Arsenal got a long overdue win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Arsenal fielded their strongest available XI. That meant Shokdran Mustafi returned to the heart of the defence with Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal, while Alexandre Lacazette was supported by Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. There was a place on the bench for Ainsley Maitland-Niles at the expense of an ill Theo Walcott, along with Jack Wilshere, Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck.
For Spurs, Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane and Dele Alli returned to the starting line-up as expected. Christian Erisken played after his hat-trick for Denmark, while there was also a spot for Moussa Sissoko in midfield.
A wet and raucous Emirates Stadium greeted the two teams. Spurs were booed and whistled whenever they had the ball, while Arsenal pressed right up on Spurs’ back three. Spurs responded in kind, setting up a tense and physical match-up.
Five minutes in, Arsenal’s press got them a chance. Lacazette forced Dier into a mistake, and got the ball to Alexis. Alexis played him in. Lacazette fronted up the defender, but smashed his shot over the bar. A minute later, Kane got the ball on the left hand side, but his shot from a tight angle was straight at Cech.
The game, as expected, was played at a high tempo. Arsenal created some good openings down the left through Alexis and Lacazette, but were thwarted by some good defending. Spurs had their encouraging moments as well on the counter, and were having success winning the ball high into Arsenal’s half.
With 20 minutes gone, Arsenal had their best chance so far. Bellerin got free down the right hand side. His driven cross barely evaded Lacazette, who was well covered by two Spurs defenders.
Arsenal were mounting pressure on Spurs, forcing their defenders into giving away silly fouls and corners.
Half-hour gone, Arsenal came forward again. Ozil got in behind the right hand players and measured a ball across goal to a waiting Ramsey. However, it was cut out at the last moment. Arsenal’s final ball was a little lacking.
Spurs were then able to come forward when Xhaka gave away a silly free-kick. Ben Davies found himself with acres of space down the left, and was able to pull the back to Eriksen. His shot almost caught Cech out at the near post and struck the woodwork.
Spurs’ most dangerous moves were coming down that side, as Bellerin wasn’t getting tight enough to Davies.
Arsenal regained control of the ball. A long, raking pass from Ramsey found Alexis one-on-one with Davinson Sanchez. He took it down well and got it past him, but was stopped by what looked like an excellent piece of defending. Mike Dean, though, gave Arsenal a free-kick. Ozil whipped the ball in and found Mustafi, who out-jumped Vertonghen and looped a perfect header into the top corner. Lloris had no chance, and Arsenal had a deserved lead.
Five minutes before half-time, we doubled our lead. Lacazette, whose movement all half-long was exceptional, moved in behind and was found by a well-weighted pass from Bellerin. He cut the ball back to Alexis. His first touch was heavy, but he managed to recover it in time and rifle it into the roof of the net. Two goals was due reward for a physical, intense and weirdly competent Arsenal performance.
Even better, Arsenal managed to make it half-time without conceding. All we needed now was more of the same in the second half.
Two minutes into the second half and Mike Dean decided to give Mustafi a very soft yellow card. A couple of minutes later, he had to be convinced to give Kane a yellow card for slide tackling Mustafi off the pitch.
Tottenham were still getting some joy down our right hand side and getting numbers in the box for crosses. We managed to clear one cross and get a good break going between Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis and Lacazette fizzled out at the end. Spurs came back and had some half chances through Harry Kane, but some heroic defending from Arsenal kept them out.
Arsenal were spending more time protecting their lead and looking for counter attacks. With an hour gone, it was working, and limiting Spurs to long shots. Spurs made their first chance of the game, bringing on Harry Winks for Moussa Dembele. Arsenal were getting some joy on the counter, and on 70 minutes created a good chance for a third. Ozil cushioned the ball for Alexis on the edge of the box, but he scuffed his shot at Lloris.
Wenger then made a pragmatic sub that didn’t go down well with the fans. Lacazette was taken off for Francis Coquelin to shore up the midfield. Spurs responded by withdrawing Alli and Kane, who obviously hadn’t recovered enough to make any sort of impact, and bringing on Son and Llorente.
At this point, it was all about sitting in and protecting the lead we worked incredibly hard for. With added height on the pitch, Spurs were a threat from set-pieces. Dier got up against Monreal and aimed a header at the far post. Cech had to be at full stretch to keep the ball out. Fortunately, the ball dropped to an Arsenal player, and we were able to clear.
With six minutes to go, Ozil, who had put in an excellent shift, was swapped for a fresher Alex Iwobi. Spurs then made their best chance of the game. A direct ball up found Llorente, who needed it down to a free Son, but he blazed it over the bar. Arsenal continued to find space on the counter-attack, but were content to just get up the pitch instead of adding a third.
Four minutes of stoppage time were added on. Arsenal were looking comfortable. Alexis almost made it 3-0. He toiled away alone up front, managed to get in front of the Spurs defenders and work the keeper. He then chased after the rebound, lost his legs and fell over, typifying the amount of work he put in today.
Arsenal saw out the game for a excellent and overdue 2-0 win over the mighty Tottenham.