Harry Kane was far from Tottenham's worst player in a drab Arsenal performance – but England captain is forlorn figure
THEY are a club that nobody wanted to manage and a club whose star player was desperate to leave.
They are a team that failed to turn up on time against their bitterest rivals, and a team which has now capitulated in London derbies on three successive weekends.
For while Arsenal were inspired – rapid in thought and deed, ravenous in appetite – Tottenham were an absolute shower for the majority of this contest.
Harry Kane was far from Tottenham’s worst player, but after the phantom summer transfer saga he endured, it was difficult not to be drawn to the forlorn figure of the England captain.
As Arsenal tore into Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, rattling up a three-goal lead inside 34 minutes, it was Kane who fell over to lose possession and Kane who ended flat on his backside after a failed slide tackle on his England team-mate Bukayo Saka, as he rammed home the third.
This may be a mid-table fixture these days – Arsenal are tenth, Spurs eleventh.
But after an occasion like this – as joyous as Arsenal fans have experienced at the Emirates in the post-Wenger era – at least one of these rivals has a sense of direction.
For Gooners, here was a glimpse of something brighter, snatched in the last of the summer sunshine.
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They exploded into a delirium of flailing limbs each time Arsenal scored, they roared with laughter at every Tottenham error and, time and time again, they told their rivals that they ‘will always be s***’.
Spurs, snubbed by countless managers before Nuno accepted a job about as desirable as a shift in a BP garage, seemed devoid of all hope, until a vain late rally.
It is difficult to imagine Nuno still being in charge at White Hart Lane by the time his Santa beard becomes seasonal.
But it is equally tough to imagine many other managers achieving more with a squad which has been diluted of quality and has been on an alarming slide, even since before their Champions League final appearance in 2019.
Kane is not the sort to chuck in the towel, but he is lacking sharpness – perhaps even supreme motivation.
For Mikel Arteta, this was a rare triumph. And for an Arsenal hierarchy who talk a lot about long-term planning and youthful resurgence, the opening 45 minutes were evidence that their vision might not be an opium-filled pipe dream.
It is difficult to remember an opening half of any major derby match in which one team looked so revved up, while their rivals appeared so utterly flat – the managers included.
Arteta was a hyperactive, box-of-frogs, ants-in-pants presence all afternoon.
Nuno stood motionless, gazing into space, like a disillusioned holidaymaker trying to recall what it had said in the brochure.
And while touchline ‘passion’ is an overrated quality, both teams were reflections of their bosses here.
Arsenal were bang on it, Thomas Partey dominant in midfield during that decisive opening half, as Saka and Emile Smith Rowe notched a goal and an assist apiece.
Nuno didn’t trust any of Tottenham’s summer signings with a starting berth as if those who had been around longer might ‘get’ the derby more. He was wrong.
Beforehand, it felt as if this fixture was not so much about bragging rights, more to do with two sets of supporters hoping not to lose the will to live.
The crowing songs of Gooners along the Holloway Road were almost two decades old – about winning the league at White Hart Lane and Sol Campbell doing the double.
Spurs, of course, have to go back even further for their true glory days.
But this might just be a turning point for Arsenal, something tangible to build upon.
After three games of the season, Spurs had been top and Arsenal bottom – always false positions. Now Arteta’s men might at least imagine North London superiority in the Premier League table for the first time in five years.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang didn’t even turn up on time for this fixture last season and was dropped for a 2-1 victory – but he looked determined to pay some reparations here, forcing a smart early save from Hugo Lloris.
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Arsenal were ahead in the 12th minute, though. Ben White won a header against Kane, Martin Odegaard advanced and fed Saka, who cut back for Emile Smith Rowe to side-foot home.
Partey had a long-ranger pushed away by Lloris, Aubameyang curled one just over, and after Aaron Ramsdale repelled a Son Heung-min effort, Arsenal doubled their advantage.
Granit Xhaka salvaged a poor pass from Ramsdale, then Kieran Tierney fed Aubameyang, whose artful flick released Smith Rowe.
The kid sprinted forward and cut back for Aubameyang to slot home as the Emirates dissolved into rapture.
The third, from the ebullient Saka, arrived after Kane’s slip and his vain attempt to retrieve the situation.
It could never have remained quite as one-sided and Spurs improved after the break.
Kane might have had a penalty when White clipped him on the edge of the area, then chipped a shot just wide of the far post when sent clear.
Son drilled in a 78th-minute response from a Sergio Reguilon centre and Lucas Moura’s deflected effort was tipped on to the bar by Ramsdale.
By the end, there was an element of respectability about the scoreline.
But nobody who witnessed the first half will have been fooled by that.
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