Harry Kane to Son Heung-min: goal. Son to Kane: game over. The most lethal double act in the Premier League were at it again, combining to give Tottenham a 2-0 lead by half-time and the platform for a comfortable return to the top of the table.
The numbers alone are worth highlighting. Kane has now scored 14 goals and made 12 assists in all competitions this season, while for Son it is 13 goals and six assists. The pair have built an instinctive understanding and it was stamped all over the second goal in particular, Kane bending his run around Son on a rapid break before accepting the pass and blasting high past Bernd Leno.
Son’s opener was more of an individual effort – and a beautiful one, at that – although Kane did get him up and running and, after that, it was a question as to whether Arsenal’s misfiring attack could penetrate the meanest defence in the division. Mikel Arteta’s team had a few sniffs and they played on the front foot throughout but most of those present, who included 2,000 home fans, could predict the answer.
It was the latest triumph of José Mourinho’s counterattacking gameplan and Kane’s goal meant he became the highest all-time scorer in this derby with 12 – one clear of Emmanuel Adebayor and Bobby Smith.
Arsenal’s woes go on. Mired in their worst start to a Premier League season, it is now five defeats in the past seven games in the competition and they cannot buy a break in front of goal. Only the bottom three clubs have scored fewer than their 10 and it felt as though they could have played all night and continued to work their patterns without reward.
The atmosphere was a long way from that which is traditionally associated with this fixture but it had to be said that after all of these months of ghost games there was noise and feeling inside the stadium. There might have been only a small number of supporters allowed in but they made themselves heard. The designers of the venue had said the sound would be kept in. This was a good advertisement for the promise.
Those present were soon hailing Son for the opening goal and what was a quite magnificent finish. Arsenal knew to be wary of the transitions from their rivals and they had been given a warning about the speed of them in the second minute. Rob Holding played a loose pass to Son and, within the blink of an eye, he had found Kane, who attacked the edge of the area. Kane was fouled by Granit Xhaka but Eric Dier wasted the free-kick.
It was an Arsenal move that broke down on the edge of the Spurs area that provided the backdrop to Son’s goal. After Dier had cleared Héctor Bellerín’s cross, Serge Aurier helped the ball up to Kane, who held it up, as Gabriel stepped off him, before ushering Son up the inside-left channel.
Everybody knew what Son was going to do but it is one thing knowing and another being able to do anything about it. The execution was breathtaking. Having cut inside and shaped the right-footed curler for the far side of the net, Son had Leno clutching at thin air. Bellerín sank to his knees in anguish.
It is difficult to second guess Arteta’s tactical approach before a game. Here, he started with Alexandre Lacazette in a roving role behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which set up a few early clashes between him and Spurs’ holding midfielder, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. Is that really Lacazette’s position? Thomas Partey was back from injury but, frustratingly, he lasted only until the 45th minute.
Arsenal pressed on to the front foot but they failed to work Hugo Lloris, who had been passed fit after a health scare, in the first half.
Spurs’ second goal felt like a killer blow for Arsenal and it was shocking, from their point of view, how they left themselves with two defenders against four counterattackers after Aurier had intercepted another Bellerín cross and set Giovani Lo Celso away. He found Son and there was an inevitability about what happened after that. Kane’s overlapping run was well timed; the finish from a tight angle was lashed in off the underside of the crossbar.
Arteta pushed his full-backs high at the start of the second half and it added up to him going for broke in light of how threatening Spurs were on the break. The visitors needed the next goal before they were picked off again and they had a couple of openings straight away. Lacazette drew a save out of Lloris with a flicked header from a free-kick before Kieran Tierney picked out Aubameyang with a lovely cross. The Arsenal captain headed high – a bad miss.
Arsenal had all of the possession and they camped inside the Spurs half after the interval but their only other real chance came on 68 minutes when Lloris fumbled a Lacazette header around his post. Arsenal kept going and they kept crossing but Spurs kept clearing. Mourinho has never lost a home game against Arsenal and he never looked like relinquishing the record. His celebrations upon the final whistle were heavy on emotion.