The North London Derby has it all, forget the bragging rights and the territorial nonsense. This is a contest that requires application, desire and passion from every single player to be victorious.
Incident and controversy are never far away in this local cauldron clash and the odd fisticuffs normally surfaces at some point over the 90 minutes.
The fixture took on more significance this year, with Spurs failing in the Champions League and at a domestic level and from Arsenal’s perspective, the Europa league capitulation to Chelsea and inability to claim a top four slot.
The North London Derby was perfectly balanced with 3 points at stake, but more importantly, it was a validation of either side’s credentials.
The expectations of a Lacazette, Aubameyang and Pepe line up was immense and as always, it was hard to predict an Unai Emery team sheet and it’s something I haven’t ever done successfully. I’m not sure that he is any wiser as to what his best team is either.
Xhaka managed to blag his way into the team for the North London Derby, but to be honest, like many, I can’t fathom why. There were more examples in this game as to why he should be left on the bench or sold at the earliest opportunity but we’ll get to that.
Ceballos didn’t make the line up, which infuriated many simply because of his genuine creativity and the absence of it elsewhere in an Arsenal shirt. Supporters took it on the chin and watched a highly physical Spurs make the headway despite being the poorer team for periods.
A few spectators thought that Stoke had a laundry issue and were wearing the wrong shirts and one wag referred to the opposition as ‘Hackingham Sh#tspurs.’
Insults aside, Spurs took the lead after 10 minutes when Son picked out Lamela, who tried a fluffy shot which was spooned out by Leno to an advancing and grateful Christian Eriksen. It was a basic goalkeeping gaffe, which will make the German cringe when he watches it back.
Worse was to follow, which leads us back to chief clogger and clumsy commando, Granit Xhaka. It’s bad enough that Mustafi hands the opposition a goal on his rare appearance but in his absence, the Swiss international decided to commit a foul that showcased his ineptitude and stupidity.
Really, really stupid.
Spurs are always willing to grab a penalty, deserved or not and Xhaka dished out a two footed lunge on Son after he received the ball from the less famous Harry in a white shirt.
You could feel the anger of the fans who have quite frankly had enough of his mistimed, haphazard farmers tackles. Up stepped Harry Kane to bury the ball in the back of the net with 40 minutes gone.
Arsenal were back in it a minute later with Alexandre Lacazette. A speculative ball from the left saw the Frenchman increase his pace and stride to cut past a stationary Spurs defence before unleashing an Exocet shot.
Spurs had seemed to trade in their silky skills for brute force on the Emirates turf and there would be a fair old collection of nips, knocks and a blatant dive by Kane, who is as mobile as a bank vault. Shameful stuff from the England captain, who is impervious to receiving a deserved card or any form of reprimand.
Arsenal improved in the second half of the North London Derby and in the 70th minute Guendouzi, who must have been carrying his tackle exemption card, came from deep to deliver a delightful little dink to the Ferrari like Aubameyang, who prized through the central defenders to slot home in typical smash and grab fashion.
It was a goal that had been coming as the opposition seemed powerless to curb the Gunners’ attacking threat and it said everything about the brilliance of the Arsenal striker, but more about a shocking Spurs backline.
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In the 78th minute of the North London Derby, Arsenal thought they’d won it but they fell foul of the eagle eyed linesman who flapped his flag as if he might take off, Sokratis popped the ball in, but Kolasinac was justifiably ruled offside.
In the 83rd minute, both sides decided it was time for an irrational push and shove contest, which saw Sokratis get a yellow card. Arsenal will regret snatching a 2-2 draw from the jaws of victory, having looked the much better team.
As for Spurs they seem to be going backwards in their approach to around 1973, when you could decapitate a player and not even receive a wagging finger.
If the British Olympic swimming team ever need additional members to their diving team, Harry Kane should be top of the list.