Andre Villas-Boas warned Arsenal that they are in a “negative spiral”, after seeing his Tottenham Hotspur side open up a seven-point gap over their north London rivals on Sunday night.
Spurs are back in third and Arsenal are still fifth, but Villas-Boas was confident enough to acknowledge that his and Arsène Wenger's sides are moving in opposite directions.
"It's not a big margin yet for us to be completely safe," a delighted Villas-Boas said. "It can have a direct effect on their motivation, and on ours too. Particularly on them, because we are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they are in a negative spiral in terms of results. And to be out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult."
Last season Spurs were 10 points clear of Arsenal before losing 5-2 to them at the Emirates and eventually being overtaken and finishing fourth. Villas-Boas acknowledged last season's collapse. "Last year when Arsenal won to shorten the gap to seven points it felt that everything was too possible for Tottenham's qualification," he recalled, "and it shifted very, very quickly."
"At the moment we keep our feet on the ground, still some difficult games to play against big teams – Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City plus Everton – teams who have the same objectives as ours, so it hasn't finished yet. Everything is still possible and we just have to gather the most amount of points we can."
Villas-Boas was delighted with what was probably the most important win of his tenure as Tottenham manager. "It was extremely pleasing, there were some great, great individual performances," he said. "We have to mention everybody, but [Gylfi] Sigurdsson did ever so well, [Scott] Parker – great, great game for him, Benoît [Assou-Ekotto] is improving in form and confidence."
If Spurs are in the Champions League next year, Villas-Boas thinks they could be one of the biggest sides in England. "Everybody's ambition is to be there, the club could be propelled into a big club in England in the future," he said. "This club is taking massive steps in terms of investment in structures and players too.
"There is a great focus on trying to make this year the year we qualify for Champions League once again. Everybody is bonding together regarding our objective, the players have been absolutely outstanding, making it their objective. They make it public, they want to be in it, their desire has been tremendous in these recent games."
Wenger admitted his frustration after more defensive mistakes and a lack of attacking threat.
"It's very frustrating because we had a great attitude," Wenger said, "but we come out with no points because we were not efficient in the zones where it matters – at the front and at the back. But today it was a strange game to lose."
Arsenal are five points behind Chelsea and Wenger conceded that Champions League qualification will be difficult: "It's a massive challenge, massive. I said before the game we couldn't drop these points and I maintain that. I still think it's possible. We will fight for it. That is for sure.
Yet again Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down at half-time. "I cannot fault the attitude or the effort the team produced, the spirit they showed. But you give yourselves a mountain to climb, every time, in a game of that magnitude."
After reports in two newspapers of Middle Eastern interest in taking over Arsenal, Wenger denied any knowledge.
"I don't know anything about it," he said. "You are only vulnerable if you want to sell and you need money. So that doesn't concern me at all. That's down to the owners. Are they interested to sell? I do not know."