Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur: The Best Kind of Deja-Vu

So, you know what sucked about this game?


...wait for it...


We all know that with our stuttering opening to the season, a loss or even a draw could have sent us into a tailspin that we may not have recovered from. Instead, with an assist from You Know Who, the side overcame early nerves to chalk up an emphatic win - hopefully one that kickstarts the run we need to get back into the Champions League places.

Given our injury list, the starters mostly picked themselves. Arsene Wenger's only decisions were that Theo Walcott was the right wide forward, and Wojceich Szczesny made a welcome return in goal. Meanwhile, of course it was against us that Andre Villas-Boas finally worked out that he should play his best goalkeeper. Hugo Lloris manned the Spurs net, which honestly made me a bit nervous.

Then again, Villas-Boas couldn't find a place for Clint Dempsey or Gylfi Sigurdsson, who both specialize in shredding mediocre defenses like ours. That made me feel a lot better.

That feeling quickly dissipated though, as the visitors ferociously tore into us from the first whistle. The Gunners barely touched the ball, and the backline looked as fragile as ever. An early free kick led to a William Gallas goal rightly chalked off for offside. Still, it was a danger sign that went unheeded, and our nearest and dearest were 1-0 up two minutes later.

Tottenham's ridiculously-high defensive line paid dividends, as Jan Vertonghen reached the halfway line before playing a long ball over the top. The Arsenal defense were all over the shop, Per Mertesacker the worst offender. The BFG was miles outside of the penalty area, marking no one in particular. That allowed the long ball to find Defoe, who ran at our short-handed defense. His angled shot caught Szczesny leaning the wrong way, but the Polish stopper shifted his weight to make a fabulous save. Sadly, the rebound was dead-central in the six-yard box, and our old friend Emmanuel Adebayor easily tapped it in. Thomas Vermaelen can't entirely be blamed for losing him due to the BFG's bizarre wanderings, but he didn't cover himself in glory, either.

Worse, only an iffy finish from Aaron Lennon kept it from being 2-0 seconds later. Luckily, he dragged his shot wide. At this stage though, the visitors were rampant, with no outward sign that Arsenal would find their way back into the match.

That said, the great thing about our rivals is that they never fail to find a way to fail. Nineteen minutes in, they were threatening to run away with a famous win. Twenty minutes in, they were down to 10 men thanks to a petulant and moronic challenge from Adebayor. His flying two-footed Jeet Kune Do kick on Santi Cazorla earned serious Bruce Lee style points. However, it also earned a deserved red bit of cardboard from Howard Webb.

Game on.

Arsenal immediately flipped the script on the match and dominated proceedings. It only took five minutes for the men in red to find the equalizer - however fragile we may be at times, their mob are twice as frail.

Walcott was the catalyst, his run down the right tormenting the overmatched Kyle Naughton. He sent his cross in, perfectly anticipating that Per Mertesacker would drift off his marker. Tom Huddlestone was nowhere to be found as the Big Fucking German guided a gorgeously-weighted precision header over the dive of Lloris and into the top corner. It was his first for the club, with hopefully many more to follow.

Unsurprisingly, that was all it took for Spurs to go to pieces. Arsenal's tails were up now, and Lloris has to be sharp to palm over a header from Olivier Giroud. Cazorla fired just over the bar seconds later, and you had to think the breakthrough was arriving soon. Spurs had one more let-off when Giroud thumped another header straight at Lloris, who did exceptionally well to catch and hold it. In fairness, he was fantastic for having given up 5 goals - sorry if it angers you that I'm praising one of their lot here, but I'm a goalkeeper and we stick together. Deal with it.

Had they made it to halftime at 1-1, this may have been a much different report. Thankfully, a slice of luck and determined pressing from the Arsenal saw us take the lead in the 42nd minute. Bacary Sagna played in Mikel Arteta, who worked a one-two with Jack Wilshere. The Spurs defense just about dealt with it, but it bobbled out to Lukas Podolski, whose shot banked off of Gallas and in.


