Few games in football get your blood pumping like Derby Day. Cup finals always hold their own, but derbies against Tottenham are these fixtures that both carry weight in the course of the season and stand alone in isolated importance. They are unpredictable and heated. Losing is simply unacceptable. Teams and managers are judged differently when it comes to derbies and a win can change impressions of a season over night.
These fixtures singlehandedly carry the ability to make major statements — for better or worse.
Less than twenty-four hours before Arsenal kicked off a potentially season-defining match, fans were kicking off online as news broke that Mykhailo Mudryk was being swept out from under Edu and destined for Chelsea. For a good portion of the fanbase, the news did not go down well. For a smaller contingency, it sent thoughts spiraling into a full meltdown.
Tweets calling for Edu’s immediate sacking were flying. Infuriated suggestions that this failure all but ensured the death of Arsenal’s title hopes were hurled. Others going even further and suggesting that this level of failure could be a catalyst for Mikel Arteta to leave to the club in the summer. A handful even spun tweets reminding people that Saka, Saliba, and Martinelli are due for extensions and suggested the club probably won’t get those done anymore. Chalk it up to the emotional blow of losing a real prospective talent, but people really lost sight of reality.
A day later, Arsenal rolled into Tottenham Hotspur Stadium carrying pressure on a lot of fronts. The pressure of a north London Derby, front and center; the pressure that inherently comes with being on tope of the table; the pressure to seize an opportunity to widen the gap at the top, handed to them yesterday when Manchester United beat Manchester City; and a real opportunity to simmer the fanbase revolt. A win offered a dream result while a loss could cast the morale into a living nightmare.
Only the players will know if these pressures and opportunities truly registered with them, but if they did, they served as a catalyst for an absolutely dominant first half.
The first few minutes looked rocky as the team settled in, but from there Arsenal proved once more how composed, dominant, and in control they are in hostile territory. An own goal from a Lloris blunder and an absolutely class finish from Ødegaard from long range separated the two teams on the scoreboard, but a gulf in levels of play told an additional story.
It could easily have been 4-0 at half had Nketiah finished his close-range opportunity and Thomas Partey’s Goal-of-the-Season-worthy effort not rocketed off the woodwork, but it wasn’t just about the goals. Arsenal dominated the ball and space, the Zinchenko-Partey relationship flourished and seems to get better by the day, and Arsenal’s midfield mopped the floor with Spurs to take advantage of a real exploitation point.
A near-perfect first half lead by humming attack was followed by a stout defensive performance in the second half. Spurs have created a name for themselves as a second-half team, and they threw a lot at the Gunners out of the gates. In the rewatch, a few people may feel less enthused by the amount of work required by Aaron Ramsdale, but this is why good teams go out an by quality keepers. The Man of the Match made 7 saves, countless claims and punches, and came up with the goods time and time again to keep the sheet clean and three points.
It would be impossible to talk about this game without talking about what happened at the end. Theres little doubt that Ramsdale spent the second half winding up the Spurs fans, he has a history. There’s also no doubt that Spurs fans spent the second half battering Ramsdale. It’s expected, it’s part of the game, and there’s nothing wrong with fans and players bantering one another and playing their mind games. What becomes a problem is when it crosses a clear line, and fans and players know that line.
Often we see that line breached for racial abuse — another horrific aspect of the game that needs stamping out — but to have a fan feel so enraged and emboldened that they hop the barricade and physically attack a professional at their place of work, that’s simply embarrassing. Richarlison does himself no favors either the way he gets in Ramsdale’s face, and no one will care that he was unwilling to apologize for it after the match. It’s all embarrassing for the offenders, the club as a whole, and the game. At least the game and club can salvage their reputation by taking action in the coming days, and they really should. Fans should never feel comfortable displaying these responses, even in a match as heated as a north London Derby.
Overall, you’d be hard pressed to find an Arsenal fan upset about the day and performance as a whole. A comprehensive win always feels good when it involves stuffing Tottenham on their turf. But more importantly, it was a win and performance that checked a lot of boxes, including:
- A big game performance from Eddie Nketiah who was sharp in every aspect except his finishing, oddly enough
- An exceptional day for the Zinchenko-Partey partnership and its growth
- Another clean sheet, including a great response from Saliba who has been rusty since the World Cup break
- Elite levels of play from Ødegaard and Saka that are no longer a surprise to see. They simply play, control, and impact games at a level corresponding with some of the Premier League’s top players
On an individual level, and team level, there is so much to be excited about here. As a team, this clean win sends another message to the rest of the league and internal fans as well. Arsenal responded to the pressure, they seized their opportunity, and hopefully sent a message to Gooners that this title race is far from “finished” just because Mudryk wasn’t signed.
It’s tough to say if Arsenal NEED another player in order to compete for a title considering they are leading the race without that player. There are routes, albeit maybe not ideal ones, that see Arsenal navigate the remaining fixtures with their slim squad, but everyone would feel a whole lot better about chances if the club could land a quality addition in January. With the Europa League return on the horizon, match congestion will be a challenge that needs navigating, and the margins are tight.
In the meantime, feel the confidence, enjoy the win, and remind yourself just how much quality exists within this side. Arsenal are good, very good, and this win over Tottenham continues to enforce that statement.
This coming week bodes well for Arsenal. Manchester City will play Tottenham on Thursday and neither team can really afford to lose points. From an Arsenal perspective, any result has its positives. If Spurs win, City drop points. If City win, Spurs season feels all but finished in January and that is amazing. If it’s a draw, Arsenal get a taste of both, which may be as good as it gets.
On their own front, the Gunners have a full week off before Manchester United come to the Emirates. However, United have a midweek clash with Crystal Palace to contend with which could give Arsenal that slight upper hand in both preparation and rest time. With revenge on the mind after dominating United at Old Trafford only to fall short on the scoreboard, this week could prove to be another great one in the pursuit of a title if some pieces can fall into place.
Enjoy the week!