Arsenal 2-0 Spurs
Well stone the crows – wotcha Arsenal!
There was a heavy dose of pessimism in the air in the run-up to this one; or if not pessimism, at least more anxiety than usual. All but the most myopic of us have seen Spurs improve in recent seasons, and we’ve also watched the Arsenal be their usual inconsistent selves. That might explain it in a nutshell.
Shimmying down the aisle to my seat, it was immediately apparent that it was one of those days where the Arsenal roof, in all its curved and comforting glory, had once again failed the good citizens of row 8. It doesn’t happen often, but you look up and see a roof that seems more than capable of putting on a show, then you look down and see rain, and you shake your first and mutter ‘Why I oughtta’ to the useless lump of cantilevered steel.
All I hoped was that the roof letting in the rain wasn’t a metaphor for what we were about to see.
So what would we get for lunch this time? It’s the classic Arsenal club sandwich – take your pick from fillings of winning unconvincingly, overdue brilliance and downright awful.
Fortunately, yesterday we dined on overdue brilliance. It was a little cagey at first, with a hairy moment when a defensive header went the wrong way (never a wise move) into the path of Kane, but fortunately nothing came of it. There was a lot of probing but a lot of solid defending on both sides.
Then just as I was prepared to laud a decent half that we could build on, we scored. I’ll be very Wengeric about this when I say I couldn’t see the free kick: you rarely can see the nuances of decisions from row 8, damp or otherwise, that happen down the other end. Not that it ever stops me claiming otherwise, you understand. Anyway, in it floated to a clearly onside Mustafi – I can see everything down the other end from where I sit, so I know what I’m talking about – who looped a glorious header in off the post.
Pandemonium! Then moments later, or so it seemed, we had number two. It was a Davor Suker-ish 45 degree finish from Alexis – risky to get your foot under it, but lovely when it works. There might have been some songs at this point questioning if the opposition would ever be any good. I may have joined in.
In the second half, with our tails up, we went up a gear. Solid at the back, where Koscielny and Mustafi were magnificent, we probed from wing-back and started taking advantage of the gaps being left as Spurs tried to get back into the game. It’s this kind of stage where Alexis and Ozil can be particularly brilliant, and they didn’t disappoint. There was one period of play – maybe 15 minutes, maybe 25 – when Ozil was the puppeteer pulling the entire team’s strings. Everything he did was brilliant and both he and Alexis – ably helped by the willing Lacazette – ran themselves into the ground.
What a shame two of that three are leaving. But that’s a discussion for another time.
We should have scored more, to be honest, but managed to see the game out with relative ease to mark out first win in eight north London derbies. And how good that felt, after all the stories of power shifts and first XIs filled with the token Arsenal player.
But let’s not get carried away with ourselves. Just as Spurs need to win something before the accolades can be justified, so too do Arsenal need to be more consistent to prove it’s not just your classic Arsenal cycle of boom, bust and somewhere in-between. Inconsistency is our age-old weakness.
Of course, I’ll enjoy this one till the cows come home. But how we could do with this being the start of something good, and not just an outlier.*
*Says he for the trillion-and-ninth time.
Up the rip-roarers!