Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham: Spurs ‘overrun and embarrassed’ in north London derby

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Tottenham’s performance as they were overrun and embarrassed by Arsenal contained many moments that summed up the full horror of just how awful they were in the north London derby.

Nothing encapsulated it better – or should we say worse? – than the shambolic seconds that led up to Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka making it 3-0 after only 34 minutes to snuff out any slim chance of a Spurs revival.

Harry Kane led a rare Spurs attack before stumbling and falling over the ball. Arsenal, as they did so often in a brilliant first 45 minutes, were off and running towards Hugo Lloris’ goal.

Kane, to his credit, raced back into his own penalty area in an attempt to retrieve the latest in a long succession of Spurs first-half pratfalls, succeeding only in missing two tackles on Saka, who prompted bedlam by rolling home the finish.

And that was it. Game gone.

Some Spurs fans moved towards the exits, although it was not clear whether they were heading towards the Tube or simply needed something strong to get over the shock of the embarrassment they were witnessing.

It was the low point amid much competition and simply turns up the noise on the debate around Kane and also the direction in which Spurs themselves are heading under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo.

Kane was committed, seeing a shot saved by Aaron Ramsdale and lifting a finish just wide after the break. He was also first over to applaud the Spurs fans at the end – although in reality he was mainly clapping in the general direction of hundreds of empty red seats.

It was quite clear Kane intended to spend this season somewhere else so every day when it does not go right will command attention in a way it would not have done before a summer of speculation linking him to Manchester City.

Kane is the consummate professional but there is no escaping the fact that he is nowhere near his best, looks down on his luck, and there is also the questions about whether he is being used to his best advantage by Nuno.

England’s captain and, for a long time, the Spurs “He’s one of our own” talisman seemed to spend most of the 3-0 home defeat against Chelsea dropping too deep to have any impact while here he was simply not on the ball enough until it was far too late, Arsenal were protecting their lead and Spurs were finally rousing themselves after that shameful opening period.

Kane had just 25 touches in the game, with only Dele Alli (24) and Bryan Gil (21) having fewer. Alli lasted only 45 minutes and Gil figured for 20 minutes as a substitute.

He has yet to score a Premier League goal this season. Kane could be forgiven for wondering how many he might have already scored had he been at Manchester City.

What is beyond question is that Nuno needs to find a way to get Kane more engaged for however long he remains at Spurs because he is crucial to their season and also to how the manager’s own future unfolds.

Nuno Espirito Santo
Nuno Espirito Santo took charge of his 400th match as a manager across all clubs and competitions, with this his 10th at Tottenham. However, he is the first Spurs boss to lose as many as four times in his opening 10 fixtures since Glenn Hoddle back in 2001

Nuno was a long way down the list of targets when Spurs chairman Daniel Levy sacked Jose Mourinho in mid-April, although it remains difficult to know what the actual strategy was for the timing of dismissing his manager in the week of the League Cup final.

It meant Nuno needed a fast, impressive start to win over the many sceptics who saw him as an appointment of convenience and gain credibility, irrespective of his fine work at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

He got a good start by beating champions Manchester City at home, following it up with two more wins that had Spurs fans taking screenshots of a Premier League table that had them at the top and Arsenal at the bottom.

Since then, the graphs have been going in opposite directions as Arsenal surge and Spurs slump. Nuno was manager of the month for August, a perceived curse that is only supposed to last one game but which has seemingly left Spurs devoid of confidence and conviction.

This 3-1 loss was a third successive league defeat following on from the 3-0 reverse at Crystal Palace (a scoreline which flattered Spurs hugely) and a similar loss at home to Chelsea. Leaking nine goals in three league games is not a good look for a manager with a selling point on making his teams solid defensively and tough to beat.

And until he can get more out of this Spurs team, it will be constantly raised that Nuno’s only selling point to Levy and Spurs was his “last man standing” availability after what was a botched managerial search.

This, of course, cannot all be laid at Nuno’s door. Far from it.

Spurs have been heading in this direction since Mauricio Pochettino did not receive the sort of backing he wanted and required after taking them to the 2019 Champions League final, where they lost to Liverpool.

Mourinho appeared very much a quick fix, Levy-led vanity project that was an expensive failure. It is down to Nuno to somehow restore Spurs to somewhere near where the much-loved Pochettino had them.

He will not do it if Spurs continue to serve up the shameful fare they produced for 45 minutes at Arsenal, although a game-plan which did not appear to involve having a competitive midfield did not help.

Spurs’ players looked slumped and devoid of self-belief after only a few minutes in the face of a furious early Arsenal onslaught. The Gunners were brave while Spurs cowered. They were forceful while Spurs were fragile.

When Saka made it 3-0, it looked like Spurs would be on the receiving end of an almighty hiding. It might be their only mercy from this miserable day that they were not.

The questions come thick and fast.

Can Nuno get the best out of Kane? Will Kane be thinking about his future again in January? Will Nuno’s own future depend on how he uses his main striker?

The days of August seemed a very long way away as Nuno and Spurs felt the full derision and fury of those few of their supporters who were still inside Emirates Stadium at the final whistle.

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