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North London Derby Recap: Has the power shift now taken place?

Dean Carr 12 Feb 2018
Hero Harry: Kane has seven goals in as many games against Arsenal

Seven points off their arch rivals and a place in the Champions League, the only consolation Arsenal fans could take at around 2:30pm on Saturday afternoon was that their team hadn’t been beaten by more after escaping Wembley with just a 1-0 defeat in the north London derby.

Tottenham were in full-flow, showing a level of energy and hunger that was abundantly absent from Arsenal, even an heir of confidence that it is they, not the Gunners, who are the top dogs in north London. Previous Spurs teams have lacked such belief, even arrogance that there is nothing to fear when facing Arsenal. ‘Three Point Lane’ is no more - or ‘Three Point Wembley’ in this instance - and it appears St. Totteringham’s Day is on hold for a second successive year.

Arsenal fans may well cling on to the fact they are in the Carabao Cup final in a fortnight's time and that they have won two FA Cups and three Community Shields since Mauricio Pochettino took charge of Spurs in 2014, but it is clear the power shift is happening in front of their very eyes.

Granted, Tottenham need to win a trophy sooner rather than later, with the FA Cup being their best opportunity of doing so this season, but Saturday proved unequivocally who the better of the two teams is right now. Tactically, Arsene Wenger was left wanting once again after another away day nightmare, it now being six games in all competitions without a win on the road.

The front three of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were uninfluential, while Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere struggled to get to grips with Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele in midfield. Tottenham looked far more athletic, far fitter than their opponents, pressing out of possession with intensity and looked to get the ball forward quickly when the opportunity presented itself.

How Harry Kane managed to get on the scoresheet on just the one occasion as opposed to taking the match ball home only he will know, after being allowed a glut of opportunities from a passive Gunners defence. Released by Arsenal at the age of eight, Kane has since gone on to surpass the level of both of their £107m duo in Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, the latter being guilty of wasting two excellent chances to level the game in the second half. Kane now has seven goals in seven north London derbies and is 8/15 with Paddy Power to win the Golden Boot.

Arsenal can still be superb on their day, exemplified by the way they dismantled Everton the week prior, but too often in big games they are unable to assert their dominance in the way they can against teams lower in the table. If the game is taken to them, what is often found is  a soft centre. This result, and the manner in which Tottenham secured it, proved in no uncertain terms who the dominant force now is.

While Wenger struggles to motivate and exorb the maximum from his squad each week,  Mauricio Pochettino is doing the opposite. From a pure talent perspective, it could be argued that Mkhitaryan, Ozil and Aubameyang have more ability than Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Kane, but Pochettino’s work on the training ground has brought his players to a level perhaps ahead of where Wenger has been able to.

Facing Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal in each of their last three Premier League games, Tottenham can feel more than satisfied with their body of work from such a tough triple-header of games, collecting seven points from a possible nine. They, like Arsenal still have room for improvement away from home with only two wins from their last nine, but the way they have adapted to their new Wembley surroundings has been admirable.

Having the Premier League’s most lethal marksmen also helps, with Kane’s second-half header at Wembley taking his tally to 23 league goals for the season - one more than Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.

The trajectories of these two teams can be highlighted no more simply than their upcoming midweek fixtures. Tottenham travel to Juventus in the Champions League; Arsenal will be facing Swedish outfit Ostersunds in the Europa League. Comparing managers gives a similar reading - Spurs fans would move heaven and earth to keep hold of Pochettino; Arsenal fans may well do the same to get rid of Wenger.

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North London Derby Recap: Has the power shift now taken place?

After falling seven points behind Tottenham, we ask if Arsenal are now the secondary force in north London.

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