"It's so quiet at the Lane," chortled Arsenal's jubilant support even before Emmanuel Adebayor swung his foot for the third goal, in added time, taking his team to the top of the table. There was, indeed, a stunned silence once Tottenham had lost a lead that although undeserved might have revived their season.
When Martin Jol, serenaded with "you're getting sacked in the morning", found his voice, he went through a familiar tale, repeating his mantra of "no pressure, no worries" and claiming that this season's start was no worse than 12 months ago, that players like Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon are returning to fitness and that results will come. Whether they arrive soon enough to save his job must remain in doubt.
"I can only listen to what [chairman] Daniel Levy is telling me," Jol said. "As long as we play good football and have the results, there's no problem. We'll get it right because I know my players. I will fight and they will fight."
Like Everton and Manchester City, Spurs face the constant problem of having played second fiddle for a decade to their closest rivals. Even Everton managed one season in front of Liverpool, which was rather spoilt when their neighbours immediately won the European Cup.
Tottenham have not finished above Arsenal since 1995 and optimism that this would be the season to repeat the feat was already draining away before three goals flew past Paul Robinson in the second half.
So Arsène Wenger has not lost in 16 derbies since arriving in north London; Jol has not won in nine. Comparisons are unfavourable not only in terms of their respective results and League positions, but because Spurs have spent twice as much money on the present squad as the one that outplayed them yesterday. The bind for Jol is illustrated by the fact that bookmakers not only make him favourite to be the next Premiership manager sacked, but have Tottenham the most likely side to finish fifth in the table.
Wenger's new contract, sensibly signed and sealed to prevent further distraction and uncertainty, was attractive to the Frenchman because he is genuinely excited by the potential of a young side who are developing mental and physical strength to complement their technical ability.
The former qualities are always required in a derby and from the moment Gaël Clichy sprinted purposefully down the left flank in the opening minute, Arsenal looked the part. It was therefore a considerable shock to them to be walking off at half-time a goal behind after Tottenham had created just one scoring opportunity. Even that was avoidable, twice over. There was no necessity for Gilberto Silva, standing in for William Gallas at centre-half, to clip Dimitar Berbatov's heels as the striker moved away from goal; Gareth Bale, excellent at set pieces, hit the free-kick with typical precision low round the defensive wall but Manuel Almunia was late and slow in falling to his left as the ball squeezed in at the near post.
Wenger, never one to criticise individual players publicly, suggested the wall should have offered his goalkeeper better protection, but the injured Jens Lehmann, convinced he will return as No 1, might have allowed himself a quiet smile. Nobody in red was smiling at the interval, only cursing their luck and some poor finishing.
Abou Diaby, soon to be replaced by Tomas Rosicky, was the worst offender, contriving to strike the crossbar from eight yards when Alexander Hleb teed him up with time and space to spare. Robinson, helpless on that occasion, made three saves from Adebayor, twice, and Hleb. The irony of the second half was that Tottenham did better, making five excellent chances while playing into the hands of Arsenal's fabled counter-attacking.
In the 50th minute, Berbatov went round Almunia but over-elaborated by trying to beat Kolo Touré instead of shooting and the opportunity was lost. Wenger sprang to his feet in the technical area for the first time and did so again two minutes later as Adebayor wasted all Bacary Sagna's good work down the right by hitting his cross wildly high. Just after the hour, however, the striker redeemed himself, beating his marker Younes Kaboul and Robinson to a free-kick by Cesc Fabregas.
It was now a more even game, played at fierce pace and more open than before. Robbie Keane went clear, just onside, to be thwarted in one of Almunia's better moments, and Clichy had to clear off the line from Berbatov. But with 10 minutes to play, the visitors launched a classic break that ended with Robin van Persie feeding Fabregas for a 30-yard drive that fizzed past Robinson.
Even then there should have been an equaliser. Spurs had sent on Lennon and Darren Bent, who found himself clean through with the goalkeeper hesitating, only to miscue completely. An appalled silence descended on all but the Arsenal sections, where Denilson's horrible miss was laughed off. Perhaps they knew there would be one more chance, which Adebayor, receiving from the outstanding Fabregas, lashed in from outside the penalty area.
"We missed the easy chances and scored the difficult ones," said Wenger, which was a fair summary. "One-nil at half-time didn't reflect the game, but you have only one option, to keep going. We take every chance to attack and it's pleasant to watch. I was optimistic we could start the season well and felt it was important to, to strengthen belief having lost Thierry Henry. There is quality there but also mental strength."Reuse content