Mathieu Flamini crowned his first start since February with two goals to give Arsenal the spoils on north London and send them through to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup after beating Tottenham, 2-1, at White Hart Lane. In a largely even contest, it was Flamini who was the unlikely hero, with two rare impressive finishes to double his goal total for the whole of last season in a single night.
The out-of-favor French midfielder struck first when following up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s parried effort 26 minutes in. But when Calum Chambers turned the ball into his own net in the second half, extra-time appeared increasingly on the cards. That was until Flamini, known more for hard tackling than skilled finishing, struck home a scintillating volley with 12 minutes remaining.
It meant an early exit for last season’s beaten League Cup finalists and saw Arsenal avoid a second-straight third-round departure. For Arsene Wenger there will also be relief at snapping a two-game losing streak as well as the obvious positives from getting one over on his side’s fiercest rivals.
The prestige of the fixture meant that Wenger opted against his usual policy of blooding young players in England’s secondary cup competition. Although only Aaron Ramsey remained from the starting lineup that lost 2-0 to Chelsea on Saturday, it was not an XI lacking for experience. The same could largely be said of Tottenham’s lineup, which featured eight changes from their third win on the bounce against Crystal Palace at the weekend. And Spurs, looking to make it four wins from their last five contests against Arsenal at White Hart Lane, more than held their own in a contest that, in truth, failed to truly catch fire.
But they lacked a decisive touch in the final third, as Harry Kane’s scoreless start to the season continued and not even the introduction of the in-form Son Heung-min could deliver a second goal for the 2008 League Cup winners. Instead, Arsenal keep Wenger's hopes alive of winning a first ever League Cup.
The match presented a chance for some of Arsenal’s fringe players to enhance their prospects of staying in the lineup to take on Leicester on Saturday, But, despite the win, not all took that opportunity. Joel Campbell, making his first Arsenal start since January, had headed over the crossbar with the first sight of goal. Yet still it was the visitors that struck first. Tottenham will be disappointed, first with the amount of space afforded to Oxlade-Chamberlain outside the box and then that goalkeeper Michel Vorm only parried the Arsenal man’s shot straight out to Flamini, who struck opportunistically into the roof of the net.
Oxlade-Chamberlain could have had a goal himself, only for the lively midfielder to end a stirring run down the left with a wayward finish. It was Tottenham, though, that finished the first half the stronger. Danny Rose had threatened twice coming forward from left-back, before Kane struck a left-footed effort wide across the face of goal.
It was the right side of Tottenham’s defense that continued to offer up opportunities. And Spurs finally took advantage 11 minutes into the second half. Both right-back Mathieu Debuchy and right-sided center-back Chambers gave the ball away before Nacer Chadli drove a low ball in from the left and Chambers nervously turned the ball past David Ospina at the near post.
Tottenham came close to taking the lead, too, only for Kane’s frustrating start to the season to continue when a fine acrobatic volley was blocked on the line by Kieran Gibbs. But Arsenal were boosted by the introduction of Alexis Sanchez, and, after the Chilean had gone close with a shot of his own, he played a part in the winner. It was Sanchez’s pass the was intercepted by Federico Fazio and sent high into the north London air and, as it turned out, perfectly for Flamini to meet it with an unstoppable volley for which Spurs had no answer.