Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal – Gunners lose out in North London Derby


Tottenham got the better of Arsenal in Sunday’s North London Derby on Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win that sends them 7 points clear of the Gunners in the table. Arsenal are also now 5 points behind Chelsea in 4th after the Blues beat West Brom 1-0 on Saturday. Tottenham can extend their advantage over both Arsenal and Chelsea next weekend if they beat Liverpool at Anfield next Sunday, whilst Chelsea take on Man United in the FA Cup and the Gunners have the weekend off due to Everton’s cup tie with Wigan.

It’s fair to say Arsenal were the better side for most of the first half. Tottenham did give warning signs to the Gunners defence when a couple of through balls intended for Gareth Bale were just about cut out by an Arsenal defender or just narrowly missed the intended target. The visitors had a large chunk of the possession in the opening half hour and looked dangerous going forward, but couldn’t quite find the right ball much like their opponents at the other end. The best chance Arsenal had was probably when Olivier Giroud controlled a fine ball from Santi Cazorla and Jan Vertonghen’s sliding challenge prevented Giroud from testing Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal.

In the 37th minute, Spurs found the right ball to Bale. Gylfi Sigurdsson sent the in form Welshman clear and he clipped the ball past Szczesny much to the delight of most people in the stadium. Arsenal appealed for offside, but replays showed that Bale was just about onside. It was very tight indeed and well worth appealing from an Arsenal point of view.

Just two minutes later and it got worse for Arsenal. Scott Parker sent Aaron Lennon through on goal before he rounded a stranded Szczesny to score Tottenham’s second. Santi Cazorla was down injured in the build up and Arsenal’s defence seemed to think the referee would blow the whistle, but you have to play until you hear the whistle boys.

Just like that, Arsenal’s chances in this game went from high to slim. A few minutes of first half madness cost Arsenal oh so dearly in a game they couldn’t afford to lose.

If Arsenal were to come back then they would either have to pull one back before the half time whistle or they’d have to score one fairly early on in the second half. The visitors were given hope just 6 minutes into the second half when Theo Walcott’s free-kick was met by the head of Per Mertesacker and ended up going in off of Bale’s head. The German international scored in the 5-2 win over Tottenham back in November and if the dubious goals panel decides to give this one to him instead of a Bale own goal, that’ll be two goals scored for Arsenal for Mertesacker, both coming in the North London Derby.

Big Per Mertesacker celebrates pulling one back.

With plenty of time left in the game, I’m sure plenty of Tottenham fans were beginning to worry that they could well blow a 2 goal lead on derby day yet again and provide a spark in Arsenal’s season once more.

The Gunners did threaten with Nacho Monreal firing wide and Carl Jenkinson’s cross providing a nervy moment for Lloris.

Arsenal had to go forward and as a result it left holes at the back. Tottenham could have wrapped up all three points when substitute Jermain Defoe saw his shot just creep wide and Sigurdsson opted to square the ball for Bale instead of shooting but Mertesacker was there to clear away the danger.

Tottenham arguably should have been punished for their failure to put the game to bed. Aaron Ramsey’s angled shot went agonisingly wide and Theo Walcott’s free-kick went the wrong side of the post in the dying minutes.

In the end Spurs held on for a crucial three points on derby day that gives them a bit of breathing room in the Champions League qualification places, ahead of both Chelsea and Arsenal. I think it is fair to say Arsenal could have had at least a point on another day, but for all their possession and control at times in the game, they still failed to create a whole lot of meaningful chances. Tottenham took two of theirs and punished the Gunners for not taking more of theirs.

The Champions League places are looking more difficult every week for Arsenal. They’ll have a little break next weekend due to Everton still being in the FA Cup which might do them some good right now. It’s then to Munich for the return leg of what is looking an impossible task for Arsenal to progress in the Champions League.

There is still plenty of football to play this season and both Chelsea and Spurs have difficult fixtures remaining. The trouble is, so do Arsenal. Arsenal don’t have a lot of games on their fixture list that you can honestly say “they’ll win that one for sure”. Even with some of the teams fighting relegation, we’re playing them at a time they could have to win to stay up or a game they can’t afford to lose in honesty. I’d like to be able to sit here and say Arsenal will qualify for the Champions League next season, but I can’t say I believe we will. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Spurs fall apart again or even Chelsea slip up (more likely at the moment) but will Arsenal be able to win their games?. I honestly don’t know.

I also believe Spurs have a bit more about them this season in honesty. I get the feeling that they were so mad that they blew their big lead over Arsenal last year and so frustrated with Chelsea pinching their Champions League spot that it may have made them hungrier to succeed. Add to that a manager that was also hungry to prove his critics from Chelsea wrong and show that he actually is a good manager if you give him some time, it sort of explains how they look more solid this season unfortunately. They also signed well last summer and managed to keep Bale despite losing Modric whereas Arsenal signed a few very good players, but nothing that could compare to the player they lost in Robin Van Persie.