On Sunday, Arsenal accomplished something they had not done since 2014, when Mikel Arteta was still a player: do the league double over Spurs. The team in pole position in the Premier League traveled to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the second North London Derby of the season. In the week leading up to the match, the nerves had built up among the club faithful. But the reality was that there was nothing to worry about. In one of the most dominant derby performances in recent memory, Arsenal cruised to a 2-0 victory courtesy of a hilarious Hugo Lloris error and an excellent long-range strike by Martin Odegaard. With United having beaten City earlier in the weekend, Arsenal find themselves eight points clear at the top of the table. Below are five Hits and two Misses from a pride-inducing showing.
At perhaps one of the most crucial moments in the season, Ramsdale produced his best-ever performance in an Arsenal shirt. The young English keeper was utterly immaculate. He distributed the ball efficiently and tidily. He repeatedly killed Spurs’ momentum by holding onto the ball when he could. But most importantly of all, he made four massive saves to keep his side ahead. Two came against Harry Kane, while one kept out a point-blank hit from Heung-min Son and the fourth was a deflection with his foot to turn Ryan Sessegnon’s effort out for a corner. Those contributions, combined with how he riled up Spurs’ players and fans, will go down in North London Derby history.
He just might be the player in the Premier League right now. Odegaard entered the match in perhaps the best form of his career, and kept that going at Spurs’ home ground. The captain once again ran the show for the Gunners, pulling the strings in the final third and leading the press off the ball. He made easy work of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, drawing the Spurs man off Thomas Partey while also receiving the ball in space of his own on several occasions. He ended up punishing Spurs for that, slotting home a terrific strike from outside the penalty area to make it 2-0. He is flying at the moment.
Gabriel Jesus’ marquee signing was not the only pivotal acquisition Arsenal made last summer. Zinchenko has established himself as one of the most vital cogs in the Arsenal machine. He continued doing what he does best against Spurs: serving as a ball progression machine. He fed line-breaking passes up the pitch to Odegaard and Granit Xhaka. He also carried passed multiple Spurs players on occasion. But additionally, he was quite dominant in the air and made several interceptions that helped keep Dejan Kulusevski quiet. At least one Ukrainian didn’t disappoint Arsenal this past weekend.
Gabriel is one of the best defenders in the Premier League, full stop. The Brazilian is developing quite an appetite for shutting down Harry Kane and treated himself to a second helping on Sunday. He was imperious in the air and just as dominant on the ground, snatching up second balls and covering the left side of Arsenal’s back line on his own at times to nullify Kane and Kulusevski. He was especially vital when Spurs started the second half strongly, and helped settle the side down before Arsenal eventually regained control of the match. Gabriel is becoming one of the biggest leaders in the team.
When he first took over for the injured Jesus, he was doubted. But Nketiah has filled in admirably, demonstrating how far he has come as a player. At Spurs, he produced a performance that Jesus would be praised for. He troubled the defense all game, popping up in two great goalscoring opportunities. Unfortunately he couldn’t put them away, but that can be put down to variance. The Hale End product demonstrated excellent linkup play, serving as a reliable outlet and retaining possession in tight spaces under pressure. He also ran the channels well, helping to open things up for his teammates. All in all, he played an important role in a big win.
Still somehow not under pressure in his position, Conte embarrassed himself on Sunday. He once again deployed a cowardly 5-2-3, and bemusingly gave Pape Sarr his full league debut as half of Spurs’ two-man midfield. It proved a recipe for disaster, with the Gunners easily winning the midfield battle and wreaking havoc in the first half. And after leaning into the dramatic media narrative around Arteta’s and Arsenal’s behavior towards officials, it seems Conte forgot to worry about his own players. Kane and company regularly surrounded the referee throughout the match and Richarlison repeatedly put his hands on Ramsdale at the end of the game in a display of sheer sore loser mentality. With Spurs sitting in fifth, six points behind fourth having played a game more after being backed in the summer, Conte should take a leaf out of Arsenal’s book and focus on his own team.
As if Richarlison’s behavior wasn’t bad enough, it seems Spurs fans also want to get in on the misconduct action. Immediately following the fulltime whistle, a supporter in the home end scurried down and kicked Ramsdale in the back before pathetically falling over and running away. The club will likely look to give him a lifetime ban, but perhaps a better punishment would be to mandate that he comes to every game. The fact is, Spurs are heading downhill. Their £1 billion stadium will limit their spending power in the market for the next several years, Kane and Son will look to leave soon if they want to win any silverware in their careers, Conte will definitely make his exit as well, and the rest of that team is midtable quality at best. Spurs supporters can lash out at Arsenal all they want, but they are in for a depressing next few seasons.
Sham writes and podcasts regularly about The Arsenal, and is still getting used to saying “fiancée” instead of “girlfriend”. He can be followed on Twitter @dopegooner.