London – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, reflecting on his side's second successive 5-2 Premier League home win over arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur, said he hoped Saturday's victory had as big an impact on his team as last season's win did.
There was a sense of deja-vu at the Emirates Stadium as like last February, Spurs took the lead only to end up thumped by Arsenal, although the whole nature of this match changed when Emmanuel Adebayor was sent off just seven minutes after giving Spurs a 10th-minute lead.
Adebayor, playing against his old team, caught Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla with studs raised in the middle of the field, with referee Howard Webb showing him a straight red.
It was more clumsy than malicious, but his departure changed the game.
After dominating the early stages, Spurs were forced on to the defensive and Arsenal struck back to lead 3-1 at halftime with goals from Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, before Cazorla, outstanding after flying to Panama and back in midweek for an international but kept on the bench by Spain, made it 4-1.
Gareth Bale pulled a goal back for Spurs in the 70th minute, before Theo Walcott added the final goal in injury time.
All the talk before the game was that it was one that neither Wenger or his Tottenham Hotspur counterpart Andre Villas-Boas could afford to lose.
But, having won it, Wenger admitted his team were still lacking in confidence and even when they led 4-2 with less than ten minutes to play, they were nervous.
“In the second half we were in control but a bit nervous. You could see the confidence was not completely there. I hope this result will help us to get a step higher on that level,” he told a news conference.
Spurs came to the Emirates last February in third place, 10 points clear of Arsenal and took an early 2-0 lead which would have put them 13 points clear had they claimed victory.
Instead Arsenal came back to win 5-2, the victory proving a turning point in both club's fortunes.
Arsenal eventually finished third, a point ahead of Spurs, who slumped to fourth and lost out on a Champions League place after Chelsea, who finished sixth, won the Champions League.
But Arsenal have been erratic again this season, making their worst start to a campaign since 1982-83 and began the day in eighth place, one point and one place behind Spurs.
They have now climbed above them, and asked if this 5-2 win could have as big an effect as last season's did, Wenger replied: “It is earlier in the season. I felt that with our results against Schalke (lost 2-0 and drew 2-2 after leading 2-0) and Manchester United (lost 2-1) our confidence levels dropped tremendously.
“So it was important for us to get some positive results back. This was a very important result for us today.
“We still have to find stability in our expression. We need some more time to work on that, we are off the top, so we have not much time to improve, but hopefully this will give us a lot of confidence.”
An intriguing aspect of the game, at least until Adebayor was dismissed, was that Villas-Boas decided to play both him and Jermain Defoe together up front, a rare attacking tactic from the normally conservative Portuguese - and his gamble appeared to be paying off.
Spurs started well, took the lead when Adebayor scored his first goal of the season, and their early superiority created a tangible, nervous feeling among the home fans.
In the end, that feeling belonged to the away supporters, many of whom had long drifted home as they have now seen their team lose their last three league games against Wigan Athletic, Manchester City and now Arsenal and fallen from fourth into mid-table in just a few weeks.
With a certain stubborn resolve, Villas-Boas told reporters afterwards, “I think we played very well. I think we controlled the game from the first minute to the last.”
When Wenger was told that, he smiled: “I think Tottenham started very well yes, but the game changed with the sending off. But if our opponents are in control from the first minute to the last and we win 5-2, I don't mind too much.” – Reuters