Well, actually, bliss was going 3-1 up just before the stroke of halftime. Lennon conceded a free kick, which was cleared out as far as Cazorla. The little Spaniard proceeded to rampage through the Tottenham defense, even getting hacked down at one point. He simply got up, kept running, and cut it back to Giroud on the edge of the six. The pass was a bit behind him, but the Frenchman was able to lean back and direct a quick shot past Lloris at his near post. Quietly, the big man has been on a fine run of form in the last few weeks, and that in particular was a great goal.

The second half saw Villas-Boas make two changes - Naughton's day mercifully ended in favor of Michael Dawson, and Dempsey on in place of Kyle Walker. It was bizarre on the face of it - that left them with no fullbacks, and a three-man defense. It worked though, as they clawed their way back into the game and might have gotten back into it were the Arsenal not so strong on the day.

That strength showed when Walcott shrugged off what appeared to be a horrific landing on his shoulder, then popped up to play a part in Arsenal's fourth goal minutes later. Around the hour mark, a long goal kick was well won by Giroud, on to Walcott. Theo played in Podolski down the left, who in turn dragged a pass back along the edge of the six. Cazorla timed his run impeccably, and was left with the easiest of tap-ins at the back post.

I suppose you can forgive the Gunners for taking their foot off the gas at that point. As supporters, we would want them to run up the score as much as possible against a demoralized 10-man Tottenham side. However, practicality dictates that with games coming thick and fast, you take your chances to coast when they come along.

Still, it could have been 5-1 had Lloris not robbed Walcott. Instead, they went up the other end and clawed one back when Laurent Koscielny stood way too far off of Gareth Bale. It was an annoying goal to give up, but there's no better time to do so than when you're up 4-1.

Of course, it's easy to be that cavalier after our guests spurned two solid chances to get back into the game. Bale was at the center of the first, his run down the left stretching the Arsenal defense. Luckily, he opted to shovel a poor-angle shot wide rather than cut back to the open Defoe. The second was Defoe hilariously air-kicking a shot after Szczesny flapped at a corner.

I shudder to think what may have happened had they got it back to 4-3. Instead, they punched themselves out with those missed chances, leading to a largely comfortable last 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Arsene's letter of the day was clearly "A", his subs comprising of Andre Santos, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

There was one moment of joy left though, thanks to a moment of panic from Vertonghen. His pass was well pressured by Oxlade-Chamberlain, who won possession and was off to the races. The back side of the Spurs defense fell asleep, and Walcott took advantage. The Ox played him in, and Theo finished brilliantly past Lloris. It was the perfect capstone to the day, adding deserved gloss to the scoreline.

Beating the auld enemy in this fashion can't help but galvanize the team, and the timing couldn't be better. The truth is that Montpellier is a joke of a team and should be dispatched without a second thought - especially at home. But, we cannot afford a slip-up - even a draw will make Matchday 6 at Olympiacos far too nervy an occasion for my liking. A good win there, followed by another at a flailing Aston Villa side, should leave us in good stead for the tricky visit to Everton on the 28th.

That's all for another time though. For me, the only acceptable reaction to Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham is joy, laughter....and perhaps just a soupcon of gloating. We'll analyze everything else after Montpellier.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Vermaelen 6, Koscielny 7, Mertesacker 7, Sagna 7, Podolski 8 (Santos 7), Arteta 7, Wilshere 7 (Ramsey 7), Cazorla 8, Walcott 9, Giroud 8 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 7)

Man of the Match: An informal poll at the Blind Pig saw quite a few votes for Giroud, and several for Cazorla. Both are great shouts - our whole forward line was dynamic and incisive. However, as ever I'm the outlier - I have to stump for Theo Walcott. His pace made Tottenham pay for their suicidally-high defensive line, and he seemed to be in the center of every dangerous offensive move we put together.