Arsenal scored a dramatic 95th minute winner against Newcastle United to leave them just one behind neighbours Tottenham Hotspur.
Thomas Vermaelen slid in to net the winner after Robin van Persie had cancelled out Hatem Ben Arfa’s 14th minute opener within 60 seconds.
The Gunners were 10 points behind Spurs in January, but have won five matches in a row – the last four all after going behind.
Nestling in fourth spot, Wenger will now be aiming to usurp the derailed Lilywhites, who have still not recovered from Arsenal’s fight back from two goals down to defeat them two weeks ago.
It was foggie on the Tyne for Ant and Dec:
Last season Arsene Wenger’s side dropped 12 points from winning positions in the Premier League, making their newfound resilience all the more impressive.
The final third capitulation after last year’s 2011 League Cup final defeat to Birmingham City saw his side’s mental brittleness resurface. But now, with the confident Van Persie leading the XI as opposed to egocentrics such as William Gallas or Thierry Henry, Wenger has discovered a leader in the Patrick Vieira mould.
Even last night there was a sporadic burst of the arrogant schadenfreude that was Arsenal’s motif during the Invincibles era.
Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krol, whistled and jeered as early as the first half for supposed time-wasting, had already had an altercation with Van Persie in the first 45 minutes.
Gallery of last night's clash:
After Vermaelen’s winner, a gleeful Van Persie, in the centre circle, sarcastically motioned to his compatriot to take his time. It is this cocksureness which Arsenal supporters want to see return to the club.
Sir Alex Ferguson admitting he felt sympathy for Arsene Wenger and insisting Manchester United “didn’t want to score anymore” after their 8-2 August victory would have been galling. Ferguson spitting feathers and criticising the Frenchman and his team’s behaviour however would symbolise the return of a rivalry.
The advantage Arsenal have is that they have participated in the Champions League for 14 successive seasons. Tottenham enjoyed a rip-roaring honeymoon in the competition last season, but despite their quality, possess a tiny fraction of the experience of their north London rivals.
Similar to the Manchester tussle for supremacy, Arsenal, like United, are Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator to Spurs or City’s T1000. They are an inferior outfit than the sleeker upgrade, but that experience and savvy may just see them prevail ahead of their nemesis.
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