Harry Kane is “the present and the future” of Tottenham according to manager Mauricio Pochettino, following the striker’s match-winning display in Spurs’ 1-0 win over Arsenal.
Kane’s towering header deservedly settled the north London derby at Wembley as Spurs’ surge towards an end-of-season place in the Premier League’s top four gathers momentum.
He soared high above Laurent Koscielny in the 49th minute to direct a Ben Davies cross beyond Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech and move Spurs up to third in the table.
And it was only the defiance of Cech that kept a rampant Spurs at bay in the second half, producing a collection of outstanding saves to somehow keep Arsenal in contention as Pochettino’s side threatened to run riot.
‘Are Spurs now the Premier League’s best of the rest?’
It was a performance that almost earned outplayed Arsenal an unlikely point only for substitute Alexandre Lacazette to waste two last-gasp opportunities, the second when he was clear through on Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris but shot wide of the far post.
Spurs survived the scare – and such was their domination after the break that it would have been a travesty had Arsenal escaped Wembley, hosting a Premier League record attendance of 83,222, with a draw.
“Harry Kane is not old fashioned, he is the present and the future,” said Pochettino after it was suggested that the winning goal was one typical of a centre-forward. “We are so proud that he is in our side.”
Spurs’ recent form, which includes a 2-0 win over Man United and a 2-2 draw with Liverpool at Anfield, drew praise from their Argentine manager.
“I congratulate our players, we’ve had three massive games and it was an amazing performance.”
Relive the action from Wembley
Your combined Tottenham and Arsenal XI
Spurs make top four statement
Tottenham were slow to get into their stride in a first 45 minutes characterised by Arsenal’s defensive discipline – but once they moved through the gears the Gunners simply could not live with them.
It was only the outstanding Cech that stood between Arsenal and a second-half rout as Spurs simply swamped their opponents after the break with a formidable display of power, pace and sheer intensity.
Pochettino proud of ‘fantastic’ Spurs
Spurs, at least until Liverpool play Southampton on Sunday and Chelsea meet West Bromwich Albion on Monday night, have now moved into third place in the Premier League and right to the heart of the battle for places in next season’s Champions League.
And on current form, having beaten Manchester United in equally impressive fashion here in their last home league game and performed with such measure and authority to earn a point at Liverpool last weekend, Spurs are making a strong case to be the best of the rest after runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp would mount their own arguments against that but this was Tottenham’s third powerful statement in less than a fortnight and the perfect preparation for this week’s exacting Champions League last 16 meeting with Juventus in Turin.
Once the cobwebs of a lack-lustre first half were blown away, Spurs were irresistible and Arsenal were simply unable to cope with the power of Mousa Dembele in midfield and the creation and running of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli – combined with the inevitable goalscoring prowess of Kane.
The days when there was talk of Spurs suffering a Wembley curse seem an age away after another hugely impressive display from Pochettino’s team.
Another bad day for Arsenal’s big guns
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knew victory was essential here to build on the foundations of last week’s 5-1 demolition of Everton and also to keep up the pursuit of a place in the top four.
And for 45 minutes at least Arsenal stood firm and were well-drilled and defensively organised, giving Spurs very little joy apart from a Kane header from Eriksen’s cross which went wide.
The promise shown by Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – admittedly against an Everton defence that was almost the equivalent of an open goal – did not get the chance to flourish here because of a combination of poor service and poor performance.
Mkhitaryan had a nightmare before being replaced by Lacazette, anonymous for the most part and wasteful when in possession, while Aubameyang had little chance to show the pace and power that is his trademark.
Aubameyang hinted at what he could offer when he showed a fierce turn of pace to escape Davinson Sanchez early on but was barely seen after that.
Defeat at Spurs ‘hard to swallow’ – Wenger
Ironically it was Lacazette, seemingly pushed down the order by their arrival, who had those two key chances late on and missed both.
Wenger turned away holding his head in anguish after he squandered the second of those opportunities when clean through on Hugo Lloris – but it would have been a point Arsenal did not deserve.
“It will be more difficult to finish in the top four but we have to fight for it,” a rueful Wenger reflected afterwards.
“The first goal was key and we conceded it. Kane made the difference, that’s what he’s about. I have seen the replay, it is no foul, just good centre-forward play. We can only look at ourselves.”
Arsenal are now six points adrift of Liverpool, who have a game in hand, in fourth place and they must find a way to better employ their new attacking weaponry against the Premier League’s better sides if they are to recover their position.
No stopping Harry Kane
Kane was not quite at his ruthless best in this North London derby – so it is testament to his persistence, character and quality that he was the match-winner once again.
The 24-year-old was unusually wasteful in front of goal in the first half when he directed Eriksen’s cross wide with the goal at his mercy and the striker also sent a stooping header wide after soaring to score the decisive goal.
He also saw a powerful volley blocked by Cech, so even when not quite touching his usual heights, he could – and perhaps should – have scored more goals.
The England international has now scored seven goals in seven Premier League north London derby games – only Emmanuel Adebayor, with eight, has more.
Kane is quite simply one of Europe’s finest strikers. And how Spurs and England will benefit from it.
‘Kane’s got the lot’ – Analysis
Match of the Day pundit Danny Murphy:
Kane is fantastic, a big-game player. His all-round game is phenomenal. In the first half he was the one opening Arsenal up. He had the bit between his teeth. It was like he was so up for the game.
He has got the lot and is so physically fit and strong. He was the match winner and the difference generally.
Man of the match – Petr Cech (Arsenal)
Goal-hungry Spurs – the stats you may have missed
Mauricio Pochettino’s side have scored in their last 15 Premier League games – the longest current run in the division.
Spurs have kept a clean sheet in consecutive home league games against Arsenal for the first time since September 1975.
Petr Cech has now gone nine Premier League games without a clean sheet, his longest ever run in the competition.
Meanwhile, this is Arsenal’s longest run without a Premier League clean sheet (9 games) since a run of 11 ending in February 2002.
The Gunners have lost three consecutive away league games for the first time since a run of four in April 2017.
In meetings between ‘big six’ sides in the Premier League this season, no side has won more points in home games than Spurs (nine – W3 D0 L1).
Spurs’ next Premier League outing is on Monday, 26 February away to Crystal Palace at 20:00 GMT. Arsenal do no return to league action until Thursday