Arsenal (3) 3 Tottenham Hotspur (0) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 26th September 2021. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Emile Smith-Rowe; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Alexandre Lacazette, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Nicolas Pépé, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Emile Smith-Rowe (12 mins), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (27 mins), Bukayo Saka (34 mins)
Yellow Cards: Nuno Tavares
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 47%
Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistant Referees: Ian Hussin and Dan Robathan
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Stuart Attwell; AVAR Constantine Hatzidakis
The first North London derby of the season, and just like all of the other previous ones, a win is paramount. Granit Xhaka returns to the line-up, whilst Nicolas Pépé is on the substitutes’ bench, other than that, the team is a familiar one to us, albeit at an average age of 24 years, 261 days, the youngest set of players that we have started with at a North London derby since 1988. Our line-up today is a strong one, and certainly the best that Mikel Arteta can put out as a starting eleven at this time: all we can hope for is a great performance from the team, one that can convert into a winning one this afternoon.
The visitors kicked off the match, after a well-observed round of applause from both sets of supporters across the stadium for Jimmy Greaves, who passed away a little while ago. A generally unsettled start to the match with a few reckless derby day tackles flying in here and there, but for the first ten minutes, it was us who were applying pressure on the Spurs goal with some good build-up play and one or two strikes on goal which came to nothing. Our passing was neat and precise, and on the twelfth minute, an unmarked Emile Smith-Rowe opened proceedings with a simple tap-in from close range after a superb cross from Bukayo Saka. We now started to dominate the match, with our confidence there for all to see. Thomas Partey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were both unlucky not to score with long range shots, and although Spurs started to try to come back into the match, their attempts were fairly easily neutralised by our defenders. We were fighting for every ball, with our players moving into position in order to receive it, which was truly fantastic to see after all we have been through a month ago. After twenty-seven minutes, we were two up when Emile Smith-Rowe received a superb ball from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and ran down the left channel, leaving the Spurs defender behind; he crossed it neatly for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stroke the ball home with his trusty left foot. We deserved our lead, as we were by far the most dominant team on the pitch today, and the sccoreline now reflected that. Seven minutes later, we grabbed a third when Harry Kane lost the ball to Bukayo Saka near the centre circle, who composed himself perfectly and ran through the Spurs defence, and despite being tackled, he swerved and jinked, then stuck the ball away past Hugo Lloris with some aplomb. Complete control now. Spurs are looking a mess in all departments, and we are looking both strong and confident, with six attempts, four on target, three goals. Coming up to the half-time break, we merely consolidated our play, and stayed in command until Craig Pawson blew his whistle to signal the half-time break.
We kicked off the second half with confidence and within a couple of minutes, Thomas Partey was unlucky not to score when his blistering shot went over the bar. And still we kept coming forward. We had a penalty shout denied by Craig Pawson, and although the subsequent corner went nowhere, it still showed intent. When the visitors tried to come forward at us, our “defence in depth” tactics appeared to be working well, and even when Aaron Ramsdale pushed away a shot from a long-distance Harry Kane attempt, Takehiro Tomiyasu was on hand to nick it off the feet of Son Heung-Min for a Spurs corner, which showed intelligene and top-class defending under pressure. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was unlucky not to score from close distance when a clever Emile Smith-Rowe free-kick found the Gabon international in space on the right-hand side. The match started to level out a bit, and although we still had control, we desperately needed another goal to cement our dominance. Bukayo Saka was unlucky not to score when he cut inside from the left-hand side and hit a low ball which was heading goalbound, but Hugo Lloris somehow managed to push it around the post for an Arsenal corner. With eleven minutes of the match remaining, Son Heung-Min grabbed one back from close range (whilst Granit Xhaka was lying on the pitch injured), and although Aaron Ramsdale got a hand to the shot, it was too powerful to stop. Granit Xhaka’s injury was such that he was unable to continue, so Albert Sambi Lokonga replaced him with nine minutes of the match remaining. And still we came forward; Kieran Tierney’s twenty-yard shot narrowly went wide, and although there were tired legs out there, we still kept our shape as Spurs started to attempt to knock on the door during the last few minutes of the game. Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe were replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Nuno Tavares with three minutes to go, and there was a lot of firm tackles flying around in the final stages. During the five minutes injury time, Lucas Moura hit a looping shot from about twenty yards; Aaron Ramsdale just got his fingertips to the ball and pushed it onto the crossbar and away for a Spurs corner. Despite this, it was the final act of the match, and we ran out more than worthy winners on the day.
Wow. A superb performance by everyone; we completely dominated the game, and by rights, we should have got even more goals, but regretfully we didn’t. Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka were truly immense and this victory against the old enemy must surely have given us the impetus to carry on and play in this manner from now on. The only minus point was that we tailed off a bit in the second half, but by then the match was won anyway, so in the greater scheme of things, it mattered not. A great win!
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Saturday, 2nd October at 5.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.