For Antonio Conte, the fun was in dominating. It was physical, his Tottenham players running all over their rivals Arsenal; beat them, pound them into submission. It was psychological, visitors seeming to crumble in the face of a ferociously intense atmosphere. And it was tactical, Conte’s approach seeming quick and incisive; pleasing to the eyes.
Spurs knew they had to win to maintain their hopes of propelling Arsenal to fourth place. They did that and more. It was a statement performance and one to seriously test their near and dear ones. Arsenal remain in control of their destiny, as far as a Champions League final is concerned, but Mikel Arteta has some regrouping work to do ahead of the decisive trip to Newcastle next Monday.
It was an occasion when everything was going wrong for him. Rob Holding’s sending off for a silly second booking in the 33rd minute was when it went down for Arsenal, but they were already behind Harry Kane’s opener, scored from the penalty spot after Cedric Soares had foul Son Heung-min.
Arsenal couldn’t live with Son and, certainly, Holding couldn’t – both of his cards came to him for fouls. Kane would score again and it was Son, inevitably, who scored the final goal – his 21st of the Premier League season to continue his pursuit of the Golden Boot. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is currently in the lead with 22.
Son was taken off to a huge ovation in the 72nd minute as Conte expected Burnley to visit on Sunday, but the South Korean was far from happy. He wanted more and he felt it was there for the taking.
Arteta would lose his other starting centre-back, Gabriel, to a late injury and, with Ben White an unused substitute as he recovered, he finished with Takehiro Tomiyasu and Granit Xhaka in the middle of his back line. With Kieran Tierney already out, a selection crisis looms in defense
Initially, it felt like Cedric against Son on the Spurs left was a mismatch waiting to happen. But it was Holding against Son that caused the most serious damage for Arsenal.
The pair had clung to the ground at the start – Holding apparently wanting to leave a marker – and, when Son turned away from him in the 26th minute, beating him at the end, Holding put his hands on him again. He had his first warning. Time to tread carefully? No. When Holding saw Son cross it chasing a high ball from Eric Dier, he cynically stopped him. What was he thinking? The second yellow card is out.
Arteta was furious with the referee, Paul Tierney, as he had been for the penalty. Perhaps it was the frustration of seeing his team overwhelmed, being beaten in an increasing number of duels as the first half progressed. Arteta denied it but it was possible to wonder if the occasion had not been too hot for his team.
With fans inside this stadium for the first time in a derby, it was Arsenal who blinked first, Cedric chasing Son at the far post as the Spurs striker chased down a Dejan Kulusevski cross. Kane is the all-time leading scorer in this game. When he sent the penalty, there was little doubt about the result.
Spur perfumed blood. Yelled by the crowd, they pressed high, carrying the fight. Moments before Holding’s dismissal, Kane had seen a shot blocked by Tomiyasu. He didn’t have to wait long for his second.
It was Rodrigo Bentancur who fired a corner from Son and Kane was all alone at the far post to duck and go home. The half-time damage could have been heavier but, after Tomiyasu blocked Kane again, Ryan Sessegnon lifted a nice cross and Emerson Royal lifted high.
Spurs’ third was an all round killer for Arsenal. There was the timing – just after halftime. But there was once again the sight of a Spurs player intimidating his opponent. It was Kane this time, backing into Gabriel, trying to roll him and the Arsenal player struggling to hold his ground. With both men on the ground, the ball popped to Son, who lifted an assured finish past Aaron Ramsdale.
Bukayo Saka was turned down by Ben Davies but there were oles from home support; how they appreciated their team putting a boot to Arsenal’s throat. Leniency was not part of the mood.
Kane worked Ramsdale from distance and Son got up from a Sessegnon cross when he should have done better. Arsenal would come close through Martin Ødegaard but, for them, there was no consolation. Spurs had mastered the opportunity in every way.