Arsenal's 5-2 comeback: is this the season's turning-point?
Van Persie wonder-goal, two from Walcott and even Rosicky finds form – Gunners' unforgettable derby
Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2. Arsenal produced one of the great comebacks in their history to stun Spurs 5-2 in a magnificent north London derby. After half an hour the Gunners looked dead and buried, two goals down in front of an Emirates crowd baying for their blood. The defence was a shambles, Theo Walcott was dreadful and Tomas Rosicky anonymous. Arsene Wenger sat slumped in the dugout perhaps thinking how to best word his resignation letter.
And then it all changed. On 40 minutes, Bacary Sagna met Mikel Arteta's cross with a thunderous header that gave Brad Friedel no chance, and three minutes later the Spurs keeper was again helpless as Robin van Persie scored a strong contender for goal of the season. Picking up the ball on the edge of the area with his back to the Tottenham goal, the Dutchman turned and curled a shot into the bottom right hand corner. Wenger was out of his seat and punching the air in delight and the Arsenal faithful sensed something sensational was in the offing.
They were right. Five minutes after the restart Tomas Rosicky started and finished a delightful move down the right, flicking the ball over Friedel having taken a pass from Sagna. Rosicky, who was outstanding, putting in his best performance in an Arsenal shirt for years, was involved in the fourth on 64 minutes, feeding Van Persie who in turn found Theo Walcott and for once the winger kept his composure to clip the ball into the net. Three minutes later Walcott made it 5-2 with another cool finish to cap a comeback that Van Persie described later as "classic".
The Arsenal captain also had warm words for the home crowd (who by the end of the game were taunting their rivals' manager with an ironic chant of 'Harry For England'). The Dutchman said: "If you come from 2-0 down to win 5-2 - and it could have been more - it's fantastic, especially for the fans who have suffered in the last few weeks."
Harry Redknapp, who saw Scott Parker sent off three minutes from time for a rash charge on Thomas Vermaelen, conceded that it had turned into a depressing afternoon after Louis Saha's early goal and a penalty from Emmanuel Adebayor on 34 minutes. "We let people run and that's not like us," he said. "We have not been a team conceding goals like we did today… We went 2-0 up but even then I couldn't say I felt over-comfortable. They were playing through us and were causing problems."
The result lifts Arsenal back into fourth spot, ahead of Chelsea on goal difference, and the Gunners are now seven points behind Tottenham in third. When Wenger was asked if he thought Spurs would still be ahead of Arsenal at the end of the season, the Frenchman replied: "I don't think so. Mathematically we can come back. If we're consistent, anything is possible."
Wenger hopes the stunning victory can prove to be the turning point in what has so far been a fraught season for his side. "Let's hope we can maintain the quality we have shown today, and the spirit," he said. "We had a difficult start but kept going and showed great character again today. When you're 2-0 down against a team in front of you with the quality they have, you need something exceptional. We refused to lose today."