Mikel Arteta praised Arsenal’s “courage” as the Premier League leaders powered to a 2-0 win at arch rivals Tottenham before keeping their cool when goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was attacked by a fan after the final whistle on Sunday.
Arteta’s side were gifted the lead by Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who pushed Bukayo Saka’s cross into his own net early in the first half.
Martin Odegaard added Arsenal’s second goal with a superb long-range strike before the interval.
Arsenal’s first league double over Tottenham since 2013-14 moved them eight points clear of second-placed Manchester City.
But their celebrations were tarnished by an ugly conclusion to the derby when a Spurs fan jumped onto the pitch and tried to kick Ramsdale after the Arsenal keeper clashed with Tottenham’s Richarlison.
“The Spurs fans were giving me some throughout the second half, I gave them some back, then the fan jumped over,” Ramsdale said.
“It’s a sour taste but thankfully nothing too drastic happened.”
Asked about the flashpoint, Arteta added: “I just want to talk about football and the beautiful game we just played.
“I loved the way we played and the courage we showed. Everything we ask, they are so willing to try. They are a terrific group of players.
“I think today we went another step. We won last season in big stadiums, but the way we won today was really pleasing.”
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte condemned the fan attack, saying: “If it happened, it is not good. We always have to show respect for an opponent and the players. I don’t like it.”
As Arsenal’s unexpected title charge gathers pace, their trip to fifth-placed Tottenham was a significant test of their mettle.
They passed with flying colours at a venue which had been a house of horrors for the Gunners, who had lost all three games at Tottenham’s plush new stadium since it opened in 2019.
“It shows not only determination and courage but you have to have the belief and quality to do it against this team. That is absolutely down to the players,” Arteta said.
Even losing out to Chelsea in the race to sign Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhailo Mudryk on Sunday could be dismissed as a minor inconvenience thanks to this statement success.
Unbeaten in their last 12 league games, the Gunners are in pole position to win the title for the first time since Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles reigned supreme in 2004.
With spluttering City looking more vulnerable than usual and Liverpool struggling to shake off a season-long funk, Arsenal have seized the initiative in the title race with a remarkable 15 wins from their 18 games.
Next weekend’s visit from Manchester United – the only team to beat the Gunners in the league this season – stands as another crucial test for Arsenal, who still have to face City twice in the league and in the FA Cup.
“Psychologically and emotionally it’s a big result. There is a big history between the clubs and this means so much to our people,” Arteta said.
“It’s a great position to be in. Let’s enjoy every single moment and keep working. I don’t want to do calculations, we have to focus on United.”
Arsenal took the lead thanks to Lloris’ 14th minute nightmare.
When Saka cut in from the right flank and guided a cross into the six-yard box, it should have been easy for Lloris to handle.
But Lloris committed the latest in a growing list of costly errors with a woefully weak attempted save that let the ball squirm into the net at the near post.
Arsenal controlled possession with imperious ease and Thomas Partey was inches away when his dipping long-range volley crashed off the post.
Saka was proving impossible to contain and he provided the assist when Odegaard struck in the 36th minute.
Rampaging forward unchecked, Saka picked out the unmarked Odegaard and the Arsenal captain drilled a fine finish past Lloris from 25 yards.