or Tottenham, this was a damaging defeat which ended their Spring renaissance, reopened old wounds and raised familiar questions about Jose Mourinho’s management.
Spurs went down 2-1 at rivals Arsenal and could have few complaints about the result which dealt a blow to their hopes of finishing in the top four.
Mourinho’s side appeared to have turned a corner after five straight victories, including three in the League, and pre-match it felt like stuttering Arsenal were there for the taking – particularly after Mikel Arteta dropped his captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the bench for a breach of the club’s protocols.
Instead, it was Spurs who were disjointed and looked short of confidence as they miserably failed their first real test since losing at West Ham last month.
Since December, they have now been beaten by Liverpool twice, Leicester, Chelsea, Man City, the Hammers and now Arsenal – a worrying pattern which proves that they are struggling to go toe-to-toe with direct rivals.
The visitors took the lead against the run of play through substitute Erik Lamela’s sensational rabona goal – one of the most memorable in the history of this fixture – but Arsenal deservedly rallied to win through Martin Odegaard’s deflected strike just before half-time and Alexandre Lacazette’s penalty.
Spurs finished with ten men when Lamela was sent off for two bookable offences, the second an arm to Kieran Tierney’s face which looked harsh.
Once again, Mourinho appeared to limit his players’ ability to play to their obvious attacking strengths by setting up his side to cede possession and play on the counter-attack.
They beat the Gunners 2-0 with that approach back in December but here it was ineffective and Spurs were all at sea before Lacazette scored from the spot after being fouled by Davinson Sanchez.
Kane, Gareth Bale, Heung-min Son, Lamela and Lucas Moura is a formidable group of attackers but they barely had a sniff before a late rally during which Kane had a goal disallowed and hit the post.
That only made Spurs’ tame opening 70 minutes more frustrating. It leaves Mourinho facing more questions about his tactics.
Lamela goal deserved more
Lamela came off the bench to light up a drab Spurs performance with a stunning and memorable goal.
Six-and-a-half years after scoring a rabona against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League, the Argentine repeated the trick, skimming a gorgeous left-foot finish through Thomas Partey’s legs and into the bottom corner.
The strike was against the run of play, with Arsenal having defied the pre-match form book to peg back Spurs from the off and already struck the bar through Emile Smith Rowe’s curling effort. They would also hit the post through Cedric Soares before half-time.
The question at 1-1 was whether Lamela’s goal would be an iconic moment as part of an important win or simply a memorable goal in a damaging defeat. Ultimately it was the latter but it deserved so much more.
The winger went from the sublime to the ridiculous by being sent off for an arm to Tierney’s face. It felt characteristic, although it was actually his first red card for Spurs.
The loss of Son to injury added injury to insult for Spurs.
Inside 20 minutes, the South Korean pulled up chasing a long ball with a suspected hamstring injury and was immediately replaced by Lamela.
Son was able to walk off the pitch unaided but any muscle injury would be grim news for Spurs given the relentlessness of the schedule and his importance to Mourinho’s side.
No Spurs outfield player aside from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has played close to as many minutes as Son this season and inevitably Mourinho will wonder if he could have rested him more.
Did Son, for example, need to play 90 minutes in all three League matches last week, particularly when Spurs were home and dry in the wins over Burnley and Crystal Palace long before the end?
Lamela’s stunning goal soon left Son’s absence as an afterthought and but the Argentine’s sending off means they are both likely to be missing for next weekend’s meeting with Aston Villa.