An absolute firecracker of a game at The Emirates saw Arsenal leapfrog Tottenham into fourth place in a quite stunning North London Derby.
Arsenal left Lacazette on the bench and were again without Mesut Ozil, whilst Tottenham left out Alderweireld and Rose. Arsenal capitalised on the new back four of Spurs as Aurier, Foyth, Vertonghen and Davies struggled early on.
An Arsenal corner was inexplicably handled by Vertonghen to allow Pierre Emerick Aubameyang to roll home a ninth-minute penalty, as the Gunners opened their account and kickstarted what would eventually evolve into a fiery, electric game inside the cauldron of The Emirates.
The chaotic, frenetic start continued as Iwobi and Kolasinac found space down the left wing to create further chances for Iwobi, Aubameyang and Bellerin.
By the twentieth minute, Arsenal should have been out of site but the game remained at one nil as Spurs slowly woke up. Heung Min Son came close twice before Spurs turned the game on its head in a crazy five minutes.
On the half-hour mark Son won a free kick which Eriksen swung in for Eric Dier to glance in via a terrible volleyball style shovel into his own net by Leno.
Dier’s celebration sparked a 40 man brawl involving both benches and substitutes, Arsenal frankly massively overreacted and didn’t seem to have cleared their heads when two minutes later a clever backheel from Kane set up Son to run into the box only to be lunged at by Rob Holding; the contact was minimal but a penalty was justified. Harry Kane ignored the carnage around him to drill into the bottom corner and put Spurs into the lead after 34 minutes.
It was now Arsenal’s turn to be rocked as Mustafi and Holding lost their heads for the last part of the first half. Arsenal trailed at the break and have now failed to hold a halftime lead all season.
Thankfully for Arsenal they are the highest second-half scorers and with ten minutes of the second half gone, Aubameyang curled a glorious second before substitute Ramsey set Lacazette up and Torreira scored his first Arsenal goal to wrap up an incredible win for Arsenal who move into the top four. After registering their first win against a top-six side, Emery will feel real progress is being made.
Tottenham were second best most of the afternoon but will back themselves over the Christmas period with a run of fixtures against bottom half clubs to keep competing for the top four against their fierce rivals.
Game of the season
An absolute barnburner. The next time there is shock at the cost of Premier League TV rights or the scale of the bonus for the man who negotiated them, this game should be shown to every naysayer.
A North London Derby with a fiery style of twenty years ago, this game fizzled and crackled with intensity and featured everything a stone cold classic needs. Both sides came back from a deficit to lead, two penalties, a red card, a genuinely world-class goal, a bench-clearing brawl and flares being let off amid pandemonium of Arsenal going into a match-clinching lead.
Arsenal were deserved winners having been the best team for the opening twenty minutes and most of the second half, but Spurs deserve credit for their part in proceedings and will just wish they hadn’t stopped playing at two all.
It seems impossible to think we will see a better fixture all season than this beautiful, chaotic omnishambles of a game, and this was yet another reminder as to why the Premier League is still the most watched league in the world.
Aubameyang comes to the big stage
The Gabon International has had a great start to his Arsenal career since joining in January and his two goals today took him to 20 in 27 and to the top of the Golden Boot charts. However, the goals today were Aubameyang’s first against a “top six” side and showed he can cut it at the very highest level.
His first was a calmly taken penalty as a slaloming run up sat Lloris down and allowed him to roll the ball the opposite way. After Spurs had overturned that lead, Arsenal were rocking going into the second half until Aaron Ramsey hooked the ball to Aubameyang who gave Lloris no time to set himself by whipping it first time into the far corner from the edge of the area. That goal means Aubameyang has now scored ten goals from his last ten shots on target with Fabianski the last goalkeeper to make a save from an Aubameyang shot on August 25th.
A hat-trick was out of reach but Aubameyang found time to drift in from the right-hand side and slide in Torreira to seal the win.
Tottenham’s ‘Fab Four’ off the pace
Last weekend’s win against Chelsea was the first time all season that Pochettino was able to field all of Kane, Eriksen, Son and Alli. All four either scored or assisted a goal last week so judging them only on today is harsh.
However, it remains the case that not for the first time this season Harry Kane looked isolated, with Alli and Eriksen seemingly playing deeper than usual. Son won both the free kick and penalty that lead to the Spurs goals and his scampering energy and clever runs were Spurs’ best attacking outlet. Tottenham have a relatively soft run of fixtures coming up and if they are going to stay in the top four they will need their best four attackers on top form for a consistent run.
Maligned Dean in total control
It seems counter-intuitive to praise a referee in a game as breathtaking as today’s but given the abuse referees and Mike Dean often get, it seems appropriate to give him credit.
The game was a sprawling mess at times with tempers, tackles and atmosphere more reminiscent of 1998 than 2018.
Amongst this was a brawl after a celebration, two penalties and a nasty tackle that led to a red card. Dean dealt with it all in his stride and whilst the penalty decision that led to Kane’s goal was soft, there was contact by the reckless Holding and Dean gave himself a split second to process what he had seen before giving it.
He also spotted the intent in Vertonghen’s tackle on Lacazette and dismissed the innocent pleas in the correct fashion.
Dean’s swaggering, conversational style often borders on the patronising but he had a firm authoritative grip on proceedings today when the game could have easily become an ill-disciplined, stop-start encounter.
Absent Ozil barely missed
We’ve all worked with someone who misses one day a week with bizarre and spurious excuses and can’t work without having a brew first. Most of us don’t work with someone who gets rewarded upwards of quarter of a million for such nonsense.
Mesut Ozil missed the match today with a back spasm meaning since the start of last season he has missed 36% of all possible minutes in the Premier League all due to various unspecified illnesses and back injuries. Given Arsenal’s fast-paced, hard-pressing style which yielded this win the mercurial German was barely missed.
Unai Emery and the Arsenal board have already shown their ruthless side in getting rid of Aaron Ramsey and it would be no surprise to see Arsenal try and sell Ozil – dumping him on long-time admirer Jose Mourinho in January may be an option – as one of the Premier League’s biggest ever enigmas looks increasingly irrelevant in this Emery era.