Arsenal knocked Tottenham out of the FA Cup at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
This third-round tie had been billed as too close to call but Arsène Wenger’s side produced a superb all-round performance to secure their spoils in this enthralling north London derby.
The excellent Serge Gnabry set up man-of-the-match Santi Cazorla to fire home the first in the 32nd minute. Just past the hour, Tomas Rosicky doubled the advantage when he stole the ball from Danny Rose on the halfway line and raced through to score with a cheeky chip.
Wenger had made all three substitutions before Theo Walcott was stretchered off with nine minutes left.
The 11 men overran territorially the 10 men in the dying stages. But, for all their pressure, keeper Lukasz Fabianski had needed to do little this evening.
That is testament to superb workrate and organisation from the home side.
Tottenham came to Emirates Stadium as a team in form but they were held at bay and picked off by an Arsenal outfit who are functioning at maximum capacity right now.
This was arguably the best performance of the season. And, given that Arsenal are top of the table, that is saying something.
North London is red this evening.
SETTING THE SCENE
In his pre-match media work, Wenger had suggested he would rotate only those players who were close to injury. That manifested itself in four changes.
Walcott was the central striker while Mesut Ozil had recovered sufficiently from his shoulder problem to be named as a substitute.
The early moments were high on noise, low on poise. The visitors had the first clear chance on nine minutes when Laurent Koscielny’s clearance hit Christian Eriksen. The Dane raced through but Fabianski deflected his shot behind.
Arsenal would respond with three great chances in rapid succession.
First Walcott tried to find the far corner with a long-range cross-shot but Hugo Lloris made a stretching save low to his right.
A minute later, the front man attempted to curl home a delicate effort from just outside the area but, fortunately for Tottenham, it deflected wide.
Finally Gnabry fizzed a drive inches over the bar.
It was one of a number of eye-catching contributions from the German youngster in the perhaps the biggest game of his career so far.
Eriksen repeated his trick at the other end in the 19th minute. Tottenham had begun with the purpose and ambition of a side brimming with confidence. But Arsenal would soon whittle that away.
After a scratchy start, the game had found a nice rhythm and breathless pace.
Cazorla curled an effort just wide and, midway through the half, Walcott went clear only for Lloris to block his effort with this legs.
By now, you felt Arsenal had a significant edge. In the 32nd minute they had a lead to go with it.
Gnabry drove forward powerfully across the area and fed Cazorla on the left. The Spaniard lashed home his second goal of the season.
The goal pushed Tottenham back into their shell and Arsenal tried to take advantage. Walcott volleyed over from a corner and, two minutes from the whistle, a sliding Bacary Sagna narrowly missed Cazorla’s free-kick at the far post.
Mertesacker replaced Vermaelen at the restart. It was no surprise as the Belgian had seemed to be struggling for the latter part of the first half.
Tottenham pressed Arsenal back in search of an equaliser. Again, it was expected, the home side had controlled matters once the game in the opening stanza. The visitors needed something to change.
However Wenger’s men would gradually exert their influence once more. On the hour, Gnabry released Walcott down the right. He beat Lloris but, from the tightest of angles, could only hit the side-netting.
The chance was a warning to Tottenham but they did not pay heed.
The second goal arrived in the 62nd minute. Rose dallied on the halfway line and Rosicky robbed him to go clear.
There was still work to do. But the experienced Czech midfielder held off the backtracking Kyle Walker before clipping a cute finish past Lloris.
Now Tottenham simply had to respond. Mousa Dembele thumped a shot into the chest of the diving Fabianski. But the Arsenal defence had shielded their keeper superbly this afternoon.
Wenger freshened his midfield – Wilshere and Arteta for Mathieu Flamini and Ozil.
But by now Tottenham had little choice but to pour forward.
From one such foray Arsenal nearly found a third when Walcott curled an effort just wide.
With nine minutes left the Englishman challenged Rose in the corner and had to be stretchered off. It left the home side playing out the final stages with 10 men.
The pressure cranked up but the massed ranks of the Arsenal defence held firm.
The home side nearly stole a third in injury time when Ozil’s low cross-shot was superbly tipped wide by Lloris.
A thoroughly satisfying occasion for the red half of north London.
- Vermaelen 45 Yellow Card
- Arteta 75
- Cazorla Goal!
- Rosicky Goal!
- Wilshere 71
- Mertesacker 45
- Flamini 71
- Ozil 75
- Soldado 63
- Chadli 63