Manchester United may have silenced their noisy neighbours for a while but Arsenal suddenly have a major local difficulty in the shape of Tottenham, who joined them yesterday on 25 points in the Premier League thanks to an astonishing nine-goal demolition of Wigan, in which Jermain Defoe scored five times.
Perhaps even more remarkably, eight of those goals – plus Wigan's solitary reply – came in the second half. It was Tottenham's biggest win since Bristol Rovers were beaten 9-0 in the old second division in 1977 and Defoe joins Andy Cole and Alan Shearer on an elite list of forwards who have scored five times in a Premier League fixture.
Defoe's first three goals came in the space of just seven minutes and the England forward revealed he had made a last-minute decision to change his boots before the game, following a conversation with coach Clive Allen, whose uncle Les also once scored five in a Spurs shirt. "I had a funny feeling before the game," Defoe revealed. "Adidas gave me a pair of green boots and I tried them on before the game, but Clive Allen said I couldn't wear them, so I changed them. They were pinkish-silver ones I wore in the end, and I go and score five with them."
The afternoon marked Aaron Lennon's return following a three-match absence through injury and the England winger was a revelation from the first minute.
His first foray down the right flank saw him begin a 90-minute tormenting of ex-Spurs player Erik Edman and, although Defoe and Peter Crouch somehow contrived to spurn that chance, only nine minutes had elapsed before the latter managed to convert a tasty offering, with Titus Bramble at fault at the back for the visitors.
The Latics goalkeeper Chris Kirkland was one reason why it remained 1-0 until half-time. He made one notable save from former Wigan midfielder Wilson Palacios and tipped an angled Defoe effort onto the crossbar.
But it was to be Defoe's day and the match ball was already destined for his mantlepiece before the game was an hour old. Lennon was the provider for his first with Defoe doubling the lead by getting ahead of his marker, Emmerson Boyce, and rifling high into the roof of the net.
Boyce and Edman failed to cut out a Palacios through ball to allow Defoe to make it 3-0 three minutes later and his hat-trick was complete in the 58th minute thanks to another assist from Lennon.
Wigan had actually pulled one back by that point through Paul Scharner, and on another day this might have been a bigger talking point as the Austrian was guilty of as blatant a handball in the build-up as Thierry Henry committed in the Stade de France during the mid-week play-off, to the disgust of the world and the Republic of Ireland in particular.
Defoe's third came just seconds later so justice was seen to be done in a sense and Lennon helped himself to Tottenham's fifth when Crouch set him up in the box.
Wigan were already praying for the final whistle, but further torment was coming their way in the shape of another two smart Defoe finishes and one each from David Bentley and Niko Kranjcar.
Bentley, who had come on to allow Lennon the ovation he richly deserved, scored direct from a free-kick, although the ball actually crossed the line courtesy of a rebound from the woodwork off the hapless Kirkland, who had pulled off a smart save to deny Crouch. Kranjcar's goal came deep into added time and also went in via the goal-frame; the underside of the bar this time.
The home supporters celebrated heartily afterwards but the Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, admitted he felt for his Wigan counterpart, Roberto Martinez, who is finding his debut season in the Premier League to be every bit as tough as he must have feared while packing his bags to leave Swansea.
"You don't want to be jumping up and down when you've scored seven," he said, having momentarily forgotten the last two goals. "I know what their manager was going through. It's difficult and I felt a bit for him. As happy as I am inside with it all, I can imagine what he's going through. I wouldn't want to be running up the touchline in front of him."
The scoreline also reminded Redknapp of his own fledgling days in management, with Bournemouth in 1982. "I've been on the wrong end of a nine – my first game, losing 9-0 with Bournemouth at Lincoln," he said. "The pitch was like an ice rink, rock-hard, and they were top of the league. They had those pimple boots on. We had no rubber boots, nothing, long nylon studs we were so poor. The players were falling over as they went on to the pitch for the warm-up."
For Martinez, the task is simple: to stop his side plunging into the relegation picture. "It's not nice, but what's important is bouncing back and learning from this situation," he said. "It's a real test for everyone. We came here to try and get the three points. But this is a day to congratulate Spurs and try and react to this as quickly as we can."
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto (Bassong, 82); Lennon (Bentley, 79), Huddlestone, Palacios (Jenas, 84), Kranjcar; Defoe, Crouch. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Hutton, Pavlyuchenko, Keane.
Wigan Athletic (4-5-1): Kirkland; Melchiot (Cho, 85), Bramble, Boyce, Edman; Thomas (Gomez, 68), Diame, N'Zogbia, Scharner, Rodallega; Scotland. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Koumas, Sinclair, Kapo, Figueroa.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Booked: Tottenham Kranjcar.
Man of the match: Defoe.
Attendance: 35,650.Reuse content