For Tim Sherwood, his first experience of a north London derby in direct opposition to Arsène Wenger ended with long, gloating cries from Arsenal's fans questioning whether it was true Tottenham's latest manager was actually a Gooner. His team had been well beaten, fortunate in many ways that the Premier League leaders had not taken more of their chances, and the majority of the crowd were determined to milk the moment.
They had plenty to enjoy because the imbalance in talent between the two sides was considerable. Arsenal had played with great expertise whereas Spurs chose a bad day to put in their worst performance since the change of manager. Sherwood's tactics have to be questioned, bearing in mind the way his team were crowded out in midfield, and there was a certain amount of ignominy attached too, bearing in mind the tragicomedy of the second goal. Danny Rose had presented the ball to Tomas Rosicky on the halfway line and the Arsenal midfielder ran half the length of the pitch before gratefully dinking the ball over Hugo Lloris.
Rose had been careless in the extreme on a day when Roy Keane, in his television role, talked of "typical Tottenham" and for some Spurs supporters it was clearly one indignity too many when a smiling Theo Walcott held up his fingers to remind them of the score as he was carried round the pitch on a stretcher, having damaged his knee. An amusement arcade's worth of coins were thrown from the away end in those moments, as well as bottles and other items, and the stretcher carriers had to shield their faces to prevent being hurt. Walcott, in hindsight, might reflect it was not the smartest move and Wenger accepted afterwards the Football Association might get involved. Yet it was the reaction from some of the visiting fans that was the most serious part. The idea that Walcott will get anything more than a mild ticking off seems unlikely.
Certainly that incident should not overshadow another illuminating Arsenal performance and their latest demonstration of what can happen when a team places all their trust in their speed of passing and refinement on the ball. Arsenal do it superbly and Serge Gnabry, at 18, looks like yet another precocious talent to roll off the conveyor belt. "Let's not make superstars with one game," Wenger advised afterwards. "But the ingredients are there."
Walcott's elusive positioning and willingness to run directly at Tottenham's defence made him a constant menace. Olivier Giroud was missing because of a virus and that meant the home side had to rely on their other qualities in attack. Behind Walcott, there was the movement and creativity of Gnabry, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere. In the more withdrawn midfield positions, Mikel Arteta was excellent alongside Rosicky.
It is not often a Premier League club field a team with this lack of inches but Arsenal are one of the few who can make it work.
Walcott alone had manufactured three shooting opportunities before the swift, penetrative move that led to Cazorla putting them into the lead, just after the half-hour mark, with a wonderfully taken finish. Bacary Sagna started the attack on the right and when the ball was played into Gnabry it was his change of direction, from right to left, and Walcott's dummy run in the other direction that opened up the opposition defence. Kyle Walker was sucked out of position as he tried to close down Gnabry and that left Cazorla with the space to pick his spot. The Spaniard took aim with his left boot and fired in a spectacular, diagonal shot.
Tottenham had actually passed the ball reasonably well in the opening exchanges and ought really to have taken an early lead when Laurent Koscielny kicked the ball straight against Christian Eriksen and the rebound fell nicely for the Dane to scamper into the penalty area. Eriksen never really looked fully confident, maybe taking one too many touches, and Lukasz Fabianski, deputising for Wojciech Szczesny, was quickly off his goal-line to narrow the angle and keep out the shot. Spurs deteriorated thereafter and did not manage a better chance throughout the entire match.
There was certainly little evidence of the form that had seen them accumulate 10 points out of a possible 12, including a New Year's Day win at Manchester United, in their four league matches since André Villas-Boas's removal. Nabil Bentaleb, the 19-year-old Frenchman, had a difficult debut, playing in an outnumbered midfield.
Roberto Soldado's turn away from Thomas Vermaelen was one of the game's outstanding moments, despite the defender retrieving the situation with a superb tackle, but there was not a great deal from the Spaniard after that. Emmanuel Adebayor had one of those games when his shoulders were sagged and his touch was erratic and Sherwood's 4-4-2 system looked flawed against a team of Arsenal's midfield riches, however much he insisted afterwards it was not a factor.
It took an injury to Soldado for Sherwood to try something different, bringing on Nacer Chadli to play on the left with Eriksen moving infield in a 4-2-3-1 system. Sherwood was abrupt afterwards when it was put to him he had waited too long, but the evidence was considerable and the change directly followed Rose's horror moment in the centre circle. After that, there was never the briefest moment when Spurs looked capable of rescuing themselves.