LONDON — Arsenal blew Tottenham Hotspur away in the 194th North London derby on Saturday with the Gunners riding a furious first half display to grab a deserved 2-0 victory.
Goals from Shkodran Mustafi and Alexis Sanchez did the business for Arsenal who have now won 11-straight games at the Emirates, their best-ever run at the stadium, and have now started the campaign with six wins from six at home for the first time in a decade.
Here’s what we learned from a one-sided NLD.
ARSENAL REWARDED FOR BRAVE SELECTIONS
Arsenal fans had been calling for all three of their top attacking talents to start and Wenger listened. Maybe he should listen to them more often…
From the start Arsenal looked the more adventurous, dangerous and incisive and both Alexandre Lacazette‘s runs in-behind opened up space for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to have space in front of Tottenham’s back three. After causing Manchester City problems before the break when Lacazette, Sanchez and Ozil were on the pitch, Wenger got the message loud and clear.
Arsenal went for it and they were rewarded.
The Gunners’ rampant start was in danger of being in vein but Skhodran Mustafi’s wonderful header, from an Ozil free kick, gave Arsenal the lead their positive start deserved and Sanchez’s clever finish from Lacazette’s pull back gave the scoreline the look it deserved at half time.
In the second half Tottenham had more of the ball and Wenger responded by pulling off Lacazette with 20 minutes to go and bringing on Francis Coquelin. That decision was booed but Wenger couldn’t help but try and edge his side over the line.
This was Arsenal’s first derby victory in seven PL outings against Spurs and amid talk of power shifting in North London to Tottenham following their finish above Arsenal in the PL table last season, the first time in 20 years, a positive display from the start put Tottenham back in their place.
Wenger was able to put out his first choice starting lineup for one of the first times this season and it showed that 1-11, this Arsenal team is at least capable of reclaiming a place in the top four. Maybe that will then convince Ozil and Sanchez to sign new deal and end their contract sagas.
Regardless of that, the search for consistency, especially away from home, is now the key. Going all-out attack is Arsenal’s best chance of any success this season.
MIDFIELD BATTLE NO CONTEST
Granit Xhaka is much-maligned but in the first half especially he and Aaron Ramsey disrupted Tottenham’s flow and knocked Spurs out of their stride.
Time and again they dispossessed Mousa Dembele and Moussa Sissoko in central midfield for Spurs, with Tottenham’s back three on the back foot and unable to deal with the runs of Lacazette, Sanchez and Ozil with Hector Bellerin and Ramsey pouring forward whenever they could.
In the second half Spurs had more of the ball and pushed Arsenal back but the damage was done. Harry Winks came on for the disappointing Dembele to try and wrestle the tempo of the game back but it was all too little, too late.
Xhaka and Ramsey worked as a perfect pivot in the first half to give Arsenal the platform for victory.
RUSTY SPURS STUNNED
Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane and Dele Alli had recovered from injury in time for the North London derby. It showed.
All three looked sluggish with Lloris already in the back of the net by the time Sanchez could smash home Arsenal’s second, Dele spending must of his time on the floor looking for free kicks and Kane (who had his right thigh heavily bandaged) well off the pace as he dragged efforts wide, was booked for a late challenge on Granit Xhaka and had an off day at the worst possible time.
Both Dele and Kane were hauled off 15 minutes from time looking jaded and frustrated. The gamble to rush them back to full fitness didn’t pay off.
Mauricio Pochettino had a face like thunder for much of the game with the Spurs boss patrolling the edge of his technical area with venomous steps.
Spurs have now lost against Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal so far this season. They only lost four games the whole of the 2017-18 campaign.
It’s still too early to say Tottenham’s title hopes were all but ended with this defeat at their bitter rivals, but they could well be 11 points behind leaders Manchester City by the time Saturday is over. That is a huge deficit to recover and their displays against the top teams so far this season have been full of trepidation and mistakes.
You can certainly understand the move to rush Kane and Dele back but it may not have been Pochettino’s best decision.