LONDON — Harry Kane started this season looking for a departure from Tottenham, but he will end it, leading a late rise for Champions League qualification.
The North London derby is his fixture: Kane was already the all-time top scorer in those games before scoring a brace on Thursday that took his personal record to 13 and sent Spurs to an emphatic 3-0 win over the ten-man Arsenal led to blast the top four races wide.
Tottenham needed to win here and they did, thanks to their talisman rising in a way it had done so many times before, securing their biggest league win over Arsenal since 1983.
The added significance this time around is that securing a Champions League spot increases Spurs’ chances of keeping Kane through the summer while also helping to provide a cash injection needed to complete Antonio Conte’s desired overhaul of that squad to finance as far as they can soon fight for the Premier League title.
Tottenham can move above Arsenal if they beat Burnley on Sunday lunchtime, a situation Conte could prepare for in a second half that turned into a procession after two minutes when Heung Min-Son scored a third goal and a loose ball recorded as Gabriel tried to stop Kane’s advance into the box.
It will be embarrassing for the Gunners that Spurs were feeling so comfortable that Conte Son and Dejan Kulusevski were able to withdraw for the final 18 minutes, the former particularly unlucky as he was just behind Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (22) in the Golden Boot race Has .
But this wasn’t a night to think about individual prizes. Both Arsenal and Spurs need the prestige and financial clout that Champions League football brings and the stakes in the game only added to the long-awaited night at this stadium.
Tottenham’s new £1billion arena opened in April 2019 but planning errors and COVID-19 meant Thursday was the first derby to be played at this stunning venue to a sold-out crowd. And how they enjoyed it.
There were always question marks about how this young Arsenal side would handle such an opportunity. Even in their four most recent victories – against Chelsea, Manchester United, West Ham and Leeds – the Gunners have had a 15-20 minute period when they lost their composure. On those occasions they had enough to get them through those periods, but this time it ultimately cost them the game.
The deafening noise will no doubt have made it easier for referee Paul Tierney to award a penalty in the 22nd minute after Cedric poked Son in the back as he tried to head for goal. It was a marginal decision that went in Spurs’ favour, Kane sending off the penalty with usual precision.
Rob Holding apparently targeted Son from the start. He was cautioned after 26 minutes for pulling the South Korean back and released seven minutes later for a stray elbow in Son’s direction. He committed four fouls in his time on the pitch, the most he has ever committed in a Premier League game, and all of them were on Son.
Since Arteta took charge in December 2019, Arsenal have now had 13 red cards, five more than any other side. For his part, Arteta was outraged by both the penalty decision and Holding’s sacking.
“If I say what I think, I’ll be banned for six months,” he told Sky Sports. “I don’t know how to lie, so I’d rather not say what I think.
“I can’t say what I think. I’m not dissatisfied with my players. I’m proud of my players. I want the referees to come in front of the camera and explain his decisions. It’s a shame because it’s such a nice one today game was destroyed.”
Kane doubled the lead in the 37th minute and bent down to head in Rodrigo Bentancur’s shot from Son’s corner. Eddie Nketiah lost Kane at the far post and in those 15 minutes Arsenal’s evening was essentially over.
Spurs threatened to miss Cristian Romero early on as they struggled to play under a menacing Arsenal press from behind, but perhaps the most felt absentee that night was Ben White, who was deemed fit enough for the only after suffering a hamstring problem bank was viewed.
Arsenal lost Gabriel late to a similar injury but they said White has still not been featured. Instead, they ended the game with a back four of Cedric, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Granit Xhaka and Nuno Tavares – quite a quartet for a game of this magnitude. White was probably saved for Monday’s away game to Newcastle, a game made even more important as their lead is now a single point with two games to play.
Significantly, Champions League qualification remains in the hands of Arsenal but the momentum is now at Tottenham after a day of derby that is sure to excite the hosts and demoralize the visitors.
The upcoming challenges require cool heads and strong characters. Kane may have seen his move to Manchester City fail last summer and in recent days after capturing Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, but he will be the focus for Spurs as they look to salvage their season .