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Nov 20, 2010

Historic Spurs win a sign of the future?

It would be easy for Tottenham fans to get carried away by their side's first triumph at Arsenal in 17 long years, but this stunning victory may go down in history as a defining moment in the short term future of both clubs. • Premier League gallery While Manchester City have been handed the somewhat patronising tag of being the "noisy neighbours" of their local rivals United, the tightening of the gap between Manchester's big two is still wide enough to ensure Sir Alex Ferguson's men do not need to quake in their boots just yet. However, Tottenham's claims to have draw level with their neighbours Arsenal after many years in their shadow had more credence, with their elevation to Champions League status and the success they have enjoyed in Europe's elite competition this season suggesting Harry Redknapp's men were priming themselves to claim the high ground in North London football at long last. A victory in their most recent clash with Arsenal added further weight to that growing belief that the old foes of London football were now playing on a more even playing field, but seismic events of the magnitude that took place at the Emirates Stadium on this Saturday afternoon may well leave a lasting imprint. Arsenal fans will rightly point out that one victory counts for little in the grand scheme of things and yet with each and every brick that Tottenham place in their increasingly complete wall, they are starting to look like the team with real momentum in North London football. Their thrilling victory against Inter Milan last month could have been dismissed as a one-off glory night if Spurs had followed it up with their familiar mix of inconsistent failures, but their first victory at a "top four" club in 69 attempts was significant in so many ways. Falling 2-0 behind inside the first half an hour and lacking in belief as they faced up to the latest big test of their credentials, Spurs fell into all their old traps as their misplaced optimism appeared set to be undermined for the umpteenth time. However, this Tottenham are different from their less confident predecessors and after a thrilling second half fight back say them draw level thanks to the input of their main men Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart, the stage was set for them to secure the victory that could have transformed their image for good. A sign that Redknapp and his team believed victory could be theirs was confirmed as they refused to settle for a point as they drew level with Van der Vaart's 67th minute penalty and you could sense the mood around this sold out Emirates Stadium turn decisively in Tottenham's favour. With Arsenal boss Arsenal Wenger looking increasingly animated on the touchline and his team wasting a couple of late chances to snatch a lead themselves, Tottenham's moment of destiny arrived five minutes from time as they were awarded a free-kick some 35 yards from goal. Wenger's arm-waving fury at the decision to give Spurs a set-play confirmed that he was fearing the worst as Van der Vaart stepped up to deliver the sort of set-play Arsenal have failed to defend with any certainty for years and as Younes Kaboul glanced a header towards goal, the Tottenham celebrations began in earnest. You could hardly blame the visiting fans for celebrating as if their team had who so much more than three points because this match will always means more than any other in a season and Spurs boss Redknapp returned to his pre-season script as he reflected on his side's heroics. "I've said we can achieve anything with this team and we are aiming for the very top, which means the title is a possibility for us," stated the Spurs boss. "Tottenham have a team now that should challenge for the championship within two years, that is my honest belief. "I gave my lads a rollicking at half-time because they didn't believe in themselves in the first half, but to come from 2-0 down and beat Arsenal at this stadium is a fantastic achievement. The fans won't forget this win for a long time." A third home defeat of the season was impossible for Wenger to accept and he could barely contain his annoyance as he met a media pack ready to bombard him with difficult questions. "I'm speechless that we lost this match because if you look at the statistics, it is hard to see how Spurs finish on top," said the crestfallen Arsenal boss. "They shouldn't have been given the free-kick that they scored the winning goal from and luck was against us in other occasions in this game. Tottenham did not create too much over 90 minutes, but clearly we have a problem with concentration at key moments. "This is a difficult result to accept, but we lost focus and that was crucial in the second half. Why we allowed them to catch us on the counter attack when we were 2-0 ahead is something we have to look at." Arsenal's inability to deal with set-plays and their failure to finish off opponents they have at their mercy are not being addressed by Wenger and for that reason, it is hard to see how the Gunners can possibly end this season as champions. Whether Tottenham are the genuine title contenders Redknapp believes them to be remains to be seen, but in a season when no team seems capable of grasping the nettle and take hold of the title race, an improbable contender may just have announced themselves. MAN OF THE MATCH: William Gallas The former Arsenal captain was handed the Tottenham armband as he returned to the Emirates Stadium and he turned in an impressive display to repel his former team mates. "He was immense from start to finished," was Redknapp's verdict of his Frenchman. NASRI MAKES HIS POINT: Arsenal midfielder Nasri refused to shake the hand of Tottenham skipper Gallas before kick off as the long running feud between the two was made public. Nasri has Gallas have been at loggerheads since the later criticised the former in a recent book. FACE IN THE CROWD: Thierry Henry was back at Arsenal, bedecked in his red and white scarf. He will not have enjoyed a horror story of a second half for his old team. ARSENAL VERDICT: It seems somewhat repetitive to suggest Arsenal's weakness defending set-plays and their mental fragility will cost them again as their critics have been saying suggesting as much time and again over the last five trophyless years. In a season when the title is up for grabs, Wenger's men appear to be capable of taking advantage. TOTTENHAM VERDICT: One win does not make a season, but this particular victory suggested Spurs are finally ready to step up to the plate and challenge the big guns consistently. It would be refreshing for the league if they live up to their manager's boasts and push for top spot in the months ahead.

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