Arsene Wenger has never been a passionate advocate for the Carling Cup, using the competition in previous seasons to blood his latest crop of teenagers. However the experience of seeing clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham lift the trophy at Wembley in recent years has prompted a change of heart.
No one at Arsenal, not least their manager, is comfortable with the record of five seasons without silverware. Faced with the prospect of a sixth barren year without a trophy, all of a sudden the Carling Cup looks a tempting proposition, or so it would seem judging by the way Wenger took to this north London derby.
Instead of packing his side with teenagers, as has been his policy for several seasons, the Arsenal manager, who watched the game from the stands after deciding to take his medicine for his confrontation with the fourth official at Sunderland on Saturday, picked an experienced team for the short trip to Tottenham. It appeared to catch the hosts by surprise, as there had been no hint of it in the build-up to the game.
Wenger said his selection of a strong side, including the likes of Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Eboué and Tomas Rosicky, may be continued into later rounds as Arsenal now feel the Carling Cup is a competition to take seriously.
The reward for Wenger was a glorious performance and a convincing victory that will go some way to avenging Arsenal's 5-1 defeat at the same ground two years ago. His policy of picking young players in previous years was vindicated, in part, with the mature performance of Jack Wilshere in a deeper role in midfield. He was the victim of several hefty challenges, particularly in the first half, but did not retaliate and instead hit Tottenham with a display of craft and guile that was too much for their patched-together side to cope with.
The youngest player on either side, Wilshere's was a performance of genuine class. Wenger said: "Jack Wilshere was outstanding. I'm a bit cautious with him because you don't want to get praised too early but in the first half he showed a bit of everything you want from a footballer – he got some stick, could take it and didn't respond. He won the ball, tactically his position was always good. He had an outstanding first half. He is fearless."
Wenger's one concession to inexperience was the selection of Henri Lansbury, a 19-year-old from Enfield despite the Gallic nature of his first name. The England Under-21 international wasted no time making his mark.
He was unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty when his run was checked by a clumsy challenge by Tottenham left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The teenager had his revenge in the 15th minute, when he ghosted unmarked into the area to round off a wonderful passing move from Arsenal. Eboué, at right back, found Kieran Gibbs on the opposite side of the pitch and the ball was swiftly moved on to Rosicky who found Wilshere on the overlap and the England international centred low for Lansbury to finish confidently.
Lansbury certainly looked the part on his first start for the Gunners. He has been touted by the club as being at "the vanguard of a new generation of English talent which has emerged through the youth ranks at Arsenal." Big and pacy, his touch is sure, and he certainly was not overawed by the big occasion, after spending most of last season on loan at Watford.
While Arsenal were stroking the ball around with a swagger, Tottenham began as if they were strangers, which perhaps was not surprising as manager Harry Redknapp made 10 changes from the team that started in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Wolves.
Tottenham's lack of familiarity handed the initiative to Arsenal, who dominated the first 45 minutes but only scored once. Redknapp responded by making two changes at half-time, with Robbie Keane and Aaron Lennon replacing Giovani dos Santos and Jake Livermore. The impact was immediate. Four minutes after coming on, Keane put Tottenham level. He looked offside as he received Kyle Naughton's ball but as play continued the Irishman fired a low shot that Lukasz Fabianski in the Arsenal goal should have saved.
Both sides went for the win, but at 90 minutes the scoreline remained 1-1. However a minute into extra time, Arsenal struck a decisive, if controversial, blow. There was minimal contact, if any at all, from Tottenham defender Sebastien Bassong as Samir Nasri fell to the turf as he ran on to Andrei Arshavin's lobbed pass but referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot. The French midfielder got up and sent Stipe Pletikosa the wrong way.
If there was a strong element of doubt about that penalty, there was none when Naughton pulled back Marouane Chamakh four minutes later. Nasri outwitted Pletikosa again to score from the penalty spot and the tie was over inside six minutes of extra time.
