I think it's fair to say that we, collectively as Arsenal fans, feared the worst ahead of Sunday's face-off against our darkest rivals. It had been dubbed the 'most important derby of Wenger's reign' and some were talking about the 'switch of power' between the two clubs. Of course, none of us would openly admit that this was the case, even if we had been on the receiving end of this amazing scoreline. However, I do feel as though this is one of, if not the most important wins under Arsene.
It wasn't just the 'win' that made it so satisfying, although a win was of imperative importance. It was the manner in which the deed was done. Coming from two goals down in any situation is tough, but it does not get much harder than this.
We started the way many expected us to, on the back foot. Tottenham were playing their usual (for this season, and this season alone) passing, flowing game, whilst we seemed unable to play a two yard pass. Experienced players like Alex Song, Tomas Rosicky and even one of the stars of our season Laurent Koscielny had lost their basic footballing abilities, and it was shaping up to be a very depressing afternoon indeed.
All too predictably Sp*rs took the lead four minutes into the game. They saw what seemed like kilometres of space in the middle of the Arsenal defence, and played Louis Saha through. In typical Tottenham fashion, he then blasted the ball which deflected via Thomas Vermaelen's foot and looped over Sczcesny's helpless head. Tottenham do get lucky breaks against us, don't they? (Think the Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and David Bentley goals, as well as Rafael Van der Vaart's handball 'goal' in the return leg earlier this season). Lucky breaks aside, you make your own luck in football and all that.
We looked fragile, Sp*rs looked dangerous. It would have taken either a very brave man or an extremely optimistic Gooner to predict an Arsenal win from here. The next 15 minutes was a period of intense Sp*rs pressure, and although they never really threatened Woj's goal, they were cutting our defence open far too often for my liking. I could single out any one of those defender's for their defending for the first goal, or the next 15 minutes, but I don't feel this is down to individual errors. No, it is something far more worrying than that, it is the defence as a unit. This needs to be sorted fast, and it seems to have crumbled (defending as a whole) ever since Mertesacker got injured. I'm not saying he is the perfect defender, nor has he fully adapted to the English game yet, but he is the organiser of our defence and that is something which he does extremely well.
From this point onwards, the game belonged to Arsenal. We were starting to pass the ball vaguely accurately (Hurray!) and we were actually looking a bit more creative around the Sp*rs box, particularly when Yossi Benayoun was involved. Which is why the second Sp*rs goal was all the more cruel. Bale took the ball from just inside our half and charged at our defence, revealing the pace, or lack of it that Gibbs has. He got into the box and Sczcesny charged off his line, and took him down. Wait, no he didn't! There was no contact whatsoever! Bale was booked for the third time this season for diving, and it was a freekick to Arsenal inside our own box, no problem. Sadly not, as we all know Mike Dean does love a penalty or two in a game, and sure enough it was given. Adebayor then hammered it home past Sczcesny from the spot, ignoring the 55, 000 jeering Arsenal supporters and sensibly deciding not to celebrate.
So 2-0 Sp*rs after just 34 minutes, it was all looking pretty grim for Arsenal. If a win was looking unlikely before, near impossible now. I for one could barely watch anymore, and the supporters around me were actually voicing their discontent (when Arsenal fans are making noise, something terrible/brilliant has happened). It took a bullet header from Sagna just six minutes later to give the Arsenal fans something to cheer about and some hope, and the task became somewhat more feesable.
You could see by the players' reaction to this goal that they were hungry to get back in the game, and we actually saw, first hand, some of the spirit and grit Arsene so often talks about when questionned about this team. Three minutes later, in the 43rd minute, came our equaliser. And what a way to do it, van Persie turning around three Sp*rs players before curling one past Friedel from the outside of the box. A peach. Tottenham players deflated, Arsenal ones uplifted.
If there was one player that still wasn't getting those simple passes and control right, that is young Theo Walcott. In fact before we got back into the game, the Arsenal fans, including myself, made it clear to him what they thought of his recent performances. It's fair to say that he responded to this criticism in an extremely impressive manner after Wenger decided to keep him on after half time for the 'quality of his runs'.
Half time wasn't really welcomed at the Emirates, we had our rhythmn and at that moment it seemed like anything was possible. However, the half time break did not change a thing, and we emerged from the second half even better than we ended the first. Surely enough, six minutes into the second half, Tomas Rosicky capped off an excellent arsenal move with a poachers finish and a remarkable comeback from 2-0 down against our biggest rivals was complete. Calls of 'We want you to stay 'Arry Redknapp' echoed around the Emirates towards the Spurs fans, and '2-0, and you fucked it up!'. Nothing else seemed to matter by this point, the defeat in the FA Cup, the thrashing in Milan, even the other Sp*rs game, because this was really quite special. Finally this Tottenham side were being taught a lesson, and as one banner at the Emirates stated, "Class is Permanent".
We weren't done yet, though, oh no. 15 anxious minutes later, Robin van Persie found himself in akers of space down the left wing, and when both remaining Sp*rs defenders came to him, he drove the ball to Theo Walcott, who simply ran into the box, taking an extremely poor touch on the way, but chipping over Friedel and into the net to make a quality goal. He may have had an extremely poor game, in fact many extremely poor games, but for this split second, all was forgiven. And you could see how much it meant to him.
The icing on the cake came three minutes later when Theo again popped up in space, making an excellent run into the box and squeezing the ball into the corner out of Friedel's reach to make it a fine, fine day for any fan of Arsenal Football Club. (The rest of the game passed without many talking points; Parker got sent off a minute from the end after a hack at Vermaelen's ankle gave him a second yellow- Vermaelen looks to be out for Saturday's trip to Anfield as a result).
How important was this win then? Well, for one, it reminded the rest of the Premier League, and the Arsenal supporters that this team does have some quality, does have some belief, and does have some desire to win football matches, particularly against Sp*rs. The question does have to be asked, though, why we couldn't play this sort of game more often this season. I'm not calling for us to put five past every opponent, though that would be helpful given the amount of goals we concede. I'm asking for us to do the simple things right. The defeat at Sunderland epitomised what we need to be doing, pressing, busting a gut to win the ball back from the opponent, getting those all important tackles in, and defending properly.
Because we did defend properly against Sp*rs, other than the first 15 minutes or so. In fact, as Arsene so rightly puts it, we got the perfect balance between defence and attack. Think what would have happened, where we would be if we had played anywhere near this standard in Milan or Sunderland. Even think back, if you can bare it, to defeats at the hands of Swansea, Fulham and Blackburn. All games we really ought to be winning, and had we done the job properly in them we would currently be ahead of Sp*rs in the table.
One can probably now say that if we do finish above Sp*rs, we have qualified for the Champions League, so is this a realistic aim? Yes, I believe so. With 12 games left, seven points is attainable, and with Sp*rs still having to travel to Chelsea, Everton and Sunderland, and play Man Utd at 'three point lane' next weekend, 3rd place is all to play for. It would be very like Arsenal to throw it away to mid-low table teams, though, so it most certainly is not going to be easy.
Tricky looking games at home to Chelsea, City and Newcastle and away to Stoke City are all winnable, and we must set out with a positive attitude that we can gain full points. Champions League Qualification is vital, one feels to achieve it we must be winning at least 2 of the above mentioned games. If we don't we may be looking at losing some of our stars: van Persie, Sagna, Walcott and Sczcesny have all been targetted by other clubs, Champions League clubs.
Victory against Sp*rs was blissful, but we mustn't revel in it for too long, Anfield awaits...
Man of the Match: Tomas Rosicky