This is the season of fake news. It had been reported that Arsene Wenger’s long reign at Arsenal was at long last over. The word on the street was that the Old Dinosaur had lost his teeth and his hunger. He had won nothing of note for decades. The eagle-eye that he once had for players of quality had lost its focus as he limped on with failed products like Theo Walcott. The clearest evidence for the case against him (of which I became persuaded at the end of last season) was the progress being made down at The Lane.
While Arsenal stagnated and regressed, Tottenham Hotspur, the old enemy, received an infusion of new blood: new manager, new players, new stadium and new vision and belief rolling out new talents like Harry Kane and Dele Alli even after cashing in on players like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric. When Spurs finished above Arsenal last season for the first time in decent memory and followed it up by upending Real Madrid in circumstances where Arsenal had in the past been humiliated, it seemed very much as if power had finally shifted from London N7 to London N17.
After the loss to Man City, this North London Derby was billed to mark the final eclipse of the old leader at Highbury by the fresh thinking Mauricio Pochettino of Spurs. Lose to Spurs at the Emirates and the call for a brain transplant at the Arsenal would have become irresistible. Spurs came with purpose and with all their big tanks: Kane, Alli, Eriksson, Dembele and Sisouko under the command of Captain Hugo Lloris.
But like his fellow President for Life, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Old Man Wenger wasn’t ready to let go; not without a fight. From the first whistle the Arsenal boys were superior. Tottenham came with a plan to bully the Arsenal physically with the power of Mousa Dembele complimented by the muscular running of Mousa Sisouko. But the Arsenal boys were defiant. This was for the glory of their club even if not for the survival of their leader.
There were no buses to be parked by either team. This was toe to toe, man for man and measure for measure. Mustafi was immense for the Gooners at the back effectively taming Harry Kane . At the other end Alexander Laca-this-Laca-that Lacazette was making the Spurs defence dizzy with his runs. Meanwhile on the left lank was the sub-battle of Sanchez v Sanchez. The Arsenal one got the benefit of the referee’s call in one clinch. The resulting Mesut Ozil free kick saw Mustafi power a header into the top corner to give us a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute. Five minutes later Sanchez scored the winner when he powered the ball into the roof of the Tottenham net from close. You could see the hope drain from the legs and faces of the Spurs boys. Beating Real Madrid at home was one thing. Beating a wounded Arsenal team in their home ground from 2:0 down was too much to ask and Comrade Wenger continues his iron rule.