Van Persie makes a mockery of Spurs' class pretensions
Arsenal 3 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Tottenham's week of tough talking comes to nothing as Wenger's seniors romp home in north London
Sunday 01 November 2009
It was 70 minutes before the "Olés" started echoing round the stadium, but when they did there was an extra glee greeting every Arsenal touch, an audible rebuke to neighbours who had been unwise enough to suggest they might be approaching the standards set by Arsène Wenger these past 13 years. Five minutes earlier Tottenham's captain, Robbie Keane, had been hauled off, presumably regretting his words earlier in the week about the respective strength of the squads; the performance of Arsenal's understudies in seeing off Liverpool in the Carling Cup had already provided sufficient evidence to the contrary.
The boy wonders have played their part when required in Arsenal's run of nine successive home wins in all competitions, in which 29 goals have now hit the opposition net. Had their elders and supposed betters not taken so long to find the right gear yesterday, the average would have soared above three per game and we would have been checking for Tottenham's biggest derby defeat in recent times.
For 42 minutes, as Harry Redknapp pointed out with considerable frustration, there seemed no possibility of any such outcome. In that period the visiting bench were more concerned by the spectators behind them – Sir Alex Ferguson has complained about the same thing in the past – than anything happening on the pitch.
When Keane latched on to a downward header from Peter Crouch in almost the first threatening attack by either side, there had been promise of better things. That tactic, limited as it was, worked successfully enough, for Crouch was still winning headers right at the finish and William Gallas would have required a lift from Thomas Vermaelen in the manner of a rugby line-out to stop him. But without the attacking talents of Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric and Jermain Defoe, there was little else to offer.
Further back, the hustlers supposed to be shaking up Arsenal's dainty midfield passing failed to make an impression, physical or otherwise, and a ponderous defence always looked likely to be exposed by pace and craft; notably that of Robin van Persie, who is becoming a mobile modern centre-forward of rare ability. His two goals were his seventh and eighth in the past nine games.
Concerned by five matches without a clean sheet, and especially the late collapse at West Ham last weekend that cost two points, Wenger instructed Alex Song and Abou Diaby to sit tight, freeing Cesc Fabregas to weave his magic wherever he wished. Scoring the second goal 11 seconds after the kick-off following Van Persie's first, in this of all games, added another little tale to the Arsenal story.
"In the first half-hour we couldn't find our usual fluency and played a little with the handbrake on," Wenger admitted. After that, it was top gear. "We scored the first goal and straight away took advantage of their shock for the second," he added. "It was important not to concede a goal, as that could have caused a panic, but we had a good defensive performance and the back five were very efficient."
That included Manuel Almunia, back in goal for the first time since 12 September, who got away with a couple of slight fumbles and made one excellent save from David Bentley's free-kick in the second half.
So the two Manchester clubs are still the only ones to have lowered the Arsenal flag this season. Whether or not the Londoners find City's full team too strong when the young Gunners return to Eastlands in the Carling Cup quarter-final, Wenger has always believed more strongly than most – including Redknapp – that they can win the League for the first time in six years. "I have said so since the first day of the season and I'm not going to change after today," he said. "We have the attitude and spirit in the squad and that's what we want to show."
The handbrake, as he said, was on for a while in an opening 40 minutes of only a couple of chances. Heurelho Gomes pulled off a good save from Fabregas from the first of them and Van Persie wasted the second before contriving an opportunistic opening goal.
Bacary Sagna's low cross following a throw-in on the right ought to have been a defender's ball but Van Persie stole in ahead of Ledley King to squeeze it past Gomes. Straight from the kick-off Eduardo, who was on early for the injured Nicklas Bendtner, dispossessed Wilson Palacios. With Spurs in shock Fabregas veered through three challenges and ran on to score.
The whole mood of the afternoon changed and could only have been altered by Tottenham claiming the next goal. Bentley's free-kick was their one opportunity to do so but within 60 seconds of Almunia turning it over the bar the referee, Mark Clattenburg, played a good advantage, allowing Sagna – once he had stopped and then started again – to supply Van Persie again, this time for a tap-in.
Thereafter it was all mocking and gloating at Spurs' expense, of which there would have been more if Eduardo, clean through, and the substitute Emmanuel Eboué, with a free header, had done what they should.
Wenger, having reached 1,000 points in the Premier League with yesterday's three, summed up: "I think it's been a fantastic week for the club. We beat Liverpool and Tottenham with the style that is now our style and I am very proud of that."
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: Van Persie
Match rating: 6/10
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