ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
On Thursday, Arsene Wenger had to deny Arsenal were underdogs in the north London derby. Yesterday, they were very much top dogs.
This was like old times for Arsenal. Tottenham were defeated, as they always used to be when they visited their neighbours, but as they never had been when Wenger faced Mauricio Pochettino in such clashes.
The Arsenal manager unleashed his attacking talents and saw them prosper, a bold blueprint showing that adventurousness and ambition could pay off. He selected Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez together against elite opposition for the first time.
It paid a rich dividend. Ozil made the first goal, Lacazette the second. Sanchez scored it.
Wenger's decision to keep the Chilean, when Arsenal could have banked £60 million (S$107 million) for a player they are likely to lose on a free transfer next summer, was predicated on him making major contributions to take Arsenal back into the Champions League.
This was the sort of performance Wenger had in mind. It was also one he has produced too rarely of late. He scored his first home league goal for almost six months and, but for two fine saves from Hugo Lloris, he would have had a hat-trick.
The contrast between the sides was summed up by the star men. Dele Alli and Harry Kane were substituted with 15 minutes remaining. Each was returning from injury, but it was still a sign that Pochettino had admitted defeat.
Much as Tottenham have progressed, this was their third defeat by top-six rivals. They have beaten the European champions, in Real Madrid, but are struggling to beat the best in the Premier League.
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It was not Spurs' day. Christian Eriksen struck the post three minutes before Shkodran Mustafi's opener in the 36thth minute. They claimed a penalty when Sead Kolasinac challenged Kane. Petr Cech made a fine save from Eric Dier's late header.
And both goals contained their contentious elements. Tottenham queried the award of the free kick for the opener, given for a challenge by Davinson Sanchez on his namesake Alexis.
For once, the familiar criticism that Ozil does not deliver in big games for the Gunners was irrelevant. He swung in a free kick. Mustafi rose above Jan Vertonghen and headed in via the far post.
Arsenal then scored a second goal in six minutes, with Sanchez rifling the ball into the roof of the net after initially seeming to squander the chance fashioned by Lacazette's cross with a poor touch.
Lacazette may have been fractionally offside. Yet the goal suggested Wenger had spotted a weakness in Spurs' system. Lacazette found space on the right flank.
Arsenal had issued warnings. Their ability to get in behind left wing-back Ben Davies was already apparent. Once again, a plan of Wenger's worked.