Spurs learn silence is golden
Robbie Keane's boast that Tottenham were now the equal of Arsenal sounded like optimism gone mad even before they met at the Emirates. It had a ludicrous ring after Arsene Wenger's team delivered emphatic evidence of the gulf that still exists.
Keane had added time to consider his ill-judged elevation of Spurs' aspirations when he was removed early from an encounter that was 42 minutes of hard-fought north London derby combat and 48 minutes of one-sided Arsenal domination.
Nothing wrong with talking up your team, but Keane learned a harsh lesson that it is always best to talk big after first backing up your words with deeds.
Spurs failed to do that and the Emirates, unsurprisingly, battered Keane over the head with all the derision at its command when he was removed after 65 minutes.
The big surprise came as Spurs boss Harry Redknapp sat in the Arsenal media theatre and refused to believe the evidence of his own eyes, announcing: "There is no gap between the clubs in my opinion."
Arsenal celebrate their opening goal as Robbie Keane (left) looks on
Sorry Harry. You can make a compelling argument on most football matters, but no-one was swallowing this one.
Redknapp, in his defence, had a point when he claimed Spurs had the game under control for 42 minutes - but their pretensions at a top-four place (and consequently the argument propagated by Keane) is undermined by their tendency to then lose comfortably to the top teams.
Spurs have now conceded three goals in each of their meetings with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Hardly a cause for crisis but evidence that Redknapp's renewal of Spurs still has some way to go.
Redknapp was also right when he suggested Arsenal's fans were turning on their team at the very point Spurs conceded, or to be more precise gifted, two goals.
There was some real old chuntering sweeping around the Emirates until Spurs lightened the mood by allowing Robin van Persie to score after the small matter of failing to switch on at a throw in, failing to defend a cross from Bakary Sagna, and then watching goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes make a lame attempt at a stop.
If this was not galling enough, Spurs then proved it was no fluke within seconds as Cesc Fabregas robbed Wilson Palacios from the kick-off and was almost given a guard of honour towards the goal to complete the formalities.
Game over. Arguments about equality dead in the water. Spurs have now failed to beat Arsenal in 20 league games and Keane may be well-advised to take a vow of silence before the return.
Van Persie's second, the result of more defensive dawdling after referee Mark Clattenburg's superb utilisation of the advantage rule, merely set the stage for an Emirates gloat-fest and an opportunity for Arsenal to indulge in a few passing party pieces.
The empty spaces in the visitors' section of the Emirates as the seconds ticked away told the tale of an afternoon that put the current state of Spurs in its true context. Moving forward, but steady on the hype - especially from their own players.
The strength of Spurs' squad in comparison to Arsenal was central to Keane's claims, but they could not cope without the pace afforded by Aaron Lennon, the suspended Jermain Defoe and the craft of Luka Modric. The trio would have made a serious difference to an attacking game plan that appeared to involve little more subtlety than utilising the height of Peter Crouch.
And the players introduced when Redknapp tried to make changes did not present a glowing advert for their strength on the margins, with Roman Pavlyuchenko and Gareth Bale contributing little.
It was a tough afternoon for David Bentley, restored to the side against his former club and exposed to the taunts of Arsenal's fans.
Cesc Fabregas scores Arsenal's second goal against Tottenham
He was by no means Spurs' worst performer, although he opened as if his shorts had caught fire on the way out of the tunnel, starting with a madcap deliberate handball, a wild tackle on Thomas Vermaelen and an ill-fated attempt to recreate his spectacular goal at Arsenal last season.
There remains a good player in there trying to get out. Whether this version of Bentley emerges at Spurs remains to be seen.
Tottenham are improving under Redknapp. They are perhaps not improving as fast as they think they are. Don't get me wrong - Spurs have a real chance of making the top five and Redknapp will no doubt make additions in January, but they are not as good a team as Arsenal and there is no shame in them admitting it.
Better times lie ahead for Spurs under Redknapp. At this stage of the redevelopment, though, they are not better than Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger was in buoyant mood, revelling in Arsenal's "serious" side and as proud of a clean sheet as he was about the goals.
Not all was well in Wenger's world, however, when his jacket went flying even with the reassurance of a 3-0 lead, explaining: "I couldn't communicate with the team because of the noise of the stadium. I'm not used to that."
Was that a lighthearted swipe at the inhabitants of the old Highbury "library"? Surely not.
Arsenal were not fluent, but Wenger is right to insist they can have genuine title ambitions in what is fast becoming a maverick Premier League season when it comes to results. Chelsea and Manchester United hold sway, but Arsenal are in the mix - make no mistake.
Wenger was also missing some gifted attacking talent such as Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky and with Samir Nasri on the bench as he makes his way back to full fitness.
And the jewel in Arsenal's crown is Fabregas, the grand manipulator of football matches, a master dictator of tempo and the man that makes it all happen.
Asked if there were many who could make matches march to his own beat like Fabregas, a smiling Wenger said: "No. That's why he plays for Arsenal. The first time we saw him play at 16 he had those certain things you cannot teach players."
Fabregas still has "those certain things" - and has added much more besides.
I asked Wenger whether the words from the Spurs camp provided an added incentive, but he said: "The good thing is football is about performance not opinion. Everybody can have an opinion, but what is important is what happens on the pitch.
"Robbie Keane cannot say they are worse than us because it's part of the preparation of the team, but it is about performance not opinion."
And the satisfied Wenger then departed, delighted that Arsenal's performance spoke more eloquently than any other opinion.
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