Wenger’s tried and trusted prove too good for Spurs
Giroud’s goal enough for Arsenal to win north London derby
Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring against Tottenham Hotspur during their Premier League soccer match at the Emirates. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Arsenal 1 Tottenham 0: There has been much made of Arsenal’s summer transfer policy and there will be plenty more shouting before the window finally closes at 11pm on Monday night but, to Arsene Wenger’s mind, something fundamental has been overlooked. It is the enduring capacity of his starting XI, the one that has lost only once since March 3rd and has repeatedly found the means to get the job done.
Tottenham Hotspur’s visit, Wenger had said, was “another opportunity to show we are strong”. Their rivals might have spent all of the money – £110.5m to be precise – but there is life in the tried and trusted. This did not represent vindication – Arsenal and Wenger will be judged over nine long months - but it felt pretty close.
Arsenal created the better chances, both in the first half and on the counter in the second and they deserved the victory, which was given to them by Olivier Giroud’s fourth goal in five matches, even if it got pretty nervous for them at the end. Wenger finished with the full backs, Nacho Monreal and Bacary Sagna, in the wide midfield positions but Tottenham, despite building pressure, struggled to create anything of clear-cut note.
Theirs has been another summer of transition and it is obvious that their European and South American signings will require the time to gel; to knit as a cohesive whole in order to absorb the kick in the guts that is the loss of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, albeit for eye-watering money. They were never out of this game but they never truly looked like getting something. Arsenal’s full-time celebrations were frenzied. They hope that the win can prove a touchstone.
This was continuity versus a shake-up; the hare against the tortoise. Arsenal have always got there in the end, in terms of finishing above Tottenham, no matter how dynamic their rivals have looked in bursts but this season is supposed to be different, according to Tottenham. They are the club that is twisting, as Arsenal merely stick.
Claim and counterclaim or, in layman’s parlance, arguments, form the bedrock of derby day, as does passion and head-wrecking intensity. The atmosphere here was raw, the tempo high while action fizzed. It was gripping stuff.
Arsenal’s goal was a beauty, even if Andre Villas-Boas would have winced at the space that Theo Walcott was afforded in the inside right channel or wondered how he did not fall victim to Tottenham’s offside trap. The problem was that while the team’s defenders on the left were high up, those in the middle were not.
Walcott accepted Tomas Rosicky’s pass and he crossed low for Giroud, who worked himself clear of Michael Dawson to execute a wonderfully instinctive left-footed flicked finish. Hugo Lloris was beaten at his near post but not embarrassed.