Tottenham Hotspur 1 Arsenal 3: Wenger's wonders too sophisticated for Spurs to live with

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The Independent Football

Not only is Arsène Wenger reinventing football in England – there simply is not a purer, more technically accomplished team than Arsenal – he is also reinventing the language.

"I'm very excited about this team because, and I don't know if the word exists, they are 'playerish'," Wenger said, before explaining what he wanted that word to mean. "They love to play. And that is something that you feel from the outside. They love to play. They continue to play and like to score."

It is no wonder that words have to be conjured up to encapsulate what is going on. Adjectives are already running dry on the extraordinary skills and precocity of Cesc Fabregas even if the young Spaniard, the scorer of an exhilarating goal here, was pipped as the man of the match by the relentless Emmanuel Adebayor.

Something special is certainly being created by Wenger in London N5 – much to the consternation of N17 – and it was Spurs' misfortune, and more specifically that of their threatened manager Martin Jol, that they ran head-long into it. It is now eight years and 17 matches since they beat Arsenal. Even more damagingly, they are already nine points behind their rivals.

Spurs played well, but not well enough. They led and had opportunities to extend that lead but they were, in truth, well beaten. It was a two-speed contest. The scoreline was certainly not flattering to the visitors, who have emerged, as Wenger promised they would, as genuine title contenders.

It was a performance of intent, a marker for the rest of the Premier League, a game that Adebayor called Arsenal's "first real test". They were relentless, not just in their pursuit of victory but in the perfection of that pursuit. It was football played on a higher plane, at a different velocity and with a brutal elegance, even if it included the distracting antics of a goalkeeper as unconvincing as Manuel Almunia. Place a Petr Cech in this team and goodness knows what they would achieve.

But Almunia, an eccentric character with bleached blond hair and a brown beard, was not alone. For Spurs, Paul Robinson started with a series of fine saves but ended with familiar doubts, namely his handling of crosses and long-range shots. The goalkeeper said: "We can't let a team like Arsenal create as many chances as they did and expect to get anything out of the game. We know they're not streets ahead [of us]. But there's a mentality, they finish games off."

After a period of renewal, with Thierry Henry departing and Wenger signing a new contract, that winning edge is being honed. Fabregas confirmed what was suspected: ultimately, Arsenal will be better off without Henry. "Thierry was an important player for a lot of years but now he's gone," he said. "We have to play more as a team, like we're doing now. We're playing more collectively."

That was evident from the first whistle, even if Arsenal fell behind when Gareth Bale's 25-yard free-kick squeezed inside the post to beat Almunia. Twice Robinson was alert to deny Adebayor and then Abou Diaby, on his own, slammed a straightforward opportunity against the crossbar.

It meant Spurs remained in front at the interval, and they should have doubled that lead: Dimitar Berbatov tried to dribble around Kolo Touré – after Almunia's rash rush from goal – and was dispossessed.

Adebayor skied another chance, but suddenly Arsenal were clinical. The Togolese striker reached Fabregas's free-kick, with Bale dawdling and Robinson flailing, and headed the equaliser. Then there were two goals of sumptuous quality. Fabregas hit a searing drive from 30 yards before Adebayor topped it with a right-foot volley after flicking the ball up on the area's edge.

For Spurs the misery deepened when, at 2-1, Darren Bent, a £16.5m substitute, horrendously miscued with only Almunia to beat. Never mind "playerish"; that was amateurish.

Goals: Bale (15) 1-0; Adebayor (65) 1-1; Fabregas (80) 1-2; Adebayor (90) 1-3.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Kaboul, Lee; Malbranque (Bent, 82), Huddlestone, Jenas, Bale (Lennon, 69); Berbatov, Keane. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Zokora, Rocha.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Sagna, Touré, Gilberto, Clichy; Hleb (Song, 90), Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby (Rosicky, 56); Adebayor, Van Persie (Denilson, 85). Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Walcott.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Booked: Tottenham Jenas, Chimbonda. Arsenal Sagna, Hleb.

Man of the match: Adebayor.

Attendance: 36,053.