The North London Derby, contested between bitter rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, is always a charged-up affair. Thus, it is a must-see game for both fans and neutrals alike.
However, there are occasions when the match becomes fairly one-sided. This could be due to the sheer superiority of one side; this was true of Arsenal in the early to mid 2000s, when Arsene Wenger’s side routinely read Spurs the riot act.
Or it can sometimes be due to circumstances on the day. The North London derby in the 2012-13 season was definitely a case of the latter.
The match took place on this day 9 years ago, and saw Arsenal run out 5-2 winners. Yet while the scoreline might read like a massive thrasing – which, in all fairness, it was – the circumstances behind said thrasing are fairly explainable.
Spurs were reduced to 10 men early in the first half, meaning it was always going to be a case of damage limitation. That they were unable to limit the damage too much says a lot about where the side were at the time.
But that story is for another time. For now, let us look back at what was a memorable derby – unless you are a Tottenham fan, of course.
Both teams came into this match on the back of a poor run of form. Arsenal were winless in three games before the derby, while Spurs had lost their past three games.
Therefore, this match was more than just about bragging rights – a win was needed to reverse their recent woes on the field.
Spurs had endured a mixed start to the season under new manager Andre Villas-Boas. The Portuguese, who last managed rivals Chelsea, had seen both incredible highs – beating Manchester United at Old Trafford 3-2 – and lows, such as a loss to Newcastle United on the opening day.
Arsenal had also been experiencing a mixed run of form. Normally solid top 4 contenders at the time, they were in 8th position after 11 games and rumblings of discontent were starting to be heard.
Thus, a lot rode on this game between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs, despite being the away team in this encounter, actually started the game on the front foot. Early on they moved the ball with confidence and seemed the likelier to score first.
That did indeed happen in the 10th minute. Jan Vertonghen floated a long ball into Arsenal’s territory that caught the defence napping.
Jermaine Defoe was clean through on goal but, from a tight angle, saw his shot saved by Wojciech Szczesny. However, Emmanuel Adebayor – the former Arsenal striker – was at home to tap in the rebound.
However, the adrenaline rush of scoring against his old team got the better of him in the 17th minute. Santi Cazorla received the ball in a wide position and Adebayor went flying into a tackle. He got the player but not the ball.
Given it was a two-foot tackle with both feet off the ground, he was duly sent off. And that was when things became difficult for Spurs.
Arsenal would score three goals in quick succession thereafter. The first arrived 7 minutes later, when Theo Walcott beat Kyle Naughton and played in an inviting cross.
The ball was powerfully met by the head of Per Mertersacker, whose thumping header levelled the scores. Although it wouldn’t be level for too long. Towards the end of the first half, some excellent passing from the home side opened up Spurs’ defence.
Lukas Podolski was on hand to shoot, although his effort was badly scuffed. But it did enough to sneak past Hugo Lloris, and the Gunners were ahead.
More was to come before the half-time whistle blew. A searing run from Cazorla after Spurs cleared a free-kick saw him lay it off for Olivier Giroud, who slotted a simple finish home.
Coming into the second half, Spurs had a mountain to climb. Two goals down and with 10 men on the field, any chances of a result seemed slim.
They sat deep for most of the second half, but the strategy did not pay off. A simple passing move put Podolski in space on the left wing. He squared the ball for Cazorla to finish, and the match was now 4-1 in favour of the home team.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Arsenal big game without a few wobbly moments. In the 71st minute, Gareth Bale ran at their defence and shot from distance with his right foot, finding the back of the net.
4-2 with 19 minutes to go and suddenly we had a game on our hands.
Arsenal, shocked by the sudden goal, seemed to drop deep. Spurs, despite having 10 men, were now on the front foot and actually looked close to getting another.
However, Arsenal were able to hold on till injury time when they put the result to bed. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up a loose pass from Vertonghen and broke free.
He laid the ball off to Walcott, who finished with composure to seal the result once and for all.