Earlier in the week Arsene Wenger was reported to have said that a 4th place finish in the league would be as good as a trophy (see here). This is the kind of delusional nonsense that leads some Arsenal fans to believe that Wenger should immediately retire to a sanatorium. Still, Wenger's quite right that CL qualification is psychologically and financially crucial to his club.
CL qualification appeared to be a fading hope halfway through the first half of today's game, when the Gunners already were down 2-0 thanks to a 4th minute deflected goal by Louis Saha and a questionable penalty taken by former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor. Arsenal's defense, including the usually rock-solid Thomas Vermaelen, were shockingly poor. No doubt some fair-weather Gooners turned off the TV after Adebayor's penalty. If so, they missed one of the great (if not the greatest) Arsenal comebacks in recent years.
It is a credit to Arsenal's offensive self-belief and overall resilience that they fought back to score two late-half goals, the first on a fine header by Sagna, the second on an even finer shot from the edge of the area by van Persie, who curled the ball with his left foot to beat his marker and the goalie at the near post.
After the intermission, Arsenal came out with the same aggression they showed at the end of the first half. After missing chance in the first two minutes of the second half, Thomas Rosicky, who really was Arsenal's man of the match, finished a beautifully fluid attack, lifting a fine pass from Sagna with his left foot near the right post over the outstretched arm of Tottenham's American goalie Brad Friedel. It was Arsenal's third goal in just over 13 minutes of play. Ten minutes later, Theo Walcott doubled Arsenal's pleasure after Rosicky got the ball forward to van Persie, who held off two defenders before playing Theo Walcott through on goal. Walcott, this time, did not miss his target, waiting for Freidel to commit before calming shooting into the far corner of the goal. Less than 3 minutes later, Walcott did it again after a pinpoint pass over top of the Tottenham defense by Alex Song. As the TV announcer said, "What a time for Theo Walcott to find his form."
The Gunners defense still looked fragile in the second half - a problem that will have to be addressed if the Gunners are indeed to qualify for the CL next season. Still, this result provides a measure of hope that CL qualification is not just another delusion.