Unai Emerys Arsenal have Premier League rivals and the Champions League in their sights after a victory over Manchester United
Were coming for you, were coming for you. Oh Tottenham Hotspur, were coming for you. At the end of a raucous, fun, potentially vital Premier League afternoon at the Emirates the home fans had already turned their eyes towards the other power in north London.
Last month, as Tottenham buzzed about just behind the top two, it became fashionable to point out that winning the league was in Tottenhams own hands. Which is, of course, the least secure place of all to be for winning the league. A 2-0 victory here, the first Premier League defeat of Ole Gunnar Solskjrs time at Manchester United, means Arsenal have now made up nine points on Spurs since Valentines Day and lurk a single point behind in fourth.
Unai Emery will be less concerned with the balance of north London enmity. This was a hugely significant result for the trajectory of Arsenals new managerial era, a springboard for the slog through spring that offers the most obvious measure of success in Emerys first season. There were two reasonable goals back in August. First, to make everyone feel better and create a sense of purpose again at the heart of this listing red and white corporate machine. Secondly, and more tangibly, to get back in the Champions League, the stage for which this stadium, this entire era was constructed in the first place.
The message from the Emirates is that the first of these has already been accomplished. There is a fairly stiff competition for the title of worst walk-off song at the end of a sporting event. But as Sweet Caroline the thigh-grabbers favourite and a convincing contender parped around the stands, as the rain fell in deliciously violent sheets and spurts, as the crowd stayed to laugh and yell , it was hard once again not to feel the change of mood in this previously rather angsty stadium.
The Emirates had been a beautiful sight at kick-off on a cold hard sunlit March day. By the time the darkness fell it was slightly wild. Their former home, Highbury, had something spiky and nasty about it. There is a little of that in this glass and steel mega-bowl now. The away end was drowned out in a way that just never happened in the slow death of late Wenger-ism. Wheres your fuckin VAR? they sang, in a shared outburst of pointed social commentary. Whatever the future brings, whatever the knotted nature of the clubs hierarchy, you cannot kill the spirit and this place is seething with life these days.
So is the team, in between the odd false step. This game was won on details. Arsenal were a little lucky. Romelu Lukaku might have had a first-half hat-trick. United will move on with the momentum still in their legs. But winning a game in that way, against this kind of team, feels like progress in itself, evidence that, whatever the final level of this team, Emery has already made Arsenal into something they were not.
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