Arsene Wenger insisted he never doubted Arsenal would prove the critics wrong as his side’s controversial 2-0 win over Tottenham slowed their rivals’ bid for north London supremacy.
When Arsenal finished below Tottenham in the Premier League for the first time in 22 years last season, frustrated Gunners fans stepped up their calls for Wenger to quit.
Arsenal’s erratic start to the current campaign, combined with Tottenham’s fine form, had only increased the pressure on Wenger.
But the Gunners boss remained steadfast in his belief that his players were too good to stay stuck in a rut.
They finally rewarded that faith with a vibrant display on Saturday, securing their first league win against Tottenham since March 2014 to show the local balance of power hasn’t been seized by their hated neighbours just yet.
“We played with purpose, a desire to be efficient and good solidarity from the first minute. We produced an immense performance,” Wenger said.
“We were not as bad as people said after we lost to Man City.
“When you lose people jump to conclusions, but we don’t listen as much as you think to the national debate.
“We live in our own club and focus on what is important. We can only give our answer on the pitch.”
Asked if he felt a sense of vindication from the derby win after enduring so much abuse following heavy defeat at Liverpool and Manchester City, Wenger took the high road.
“I’m here to produce a quality performance for people who come and pay their money. That is my job,” he said.
“I have as well sometimes to live with opinions that are not right and exaggerated.
“Two weeks ago (at City) we conceded a goal that was not marginally offside, it was a yard offside, and nobody said a word.
“I’m 35 years in the job, I can predict what happens.”
Key to Arsenal’s impressive performance was a tenacity that ha often eluded them in the past.
Even Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, two players’ whose commitment has been doubted as they look to leave when their contracts expire at the end of the season, delivered fired-up contributions.
“I know Sanchez and Ozil well, when they go on the pitch they want to win,” Wenger said.
“I never questioned their commitment. When they have bad games people think of course it’s because of they want to go.
“They love the club, they love the team, but the quality of the contract has to be right and as well other top clubs are out there offering contracts.”
Tottenham’s latest flop in an away game at one of their top-six rivals punctured the optimism engendered by their recent victory over European champions Real Madrid and dented their title hopes.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, who was furious with referee Mike Dean and his officials.
Pochettino felt Dean was wrong to award the free-kick that led to Shkodran Mustafi’s opener and claimed Alexandre Lacazette was offside in the build-up to Sanchez’s goal.
“It was so clear. It’s so difficult to explain when you lose this way,” he said.
“Some big details changed the game. Granit Xhaka should have had a second yellow card. If you analyse the game, until we conceded the goal we were doing well.
“It is a massive mistake, it’s not one mistake, it’s two. It wasn’t a foul and then it was offside.
“From that moment it changed. That affected the team and then we conceded another goal quickly.”
However, Pochettino refused to accept Tottenham have a mental block against their title rivals, claiming no-one has it easy on the road.
“We are in the same situation as everyone, for Manchester United it was difficult to play at Chelsea, for Arsenal it was difficult at Manchester City,” he said.