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Arsenal beat 10-man Tottenham 5-2 once again in North London derby

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santi_cazorlaThe 169th North London derby had an identical scoreline to the one that preceeded it as Arsenal saw off the challenge off a battling Tottenham side 5-2, having benefitted greatly from being a man-up for the bulk of the contest. Emmannuel Adebayor scored the opening goal of the game in the 10th minute, but soon turned from hero to villain when he received his marching orders 7 minutes later for a reckless challenge on Santi Cazorla. Arsenal turned the game around by half-time, with goals from Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud putting them 3-1 ahead. Tottenham's 10-men came out charged up after the break, and bossed possession for large periods, but it was Arsenal who put the game to bed through the excellent Santi Cazorla on the hour mark. Gareth Bale pulled one back for Spurs to keep things interesting, but Arsenal held on for the win, and even added a 5th late on with Theo Walcott getting on the scoresheet.

It was hardly a typical Arsenal performance, and not necessarily one from which they will draw a lot of confidence, but the good news for the Gunners is that their new approach of getting the ball into wide areas, and crossing early is seeing them create more chances than in recent weeks, and their accuracy in front of goal has also improved tremendously. Spurs will be disappointed with the outcome, and showed plenty of heart and character after going a man down, and it was Adebayor and not Andre Villas-Boas who lost this one for Spurs.

The good news coming in from the Arsenal camp was that Polish stopper Wojciech Szczesny returned between the posts for the first time in two months, replacing the inconsisteny Vito Mannone in goal. Theo Walcott was also declared fit and started as part of the Gunners' three pronged forward line alongside Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. There were no other surprises in the Arsenal eleven with skipper Thomas Vermaelen continuing to be deployed out of position at left-back, while Jack Wilshere returned to the team having served his one match ban. Bacary Sagna also shrugged off a bout of fatigue to make the starting line-up, but he and playmaker Santi Cazorla, who travelled to Panama in midweek (without playing any football) would do rather well to last 90 minutes.

Tottenham meanwhile opted to play a wildcard, ditching their 4-4-1-1 formation for a good old fashioned 4-4-2 with former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor starting alongside the red hot Jermain Defoe as Andre Villas-Boas made his intention of going for the win clear from the start. That meant there was no place in the team for Clint Dempsey with the American international dropping to the bench. French keeper Hugo Lloris made just his second start of the season, with veteran superstar Brad Friedel also being benched, while young Steven Caulker who scored for England in midweek failed to make the squad suggesting a possible injury. Jan Vertonghen moved in alongside another former Arsenal man William Gallas at center-back, while Kyle Naughton came in at left-back.

The game got off to a sluggish start, one which we have come to expect in these early kick-offs with neither side really able to impose themselves in the early exchanges. It was Spurs who settled quicker with William Gallas putting the ball in the back of the net from a set piece routine, but the French center-back was in an offside position when the ball broke kindly to him. It wasn't long though before Tottenham found themselves ahead. Some poor marking by Per Mertesacker allowed Jermain Defoe to break in behind him through on goal, and though Szczesny got a good hand to block his shot, Adebayor was on hand to poke in the rebound from point blank range.

Spurs could have been two ahead shortly after with a neatly worked attacking move releasing Aaron Lennon on the right, and the England winger shot narrowly wide from a position from which he really should have scored. That scare awoke the sleeping Gunners and they finally started to find themselves advance into Tottenham's half.

The game had been a largely clean affair thus far with only Sandro's relentless fouls keeping Howard Webb busy, but it turned ugly on 17 minutes as Emmanuel Adebayor went into Santi Cazorla with a boot that was atleast 3 inches high and was shown a straight red by the referee as Tottenham were reduced to 10 men.

Arsenal started bossing the game with their man advantage, and it took the Gunners just 7 more minutes to draw level with Mertesacker making up for his earlier error by planting an excellent header into the corner from Theo Walcott's cross.

Hugo Lloris was called into action for the first time in the 31st minute, denying compatriot Olivier Giroud's header from Jack Wilshere's freekick. Moments late Cazorla has a shot on goal from distance, which brushed the top of the net.

Arsenal were rather leggy and slow in possession, and struggled to create genuine opportunities. They did though have a good chance on 40 minutes as Giroud got his head on a Bacary Sagna cross, but Lloris was once again in perfect position to deny the former Montpellier striker.

Arsenal did turn the game around though in the 42nd minute with Lukas Podolski quite literally poking the ball home between William Gallas' legs from well inside the box, and a slight deflection helped the ball dribble into the far corner while Lloris stood pinned to the spot.

Arsenal were soon two goals to the good with referee Howard Webb playing a good advantage after Cazorla was fouled on the edge of the area, but soon got on his feet and raced to the left edge of the box from where he crossed for Giroud to make it 3-1 to the Gunners.

Andre Villas-Boas made some adventurous moves at half-time, taking off both of his full backs, swtiching to three at the back, bringing on Michael Dawson at center-half and Clint Dempsey as the link up man in midfield. The changes appeared to work for a while as Spurs started seeing a lot more of the ball in the second half, with Arsenal once again starting slowly and looking laboured in possession once again.

Arsenal though put the game to bed in the 60th minute with Giroud heading on Szczesny's goal kick. Walcott picked up the header on, and played in Podolski on the wide left, who squared the ball perfectly for Cazorla to tap into an empty net.

The Gunners seemed to play well in spurts, and had two more chances immediately after the goal to further compound Spurs' misery. Wilshere, Giroud and Walcott all had sighters on goal with the latter having arguably the best opportunity, but delaying his decision to shoot given Lloris a chance to close the angle.

Some careless defending by Arsenal cost them another goal, and gave Spurs a lifeline as Gareth Bale reduced the deficit in the 70th minute with an excellent finish with his weaker right foot. Mertesacker's clearance from a wide position on the right went straight to Huddlestone, who released Bale down the middle, and the Welshman finished splendidly, giving Szczesny no chance.

Lloris was having an excellent second half, showing good anticipation to race off his line and keep the Arsenal strikers at bay. Meanwhile, further up the pitch, Spurs' workrate had been excellent in the second half and they were clearly the more ambitious side as the Gunners opted to sit on their lead and preserve energy for their midweek Champions League clash.

There was to be a late goal though for Theo Walcott, who had moved into a central position when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Olivier Giroud late in the game. Santi Cazorla, who was perhaps one of the few Arsenal players still operating at 100% nicked the ball off the otherwise excellent Vertonghen and fed the Ox, who ran into the box and fed Walcott, whose scuffed shot went between Dawson's legs and comfortably beat Lloris.

The win for Arsenal takes them up a couple of spots to 6th place at the start of the weekend's action, while Spurs dropped to 8th.

In fairness though, one learnt little about what one can expect from either side this season with the man advantage effectively ruining the contest as a spectacle.

Teams:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Arteta, Wilshere (Ramsey 71'), Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain 86'), Walcott.

Subs: Mannone, Andre Santos (, Oxlade-Chamberlain (86'), Ramsey (71'), Coquelin, Arshavin, Jenkinson.

Tottenham: Lloris, Naughton (Dawson 46'), Walker (Dempsey 46'), Vertonghen, Gallas, Sandro, Huddlestone (Carroll 71'), Lennon, Bale, Adebayor (sent off 17'), Defoe.

Subs: Friedel, Dempsey (46'), Dawson (46'), Sigurdsson, Livermore, Townsend, Carroll (71').

Score: Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham (Adebayor 10', Mertesacker 24', Podolski 42', Giroud 45', Cazorla 60', Bale 71', Walcott 91')

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File Photograph Copyright: Wonker