Sunday 26 September 2021 9:20 pm

Arsenal 3, Tottenham 1: Gunners find feet as Spurs slip

Form is supposed to go out of the window when it comes to a derby, but apparently no one told Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

Both teams came into this match on very different trajectories – Arsenal improving after a woeful start to the Premier League, Spurs regressing after a good one – and their paths continued to diverge in a contest that the hosts had wrapped up by half-time.

Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka all capped bright displays by finishing sweeping moves as an energised Arsenal bulldozed their leaden-footed visitors.

While still too early in the season to be making definitive judgements about either side’s manager, Mikel Arteta will be sleeping more soundly than Nuno Espirito Santo this week.

How that picture has changed from earlier this month, when Arteta’s team lost their opening three games without scoring a goal and Nuno’s perfect start, which included beating Manchester City, earned him the manager of the month award.

This win lifted Arsenal ahead of their north London rivals on goals scored. More than that, however, it provided further signs of Arteta’s summer signings crystallising into a team that achieves something he has struggled to engineer: being effective in both attack and defence. 

In attack, Smith Rowe and Saka are rediscovering the form that transformed the second half of Arsenal’s season last term. The former ghosted between the lines to connect with a low cross from the latter, who tormented Tottenham left-back Sergio Reguilon all afternoon. 

Aubameyang, criticised for some tepid displays in recent months, looked revitalised. He snapped into tackles and chased down lost causes before snapping up his goal, a first-time finish with his left foot following Smith Rowe’s counter and cut back.

Saka would get his reward following another swift break that tore through Spurs. Smith Rowe fed his fellow academy graduate, whose cross was blocked by a scrambling Harry Kane only for the ball to sit up for Saka to lash low past Hugo Lloris.

At the other end, Arsenal’s new-look back four looked solid. Ben White stuck to Kane like a limpet and Takehiro Tomiyasu, a summer target for Tottenham, also gave nothing away. In goal, Aaron Ramsdale smartly tipped over from Son Hueng-Min and Lucas Moura.

If Arsenal look like a side that may be taking shape, Spurs were oddly directionless. They were beaten in too many duels and, on current form, cannot rely on Kane to bail them out. Son did briefly raise hopes of a fightback by converting Reguilon’s pass with a conviction lacking from most of his team’s play.

So far out of reach do the top four look that it’s difficult to know what these rivals are playing for. Europa League qualification is hard to get excited by, so perhaps they just seek progress. By that measure, Arsenal look better equipped for the months ahead.