Tottenham inflicted Arsenal’s fourth loss of the Premier League season today, winning the north London derby 2-1 to give Arsene Wenger a miserable begin to his 16th year as Gunners manager.
Rafael van der Vaart scored the 10,000th goal in Tottenham history just before halftime and Kyle Walker clinched the victory with his first for the club in the 73rd minute after Aaron Ramsey’s equalizer for Arsenal.
”Arsenal are a ball possession team and we found it difficult at times but we dug deep and got the result we needed,” Walker said.
While Tottenham is sixth in the standings three points behind fourth-place Newcastle with a game in hand Arsenal is just two points above the relegation zone after seven matches.
”The further in front we can get the better,” Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said.
Redknapp’s side has now won three of the last four league derbies and drawn the other against a side which has completed in the top four for the last 15 years.
Wenger, who marked 15 years as Arsenal manager on Saturday, has seen his side concede 14 goals in four away games after the club’s worst begin to a season in 58 years.
”At the moment we have to set realistic targets,” Wenger said. “To state this day we will win the league is not realistic. If we get in a better position (maybe). At moment we are 12 points from (leaders) Manchester United and City.”
Wenger denied reports he had refused to shake hands with Tottenham assistant manager Clive Allen after the match at White Hart Lane.
”I shook the hand of the manager and the assistant manger,” Wenger said. “How many people do I have to shake hands with, is there a prescription? There were no words exchanged.”
Tottenham has managed to recover from its own disappointing start, producing four wins in a row after back-to-back losses to Manchester rivals United and City.
Arsenal was controlling the midfield but failing to get close to Brad Friedel’s goal. Gervinho had a clear chance after Robin van Persie cut the ball back to him, but the Ivory Coast striker missed the target with the goal at his mercy.
”They had a lot of possession in the first half, it was difficult,” Redknapp said. “They played with three in midfield with one up and so they were always going to hold sway in terms of possession.”
The buildup to the match had surrounded Emmanuel Adebayor’s reaction to facing fans of former club Arsenal, but he stayed calm despite taunts about the deadly attack on the Togo team in 2010 and helped to provide Tottenham’s opener.
Van der Vaart brought down Adebayor’s cross with his chest before volleying through Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna into the bottom corner of the net. Wenger was angry that the Netherlands playmaker appeared to use an arm to control the ball.
”I almost made a change before halftime to thicken us up in there but I thought we will see how we go,” Redknapp said. “They got off to a better begin in the second-half but we upped it and got better and stronger and in the second half we had all the chances.”
But first, Ramsey leveled for Arsenal six minutes after the break, dispatching the ball into the net after Van der Vaart failed to close down Song on the left flank.
It did not rouse Arsenal into pushing for its third win of the season.
”I felt we did not push on enough and let them get back into the game,” Wenger said. “I feel we lack a bit of confidence at the moment and we tried to protect the result.”
Adebayor was denied a winner when one-on-one with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after being fed by Bale, producing a weak shot rather than attempting to round the goalkeeper.
Arsenal lost Sagna after he fell awkwardly following Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s challenge and was taken to hospital.
”We are very worried about his injury, the first signs do not look good,” Wenger said. “It’s the fibula and ankle that needs to be checked … he was pushed quite hard by Ekotto. I do not know what happened when he landed, did he land the wrong way?”
Arsenal’s afternoon got worse in the 73rd when Walker unleashed a swerving, dipping shot that went through Szczesny’s hands.
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