Arsene Wenger insists it will take more than one great season for Spurs to justifiably say the balance of power in North London has shifted, writes Chris Hatherall, but it certainly felt like the needle moved significantly at White Hart Lane on an afternoon which could have implications way beyond the end of this campaign.
With so much flak flying around at the Emirates right now — and seemingly constant calls for Wenger to quit — it’s easy to forget just how dominant his Arsenal team have been in this part of London over two decades.
This was Wenger’s 50th North London derby and even including this result he has only lost eight.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) April 30, 2017
But after 22 years of finishing behind their local rivals in the Premier League, Tottenham’s deserved and convincing victory was about more than three points — and about more than keeping this year’s title race alive on a day when leaders Chelsea also won.
Yes, Tottenham’s slim hopes of a winning the championship were boosted by a 2-0 win given to them by Dele Alli and Harry Kane, but more importantly the result is another vital step to removing the shackles that have prevented Spurs truly achieving their potential for so long.
The game certainly put into even sharper focus the vast difference between these teams, not just in terms of the quality of football played but also in terms of their development, their mental state and their identity for the future.
In every one of those categories Tottenham look like they are ahead. They are a team which knows how they want to play, which has total backing from its fans, which benefits from a core of English or homegrown players and which knows where it wants to go.
Arsenal, by contrast, is a talented squad of individuals hanging on for dear life to the way things used to be and facing a major reshaping this summer whether or not manager Wenger decides to stay.
Hopes of finishing in the top four are not yet over, Manchester City and Manchester United’s failure to win earlier in the day has kept the race alive for Wenger’s side, but any hopes that only minor surgery could solve Arsenal’s problems in the longer term are gone and forgotten.
It should hurt Wenger that Tottenham here were more powerful and more organised than his team, that they pressed harder, worked better together, looked far more of a unit — and, yes, looked a class apart when you come to consider the whole package.
Against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final there were hopes that Wenger had found the key to getting an old-school performance out of his team, a way of winning ugly perhaps, but in the last ever North London derby at White Hart Lane it wasn’t enough.
From the power of Kane to the trickery of Alli, the prompting of Eriksen and the ruthless efficiency of a well-oiled defence, Tottenham showed they are ready to take the next step, to move ahead of Arsenal and to start thinking about themselves instead of fixating on their rivals.
Of course with that rise comes so many new problems. It’s one thing to have a great team and quite another to become a great club and achieve consistency for 20 years at the top as Wenger has done across north London.
Tottenham will need to find a way to keep hold onto their top players, to keep manager Mauricio Pochettino out of the hands of Europe’s giant clubs and to step up their recruitment this summer to keep ahead of richer rivals in the Premier League.
"I felt that we lacked a little bit of freedom to play"April 30, 2017
If they can achieve all those things, as well as building their new 60,000 seater stadium, then there is every chance, based on the talent available on the pitch, that Spurs have the potential to challenge every season to be kings of north London and to finally move the needle of power even further.
It’s a big ‘if’ of course. But as Arsenal ponder a considerable rebuilding task this summer, the opportunity is there for Tottenham to define a new era and make their own stamp not just on this fixture but on the future of the league itself.
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