curled the ball back for Kane in the box but his weak header was easily saved by Ramsdale.
Honours even at the end of the first half.
And so, to the restart and just like the first half, the Gunners were first out of the blocks. Supporters had barely got back to their seats when the home team deservingly regained the lead.
Hugo Lloris failed to catch Xhaka’s shot, and defender Romero tried to pass back to his keeper but he fumbled and fell over the ball. Centre forward Gabriel Jesus, like a tiger waiting to pounce, was determined to reach the ball first and poked in from two yards out and lift the ecstatic crowd once more.
Jesus has an outstanding unbeaten winning record in 50 Premier League games in which he has scored, winning 47 and drawing just three. He had another superb game displaying his quick and nimble feet dribbling in the box, and later missed a superb chance to extend the lead when he couldn’t convert a beautiful cross from White, and also wasted another header from a lovely chip from Xhaka.
Tottenham, who have only won two of their past 37 league fixtures away at Arsenal (D14, L21) – the last victory in 2010 when Luka Modric was in their team – were now clearly second best and hit the self-destruct button on 62 minutes when Emerson Royal was shown a straight red card by referee Taylor for leaving his studs up on Gabriel Martinelli.
It left Spurs disorganised and disorientated. Tottenham were a man down and Arsenal smelt blood.
Arteta’s men shifted through the gears with more controlled possession, and dominated the link up play in the middle. Martinelli then provided the assist to Xhaka who fired in from ten yards out past a diving Lloris after 67 minutes. Arsenal were 3-1 ahead and firmly in control.
Both teams made a host of substitutions in the final moments of the game but in truth, the game was already well and truly over – the away fans began filing out even before the 80th minute.
Arsenal manager Arteta is now unbeaten in all eight of his North London derbies at the Emirates as a player (W3, D2) and manager (W3), and will be surely be confident for their next match – a home encounter against an inconsistent Liverpool, while Tottenham play an away fixture against top four rivals Brighton.