It is hardly as if Harry Kane has a point to prove against Arsenal. He is already the top scorer in the history of the north London derby.
Even so, Arsenal, take that. Kane had this game as good as won by half-time and the pressure is now back on Mikel Arteta’s men to hang on to fourth place. Win against Newcastle and Everton, of course, and there is still nothing Tottenham can do. One slip, however and Kane will be waiting. Tottenham play Burnley on Sunday. By the time Arsenal walk out at St James’ Park, they could be two points adrift and in fifth place.
And Arsenal looked vulnerable on Thursday as Kane and Hueng-Min Son took them apart. They got to a three goal lead within the hour, the first time there has been such a margin between these teams in Premier League history. This is Tottenham’s longest unbeaten run against Arsenal at home since a period between 1960 and 1968 – a time that included the Double winning season, and Jimmy Greaves in the number nine shirt.
Tottenham Hotspur dismantled Arsenal on Thursday night and beat them 3-0 during their highly anticipated London derby
Harry Kane (above) opened the scoring by slotting the ball home from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute of the game
Tottenham were awarded the penalty after Cedric Soares committed a clumsy foul on Tottenham’s star striker, Son (above)
Kane doesn’t wear that but he is in the great man’s company. While everybody is getting giddy about the impending arrival of Erling Haaland, we shouldn’t forget the player Manchester City could have landed had Tottenham been amenable last summer. Kane is still capable of turning a match as important as this, he still has the smarts to win a major team the title. Might that be Tottenham? There is some way to go yet, even with the magnificent Antonio Conte in charge. He has transformed Tottenham’s season even if his ultimate reward may only be Europa League football. If he overhauls Arsenal for fourth, however, it is as close as Tottenham could have come to a trophy, without having to buy silver polish.
It helps Kane to have the mighty Son as a foil, too. Opponents are so busy watching one, the other can escape their attention. It’s a double act. So Son earned the 21st minute penalty that broke the deadlock, Kane converted it. For once, it wasn’t a foul by the hapless Rob Holding that was penalised, but it was a foul, Cedric Soares pushing Son in the back as he competed for a Dejan Kulusevski cross. Paul Tierney, the referee, pointed to the spot, Kane kept it low and right. Tottenham’s momentum built from there
In the 37th minute, Kane put them further ahead. It was a Son corner from the right, flicked on by the head of Rodrigo Bentancur, with Kane quickest to spot what was developing and getting to the far post to convert with a diving header from very close range.
Arsenal diehards may argue that Holding’s sending-off changed the game but Tottenham were already on top when that happened. Anyway, no sympathy is due. Arsenal have had 13 players dismissed since Arteta’s first game in charge, five more than any other team. That’s on them, not the referees. All Holding’s red card did was make what looked likely, inevitable. Arsenal didn’t look to have the beating of Tottenham with 11, let alone ten.
Arsenal worked very hard at getting this fixture off when it suited them, making it one of the most controversial postponements during the pandemic, mainly because Arteta had so few of his players affected by covid. Conte has never let them forget – but the timing of the rescheduling ultimately did Arsenal few favours. By the time it was fitted in, on the Thursday of the penultimate week of the season, Tottenham knew they had to win, and they rose to the occasion.
So by half-time they were two goals and one man up and both were thoroughly deserved. Tottenham were good for their lead, and it was right that Holding should play no further part beyond the 33rd minute. He set out to rattle Tottenham’s most in-form player, Son, but it simply wasn’t his game. Holding made four fouls before being shown the red card, which is the most he has ever made in a Premier League game despite lasting little more than half an hour. All were on Son, too, so it looked very much like he was under instruction. If so, it was a mug’s move. Son is a much better player than Holding. He was manhandled, roughed up, and seemed on the verge of losing his temper. Yet his talent got him through, and Holding did not have much more than raw physicality. When that proved unable to contain his man, he was the one who ended up rattled. It was Holding who was stretched and exasperated. Holding who was sent-off.
It began with a niggle on the left flank. Holding fouled Son, then left a bit more on him as he lay on the ground, needlessly kicking him in the back. Son looked upset. It could easily have been a booking. Referee Paul Tierney chose a little chat. Soon after, another coming together, this time in the middle. On this occasion, both men ended up on the turf but Holding wouldn’t let his man go. He dragged Son across and threw him off. Now, Son looked like he might lose it. Holding seemed to be getting what he wanted: Tottenham’s talisman distracted by a squabble.
Why didn’t Tierney do something? Third time’s a charm. In the 26th minute, Holding fouled Son and was shown a yellow card. Now he was the one feeling the strain. And, marking this tightly, 64 minutes was a long time to go without drawing a second caution. In the end, the Arsenal man could not last eight. As a ball was played forward and Son set off in pursuit, Holding checked over his shoulder and stop-blocked him with a slightly raised elbow and his shoulder in a dangerous position. He did his best to frame it as an accident but anyone who knows the game could see what he was up to. As could Tierney. He marched over, showed a second yellow card. It could have been a straight red. Arteta was moaning on the touchline but if this was his plan it had failed miserably. From there, Tottenham were in complete control.
Maybe they would have been anyway. They were already a goal up when Holding was dismissed and Arsenal had offered little that impressed. Eddie Nketiah had a shot tipped over by Hugo Lloris in the 43rd minute, but his only other contribution had been a very obvious dive after three minutes when Eric Dier was nowhere near him.
Tottenham scored the goals and had the best chances. In the 27th minute, a great run from Kane across the penalty area ended with the ball falling to Emerson Royal who should have done better than a wayward shot. In the 42nd minute, a deep cross by Ryan Sessegnon fell to Royal again, who missed from another good position.
As for Son, he got the last laugh in the second-half, scoring the goal that very much put the game beyond Arsenal’s reach. It was fabulous work from Kane, getting the better of Gabriel and feeding the ball which Son fired into the net with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale nowhere. Much like Arsenal on Thursday night.