LONDON // Robin van Persie netted a brace as Arsenal showed they are still miles ahead of north London rivals Tottenham, cruising to a 3-0 victory at Emirates Stadium yesterday. Much pre-match debate had surrounded the comparison between the two clubs and whether Tottenham had closed the gap following their superb start to the season. Robbie Keane had stirred things up going into the game when he said the Tottenham squad was stronger than Arsenal. But those words came back to haunt the Tottenham captain as Arsenal showed they are still a class above their arch- rivals with a superb performance.
The fact remains that Tottenham have failed to record a victory over Arsenal in 20 attempts in the league since November 1999 and never looked like breaking that dismal record. They may have held out for 42 minutes, but a major lapse in concentration allowed Arsenal to score the two killer goals on the stroke of half-time. Two goals from Van Persie and a stunning strike from Cesc Fabregas ensured they are hot on the heels of Manchester United and Chelsea at the top of the table and stand a great chance of winning their first trophy since 2005.
The Spurs manager Harry Redknapp will point to the fact that he was missing three key players - Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe - through injury and suspension, but this could be the key reason why they do not have enough strength in depth to challenge for a top four place this season. In stark contrast, Arsenal look genuine title contenders and manager Arsene Wenger has no doubts they have the quality to challenge for major silverware again.
Wenger said: "It's not about opinions, it's about the performance on the pitch. I believe we have the quality to win the league. I don't know if Tottenham will be up there." Arsenal were not at their fluid best in the opening part of the first half, but broke the deadlock on 42 minutes. Bacary Sagna crossed in from the right and Van Persie beat Ledley King to fire the ball past Heurelho Gomes who got a hand to his low shot but failed could not stop it.
Tottenham had thrown away all their good work and things got even worse for the away side when Fabregas added a second just seconds later. Wilson Palacios gave the ball away to the Arsenal captain who broke clear of the Tottenham defence and fired a low show past Gomes into the corner of the net. The timing of the goals could not have come at a worse time for Tottenham, and Redknapp changed his formation in the second half with Robbie Keane moving up front to partner Peter Crouch, but it was Arsenal who continued to create the best chances.
The outstanding Fabregas played a superb ball into the path of Eduardo on 52 minutes who was clean through on goal but fired his shot straight at Gomes. Arsenal sealed all three points when they netted a third on 60 minutes and it will be a game that Gomes will want to forget. Sagna burst clear of the Tottenham defence once again and fired a low ball across the box. The Tottenham keeper failed to get anywhere near the cross and Van Persie was on hand to knock the loose ball into the back of the net.
Redknapp was left fuming with his side's defending, saying: "We gave away two sloppy goals on the stroke of half-time which turned the game upside down. I still don't think there is a gap between the two clubs. They were not playing us off the field. "They keep producing fantastic young players and you can win things with kids. It is wide open this year." firstname.lastname@example.org Arsenal travel to Man City in the Carling Cup quarter-finals. For the full draw, visit thenational.ae/sport