Arsenal then rubbed Tottenham noses in it with a fourth goal just before the end of the first extra-time period. Wilshere took a quick free-kick and Arshavin pounced with a left foot finish of such power and precision that Pletikosa had no chance.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-4-1): Pletikosa; Naughton, Caulker, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Sandro (Kranjcar, 96); Livermore (Lennon, h-t), Palacios, Dos Santos (Keane, h-t), Bentley; Pavlyuchenko. Substitutes not used Cudicini (gk) Hutton, Huddlestone, Jenas.
Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Fabianksi; Eboué, Koscielny, Djourou, Gibbs (Clichy, 102); Lansbury, Denilson, Wishere, Rosicky (Chamakh, 73); Nasri; Vela (Arshavin, 73). Substitutes not used Almunia (gk), Sagna, Eastmond, Emmanuel-Thomas.
Man of the match Wilshere
Referee L Probert (Wiltshire)
Match rating 8/10.
Wenger watch: He looked on from the stands but was still involved in the action
Arsene Wenger was banished to the stands for last night's match after he was handed a one-match touchline ban for improper conduct following the Premier League game against Sunderland on Saturday. Wenger's assistant and former captain Pat Rice directed operations from the dugout.
15 min Modest celebration as Henri Lansbury finishes a fine move – crisp passing and good movement.
22 min Would normally have protested as Jake Livermore and then Sandro crash into Jack Wilshere; the former booked, the latter not.
26 min Chants of "There's only one Arsène Wenger" just as Roman Pavlyuchenko puts Spurs' best first-half chance into the side-netting.
42 min Tomas Rosicky is the victim of a bad tackle by Kyle Naughton. After talking to first-team coach Boro Primorac, goes downstairs for half-time talk.
46 min Struggling with mobile phone communication and resorting to sign language with Rice.
65 min On the phone – though nobody seems to be answering – as Tottenham improve with Keane and Lennon on.
71 min Message gets through for a double substitution as Andrei Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh are sent on.
90 min Plans for extra-time have to be made on the phone; no descent to pitch level allowed until final whistle.
92 min Clenched fists as Samir Nasri wins a soft penalty then tucks it away.
95 min And same again as Nasri does the same again.
104 min Seems to have found a front-row seat to enjoy extra-time; just as Arshavin scores the fourth.
119 min Early descent to congratulate team in dressing room.
Won many plaudits while on loan at Yeovil Town last season and has captained the England Under-19s. Caulker faced a tricky, knowing opponent in Carlos Vela, however, and the defender was caught out as badly as anyone for the first goal. Showed some confidence in one run down the right which was subsequently spoilt by a poor cross.
No relation to the former Spurs coach Doug Livermore, the energetic central midfielder saw plenty of the ball without always using it for the best. Did not appear inhibited by a deserved yellow card for crudely fouling Jack Wilshere but was replaced at half-time by Aaron Lennon to give Spurs some proper width.
Was signed from Internacional, sight unseen, by Harry Redknapp, who says that his chief scout's neck will be on the line if the Brazilian does not live up to his billing. Redknapp has already compared him in stature and style to Socrates, but there were only occasional signs of that in his performance as Spurs' defensive midfielder.
The 20-year-old is already an England international, who can only get a game when the regular left-back Gaël Clichy needs a rest. Having impressed Fabio Capello on his debut at Wembley for the friendly against Hungary, he was hardly going to be overawed here. Involved in the first goal with one of his assured forays downfield. Excellent.
A 19-year-old Londoner, despite his first name, who played mainly on the right of midfield, occasionally switching to the left. He moved into the middle to catch the Spurs' defence unawares and to score his first senior goal after 15 minutes. Lansbury is a feisty player and did well against an experienced opponent in Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Having missed most of last season with a bad injury, the Swiss-Ivorian centre-half has lost ground and is probably no better than fourth-choice. Yet he played at the World Cup four years ago. Difficult night in physical battle with Roman Pavlyuchenko, not improved when moving out to play Robbie Keane offside and watching him score.