The North London derby was all Tottenham to start before Robin van Persie and company put away five unanswered goals in the last 50 minutes of the match to win 5-2 on Sunday afternoon.
Things could not have been any better for the visiting Spurs as Louis Saha’s shot deflected off Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczęsny for an early fourth minute goal.
Luka Modric would thread an excellent ball to Gareth Bale 30 minutes later putting the
Welshman behind the Arsenal backline. Bale was controversially awarded a penalty as referee Mike Dean judged that Szczęsny took him down. Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up and calmly slotted it home for a dream start to what was a pivitol game in Spurs title hopes.
However, that would be the last time we hear a Tottenham player’s name said in praise as the hosts woke up.
Five unanswered goals starting with Barry Sagna’s header in the 40th minute turned the tide back in favor of the teams in Manchester. And while it was Theo Walcott’s double that ensured a rapturous afternoon, for a long suffering fan base, it was Persie’s majestic form that deserves the credit.
Arsene Wenger has been under incredible heat from the fans that loyally pack Emirates. He is, again, in real danger of going another season without a trophy making it eight straight. However, he remains in the managerial seat because of his incredible ability to get the best out of his players.
A summer that saw Arsenal lose their two brightest and youngest talents Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to rival clubs, destined for greater things, would generally struggle in the upcoming season. Still, year in and year out Wenger finds someone who is willing to step up and take on the challenge of leading them to positive results.
But rarely are you privileged with a player like Persie.
The Premier League’s leading goal scorer, with 23 on the season, was sensational in willing his side to victory. His curling strike from 20 yards out leveled the score, though his name would not appear on the score sheet again, he was the one to credit for the win.
What makes Persie such a special individual is something that is rare in forwards these days. So much detailed tactical analysis has gone into the way we understand the game and micromanagement has made players all but predictable. The lexicon of the game has developed into something that you would expect out of a chemistry book with terms like “false 9” and “Withdrawn striker” confining players to roles rather than positions.
Persie harkens back to something past—the idea of a true striker. A player who can play 89 minutes of junk football, but have one moment of utter brilliance to silence his critics. One that can single-handily influence results by creating something out of nothing.
Arsenal is not the team they were in the early part of the last decade. The superstars that once walked the halls of Highbury and Emirates have been poached and bought up by big money sides. Even now, the joke has become that London’s most successful side is nothing more than a farm system for the other top clubs.
So perhaps one day Persie, himself, will be given and offer he and the club can’t refuse. But for now his old-school style to the game makes him the best player in all of England.
Follow me on Twitter: @thecriterionman