It was straw-clutching time for the red half of north London in the wake of Arsenal's 2-1 derby defeat at White Hart Lane. The dream scenario envisaged aping Chelsea and denying Tottenham Champions League entry next season by winning the competition. But a 3-1 home deficit to Bayern Munich in the knock-out round makes that a 500-1 long-shot even if Arsenal have 10 clear days to prepare for the second leg in Germany.
More revealing was the identity of Arsenal.com's man of the match, as voted for by supporters: Tomas Rosicky, who only played the final 30 minutes. While Carl Jenkinson insisted: "There are 10 games left and there are plenty of points to play for – we've bridged a gap like that before and can do it again," such a recovery seems highly unlikely. "We have to pick ourselves up," added Wojciech Szczesny, but Arsenal, as Andre Villas-Boas observed, are now trapped in "a spiral of negativity".
"We need this breather now," said Per Mertesacker. " We can think about our situation. There is potential but we need to show that on the pitch. We looked good for the first 35 minutes [against Tottenham] but we couldn't manage both situations where they scored. It was very disappointing the way we played after we scored. It wasn't enough, we had to put more in. We couldn't do it and that makes me disappointed.
"We were good in the beginning, but we need to maintain that level and that's what we are lacking all the time, that consistency over 90 minutes – or at least to keep a clean sheet for the first 45 minutes. That was our first target. We switched off, we expected there to be a foul called, but you can't switch off at any time."
Tottenham were not making any assumptions having been caught in the run-in by Arsenal last season, but their caution was studied, as if they were aware of the need to remind themselves it was not over yet even if it felt like it.
"There is still a lot of football to play," said Michael Dawson. "We have got some tough games coming up but this has put us in a good position."
In the league it is four successive wins and 12 unbeaten for Spurs. If Arsenal can catch anyone it may have to be Chelsea, currently enveloped in their own cloud of negativity.