Premier League derbies have, unfortunately, begun to lose their verve as the money in the game and the influx of foreign players with zero emotional connection to these territorial ties increase – however, Sunday’s north London derby truly bucked the trend as Arsenal and Spurs produced a match to remember.
Tackles and tempers were flying in and flaring high respectively as the hosts came from behind to claim a well deserved 4-2 victory and bragging rights over their closest rivals.
Until the Spaniard lit a fire under the Emirates this season, Arsenal fans had little to be proud of other than their title-winning ‘Invincibles’ season of 2004/05 and the plethora of world-class stars that gave them their glory years, but now the former Sevilla boss has brought one player to north London who is galvanising players and fans alike as he becomes a firm favourite after just a few months in the capital.
Lucas Torreira might not have the stature of Patrick Vieira, but that has not stopped the Gunners faithful from drawing comparisons, particularly after his dogged display against Spurs in which he patrolled the park with a dominance akin to that of the French legend.
The diminutive Uruguayan might only be 5’5″, as jubilant chants from the stands will tell you, but his ability to read the game and disrupt the opposition while also being a threat in the final third is unparalleled in the Arsenal ranks and, perhaps, in the Premier League.
N’Golo Kante is arguably the world’s best defensive midfielder, but the former Leicester man has looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable this season under Maurizio Sarri as he is asked to play further upfield – there is no uncertainty over Torreira’s ability in the attack.
The 22-year-old was unlucky not to score with a scorching first-time strike from outside the box, however Spurs’ luck was short-lived as a composed finish ensured he claimed his first goal in red and white.
Granit Xhaka has more or less held down a starting spot at the base of the midfield since his arrival in 2016, however his positional sense and pressing ability are ironically dwarfed by that of the smallest man in the squad, who, on Sunday, completed three tackles and an interception on his way to scooping the man of the match award in his first north London derby – despite teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring twice and assisting, which is testament to his all-round performance.
The former Sampdoria man epitomises the intensity and aggression that Emery is so keen to instil within each and every one of his players and, should he continue to produce this calibre of performance, he may, figuratively, reach the heights of the Arsenal enforcers before him.
[brid autoplay=”true” video=”338209″ player=”12034″ title=”Rafa’s Pub Facts Aubameyang Emulates West Ham Flop”]