A goal fest was widely expected prior to the match by the way the two teams were playing and from the recent history of north London derbies. Proceedings in last season's corresponding fixture in February were still fresh to our memory, especially for those who went to watch the game together in Benidorm. The game made our annual Benidorm trip very special. We hoped that Arsenal would repeat the feat, but who would have expected the same scoreline?
The both teams went into the derby in an equally indifferent form. Tottenham had as long an injury list as ours. However, our expectations were not high following the disappointing result for the weekend before and there was little time to rectify the defensive problems due to the midweek international break.
Arteta (hip), Giroud (hamstring/calf), and Sagna (fatigue) were all declared fit, as well as Szczesny, Walcott, and the Ox, who all passed fitness tests on Friday. Vermaelen continued to play as left-back with Santos once again on the bench. Szczesny was back in goal for the first time since our 6-1 win over Southampton in early September. Wilshere started after serving a one-match ban against Fulham. Apart from the left-back position, Arsenal's starting line-up was pretty much the strongest side.
There is no doubt about the sending off of Emmanuel Adebayor had a big impact. How a Tottenham side was affected by the sending-off was remarkable. Sometimes a 10-men team plays better and goes on to win the game. Tottenham could have sat back deep and protected their lead. But losing their main man, who was lively from the beginning, seemed to have been too much for AVB's side.
As far as Arsenal were concerned, it was imperative to take the lead before half time. We found an equaliser as Per Mertesacker headed home 6 minutes after the Togo striker's dismissal. Arsenal relentlessly attacked the 10-men Tottenham's defence, creating a number of chances. They had to make the most of the numerical advantage and take the lead before half time in order to stop Tottenham from coming back and prevent self-doubt from creeping into their own mind. And Arsenal did that, and even better they ended the first half with a two-goal cushion.
Tottenham reorganised themselves in half time, with the two full-backs replaced by centre-half Dawson and the injection of Dempsey at the start of second half. It made a difference, but Arsenal extended the lead on the hour through an excellent link-up play. At 4-1, some of us were still not totally relaxed even against a 10-men team, after Arsenal had surrendered a 2-0 goal twice recently. And they were right. Tottenham scored a goal, taking advantage of our sloppy passing and lapse of concentration in defence. However, as the clock was ticking away and Spurs failed to take a chance, Arsenal regained their control and even found enough time to add a fifth to their goal tally in the injury time.
The biggest positive from this game was the result obviously. We desperately needed a good result to boost our confidence and we got it.
Another positive was that five goals were scored by five different players. Especially, it is good to see our three strikers have their share of goals. After RVP's departure this summer, how he could be replaced was a major concern. A player who scored 39 goals a season is difficult to replace, but his 39 goals can be replaced. Here is an interesting stat. Our goal tally at this time of the last year was 37 goals after 20 games played (we played two extra games last season as we had to go through play-offs against Udenese in the Champions League.) We have scored so far this season 6 more goals (43) after two fewer (18) games. Do we miss RVP?
We might have needed the numerical advantage, but Arsenal's attack has finally clicked. It appears now there is some understanding in attacking.
Hopefully, this game will spark Arsenal's form as last season's corresponding fixture did.