Dominant Arsenal rip apart feeble Spurs in memorable North London derby
A first-half goal blitz saw the Gunners cruise to a 3-1 home win over London rivals Tottenham, whose last-minute consolation goal failed to mask an abject performance
“You’re getting sacked in the morning”, taunted the Arsenal supporters in the closing stages of the first North London derby of the season, as Spurs head coach Nuno Espirito Santo stood on the sidelines with a glum look on his face. Things didn’t get any better for him as Arsenal ran out 3-1 victors and he was heckled so loudly by the jubilant home fans that he walked away from a pitchside post-match interview without saying a word.
Goals from Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka saw Mikel Arteta’s side race to a three-goal lead within 35 minutes of the first half as they took advantage of a shocking Tottenham performance. The away side improved after making some half-time changes, but their only reward came late on when Heung-min Son slotted home a consolation.
This was the continuation of an encouraging recovery for Arsenal, coming on the heels of consecutive 1-0 wins over Burnley and Norwich, after a torrid start to their season. Spurs, however, are following the exact opposite trajectory. Three 1-0 wins in the league in August have been followed by three straight losses in September, with their defence conceding three goals in each match.
The first goal here came in the 12th minute. Arsenal had bossed possession so far and their early dominance paid dividends. Martin Odegaard was allowed to run at the Spurs backline before passing off to Saka in the inside-right channel. Sergio Reguilon failed to put any pressure on the Arsenal youngster as he entered the box and squared the ball across goal. Smith Rowe ghosted in from the left to meet the pass perfectly and turn it into the net from 10 yards.
Having gone a goal behind, Tottenham were forced to attack more and up their pressing game. But this meant Arsenal had opportunities to hit their opponents on the counter. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, as the lone defensive midfielder, was constantly overrun in midfield with Saka, Odegaard and Smith Rowe exploiting the spaces between him and the defence.
The Gunners’ next two goals both came from quick breaks. In the 28th minute, Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale played a hospital short pass to Granit Xhaka, who was immediately put under pressure by Hojbjerg while facing his own goal. Sensing an opportunity, several white shirts rushed forward, but the Swiss midfielder showed great strength and composure to turn away from his man with the ball at his feet.
With Spurs players suddenly out of position, Kieran Tierney passed upfield to Aubameyang, who produced a wondrous flick around the corner to send the ball into the path of the onrushing Smith Rowe. Arsenal’s no. 10 charged into the box before slipping the ball back to Aubameyang, whose bouncing shot from just inside the area flew into the bottom-right corner.
Nuno’s misery was further compounded in the 34th minute. Harry Kane dithered in possession and stumbled over the ball 30 yards from the Arsenal goal, allowing Thomas Partey to nick the ball away and spark another break. Smith Rowe’s pass gave Saka the chance to run down the right and cut infield with the ball. Kane, trying to make amends for his mistake, rushed back to tackle his England teammate, but the ball broke kindly for Saka in the box and he sidefooted home past Hugo Lloris.
Spurs made a couple of changes at the interval, taking off the ineffective Dele Alli and Japhet Tanganga for Oliver Skipp and Emerson Royal. The substitutions, accompanied by a formation change, had a positive effect. Skipp and Hojbjerg gained more control in midfield and Spurs improved. But Arsenal were still playing well on the break.
There were a couple of penalty shouts early on in the half at both ends. The one involving Ben White bringing down Kane should probably have been given, but the referee waved it away. Kane then had another great chance, brilliantly bringing down a long ball and getting past Takehiro Tomiyasu. But the Tottenham captain fluffed his finish, lifting the ball over Ramsdale but past the post.
Lloris then denied Saka a second goal, before the Spurs substitute Bryan Gil found Reguilon in space down the left in the 79th minute. Reguilon’s cross was met by an emphatic finish from Son past Ramsdale. The keeper got a hand to the ball but was unable to keep it out.
Xhaka limped off injured after jarring his knee in a collision with Lucas Moura. The Brazilian then went close for Spurs in added time, his long-range effort taking a deflection off an Arsenal player and looping towards goal. But Ramsdale managed to acrobatically tip the ball onto the crossbar.
At the final whistle, Arteta led the wild celebrations with the home fans. After all the pressure and doubt piled on him, his Arsenal side finally look like they have turned a corner. His opposite number Nuno is now the one under the harsh spotlight, admitting afterwards that he had picked the wrong side for the match. After such a dispiriting month, he will be hoping that October turns out better for him and his team