Few could doubt which club has enjoyed the better transfer window to date, but when it came down to matters on the pitch at the Emirates it was Arsenal that came out on top against north London rivals Tottenham. It remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger will finally spend some money in the closing hours of the transfer window, but he will no doubt have been further encouraged about the players currently at his disposal after this display.
Theo Walcott’s goal midway through the first half proved the difference and, despite Tottenham having much of the game and pushing frantically for an equalizer late on, Arsenal impressively held on. Indeed, the home side may well have added to their lead after threatening their opponents on the break on more than one occasion in the second half. The result puts Arsenal level on six points with their neighbors and having recovered well from an opening day defeat to Aston Villa.
Despite a lack of signings and a rash of injuries, Arsenal’s midfield impressively competed well with that of their expensively assembled opponents. Mathieu Flamini, who returned to the Emirates on a free transfer during the week, was even called upon after Jack Wilshere went off injured. Tottenham, meanwhile lacked creativity and cohesiveness and remain an understandable work in progress. One of their many new signings looks set to miss out on being integrated into the side for some time, though, with Etienne Capoue forced off with what appeared a serious ankle injury.
After 31 goals in the previous six meetings between these two great rivals, their latest encounter began in a manner that suggested more were in store. Santi Cazorla went close with two free-kicks, the first of which forced a good save by Hugo Lloris before firing under the wall and inches past the post.
At the other end, Tottenham were showing signs of causing their opponents real danger going down the flanks. Nacer Chadli gave Carl Jenkinson, a late inclusion in the side after Bacary Sagna complained of being unwell before kickoff, some problems in the early going. On the other flank, Andros Townsend was continuing his impressive early season form. The man called up to the England squad for the first time in recent days set-up Kyle Walker to cross low into the box for Roberto Soldado, whose effort was blocked strongly by Per Mertesacker.
The game was also entertainingly stretched with Tottenham, in particular, keeping their usual high line. It was a tactic that Arsenal were looking to exploit, with the pace of Theo Walcott posing an obvious threat. In the 23rd minute it paid dividends. Michael Dawson must take a large share of the blame for first being caught yards deeper than the rest of his defense and playing Walcott onside as the electric winger received the ball down the right of the area. The center-back then failed to track Giroud’s intelligent run and could do nothing as the Frenchman produced a delightful prodded finish to turn Walcott’s cross inside the near post.
Walcott continued to be the danger as Arsenal looked to take a real stranglehold on the match. First his shot from an angle on the right was turned away by Lloris before the Tottenham keeper reacted exceptionally well to sprint from his area and deny Walcott a clear run on goal with a fine tackle.
Tottenham were shaving no such luck penetrating Arsenal’s back line. Their best hope was Townsend cutting in familiarly from the right and firing shots off with his left foot but on each occasion Wojciech Szczesny was equal to the efforts.
The pattern continued in the second half. Tottenham had an increasing share of possession but struggled to find the tools to break their opponents down. And as the away side were forced to take more chances going forward, Arsenal looked increasingly likely to take advantage on the break. On once such occasion, with Tottenham badly exposed, Lloris’s intervention was required to prevent Giroud grabbing a second.
In search of the creativity required, Tottenham turned toward their new record signing on the bench. Erik Lamela’s first action in a Spurs shirt was to drift in a free-kick that Giroud volleyed clear only to the edge of the area and another substitute Jermain Defoe fired an effort at goal that was just barely kept out by an outstanding one-handed stop from Szczesny. Giroud redeemed himself from the follow-up as he managed to block Soldado’s effort.
Minutes later, it was Arsenal substitute Nacho Monreal who came close to having a major impact. Lloris turned away another effort from Giroud and Monreal looked poised to tap home the rebound, but Walker did just enough to prevent the Spaniard from making clean contact with the ball.
Tottenham pushed strongly for an equalizer in the closing minutes as Arsenal clung on. But their final chance came and went when Walker whiffed at the ball as it came across the box.