Arsenal staged an unlikely comeback to overhaul Tottenham Hotspur’s two-goal lead and move back above Chelsea in a terrific north London derby.
Theo Walcott hit a brace as the Gunners scored five goals in 28 minutes to rout a Spurs side who had been two up after 34 minutes.
Harry Redknapp’s side got off to a great start after five minnutes when Emmanuel Adebayor found Louis Saha running into the Arsenal area with nobody near him. A moment of dawdling meant Thomas Vermaelen could get in front but the Frenchman’s shot deflected up and over Wojciech Szczesny.
Arsenal rallied well and looked threatening but it got worse in the 34th minute when a delightful;l through ball from Luka Modric found Gareth Bale running into the area and a combination of Keiran Gibbs and Szczesny brought the winger down.
The Gunners defenders were incensed at the award of the penalty and replays showed that if there was contact with Bale, it was minimal. Adebayor was not concerned as he slotted it penalty past Szczesny.
Arsene Wenger looked shell-shocked on the Arsenal bench as he contemplated a third loss in as many games, but an astonishing five minutes before half-time changed all of that.
Robin van Persie found space in the box after a Theo Walcott flick but his shot hit the post and Spurs seemed to fall asleep as Arteta found space in the box and crossed for Bacary Sagna to head home.
The Emirates Stadium seemed to have transfrormed into a different place and they were pinching themselves when Benoit Assou-Ekotto failed to clear his lines properly and the ball fell to Van Persie on the edge of the box. The Dutchman twisted inside Scott Parker before curling the ball past the despairing dive of Freidel.
It was a rip-roaring first-half of football and Redknapp’s side looked as though they didn’t know what had hit them and Tomas Rosicky needed only five minutes after the restart to exploit it.
The Czech Republic international played the ball out to Sagna on the right and the French full-back returned the favour for Rosicky, who flicked the ball past the helpless Friedel.
The game seemed to have settled down as those watching caught their breath, but on 64 minutes the roof was raised once more as Van Persie held up the ball well before playing in Walcott and the England winger, who had been anonymous in the first half, dinked the ball over the advancing American ‘keeper.
It was Walcott’s first Premier League goal at the Emirates since the 3-1 win over Chelsea at the end of December 2010, although he didn’t have to wait long for his second.
Kyle Walker was slow to come out as Alex Song dinked the ball over the Spurs defence to put Walcott clean through on goal and the 23-year-old finished without fuss across Friedel.
It was an astonishing comeback from a side who have been criticised for a supposed lack of mental strength and had the crisis tag hung over them.
On the other hand it will be a blow for Tottenham and you would think their already slim title hopes have now been ended.
They will face the team above them next, Manchester United, but they will have to do so without key midfielder Parker, who received a late second yellow card for catching Vermaelen and will serve a one game suspension.
This game had been labelled the most important north London derby in recent times due to the repercussions a loss may have had on the club.
Whether that was true or not, Arsenal’s players gave their manager and fans just the kind of performance they needed – on one hand for pride and the other for taking them back into the top four