Toby Alderweireld’s late header gave Tottenham victory in a tightly-contested north London derby.
There was an eerie atmosphere behind closed doors in the vast Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but this was still a fiercely-competitive derby in the traditions of this great rivalry as Spurs and Arsenal battle for a place in Europe next season.
Arsenal took the lead after 16 minutes when Alexandre Lacazette’s rising drive flashed past Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris but Jose Mourinho’s side were level within three minutes when Son Heung-min took advantage of slack defending by Sead Kolasinac and David Luiz to score with a deft chip.
Both sides had chances to force victory with Ben Davies denied when his 30-yard drive was brilliantly turned on to the bar by Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez in the first half while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also struck the frame of the goal after the break.
Arsenal had the greater share of possession but it was Spurs who struck decisively nine minutes from time when Alderweireld glanced in Son’s corner, securing a win that leaves them in eighth place, two points ahead of the Gunners.
Mourinho was feeling the pressure to produce a big result after recent poor performances – and this will do the trick nicely with victory against Spurs’ greatest rivals.
Spurs may not have had the greater share of possession and territory but they always carried a threat against an Arsenal side that was energetic and positive but looked vulnerable at the back – although keeper Martinez was excellent.
Mourinho’s side dug deep and struck just as the game looked to be heading for stalemate to get three points to keep Spurs right in the hunt for a place in Europe next season.
The result will also lift spirits after the recent loss at Sheffield United and the poor display in the draw at struggling Bournemouth.
For any faults this Spurs side have, and they are nowhere near the effervescent outfit that reached last season’s Champions League final, they still carry serious menace in the shape of Son, who scored one goal and created another, and Harry Kane.
There is still much for Mourinho to do but a win over Arsenal has never done any harm to Tottenham’s morale.
There was much to admire about Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal here but the bottom line is they were undone once more by old failings which their manager will be desperate to cure.
Arsenal were positive, energetic and dangerous, moving the ball quickly and looking to create chances for a potent strike pair of Lacazette and Aubameyang.
And yet it was the defensive frailties that characterise their play that allowed Spurs through the door and to the win.
Lacazette’s brilliant finish gave Arsenal the early advantage but, at a time when Arteta would have been looking for them to consolidate, they quickly ushered Spurs back in when confused defending gave Son the opportunity to chip Martinez for the equaliser.
And when they had enough control to think they would earn at least a point, Arsenal were undone by a routine set piece as Alderweireld glanced in Son’s corner.
It was something of the same old story – although Arteta will surely be aware of what needs fixing when he finally gets down to the serious alterations to the team he inherited.