LONDON: Mikel Arteta insisted Arsenal proved their credentials as genuine Premier League title contenders with an impressive 3-1 win over 10-man Tottenham in Saturday’s north London derby.
Arteta’s side made it seven wins from eight league matches this season as they moved four points clear at the top of the table.
The 192nd meeting between these bitter rivals from opposite ends of the Seven Sisters Road was a typically frenetic occasion from the moment Thomas Partey put Arsenal ahead early in the first half.
Harry Kane equalised with a penalty but third-placed Tottenham imploded after the interval as Hugo Lloris’s mistake allowed Gabriel Jesus to restore Arsenal’s lead.
Tottenham defender Emerson Royal was sent off for an ugly foul on Gabriel Martinelli before Granit Xhaka’s goal ensured Arsenal would avenge the 3-0 defeat against their hated neighbours last season that cost them a Champions League place.
“They were phenomenal. We went from it and we created great energy in the stadium and deserved to win the game,” Arteta said.
“We were free, courageous and brave. This is what we demand from the players.”
Ending Tottenham’s 13-match unbeaten run in the league was a significant statement of intent from Arsenal.
Arsenal have now lost just once in 30 home league games against Tottenham, yet there was far more than local bragging rights at stake for the Gunners.
Their only previous match against a top-four rival this season ended in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United, but this dynamic performance showed they must be taken seriously in the title race.
“It gives us a lot of encouragement and confidence to believe that we can win at this level,” Arteta said.
“This is a sign that we are going in the right direction. We need to maintain that now and go for it.”
Next Sunday’s showdown with Liverpool will be another test for Arsenal, but while champions Manchester City remain the title favourites, Arteta’s team are emerging as a force to be reckoned with.
Tottenham boss Antonio Conte added: “We made big mistakes in the last pass and with easy passes.
“We had many chances to score but it was a different game after the red card.”
With Tottenham sitting too deep in a desperate bid to soak up Arsenal’s pressure, the Gunners took the lead in stunning style after 20 minutes.
A mesmerising 22-pass move ended with Ben White setting up Partey and the Ghana midfielder curled a sublime strike into the top corner from 25 yards.
Tottenham responded to Partey’s first goal since March with an equaliser 11 minutes later as Kane extended his north London derby record to 14 goals in 18 appearances.
William Saliba’s poor headed clearance was followed by Xhaka’s heavy touch inside his own area and Richarlison nipped in to steal possession, prompting a panicked rash tackle from Gabriel that sent the Brazilian sprawling.
Kane stepped up to drill the spot-kick straight down the middle, making him the first player to score 100 away goals in the Premier League.
Lloris had saved to deny Jesus just before half-time, but the France keeper was guilty of a costly mistake four minutes after the interval.
Bukayo Saka cut inside the Tottenham area for a low strike that Lloris parried weakly in front of him.
When Cristian Romero was unable to clear, Lloris compounded his initial blunder as he let the ball roll through his hands and Jesus tapped in from virtually on the goal-line.
Jesus has been one of the catalysts for Arsenal’s run this term, scoring five times since joining from Manchester City in the off-season.
Emerson shattered Tottenham’s comeback hopes when the right-back earned a straight red card for raking his studs down Martinelli’s ankle in the 62nd minute.
It took Arsenal just five minutes to make the most of their numerical superiority as a flowing move featuring Partey and Martinelli climaxed with Xhaka blasting a fine finish into the far corner from 18 yards.