Much has been made of Arsenal's summer transfer policy and there will be plenty more shouting before the window finally closes at 11 o'clock on Monday night but, to Arsène Wenger's mind, something fundamental has been overlooked. It is the enduring capacity of his starting XI, the one that has lost only once since 3 March and has repeatedly found the means to get the job done.
Tottenham Hotspur's visit, Wenger had said, was "another opportunity to show we are strong". Their rivals might have spent all of the money – £110.5m to be precise, as opposed to Arsenal's blank – but there is life in the tried and trusted. This result did not represent vindication – Arsenal and Wenger will be judged over the season – but it came pretty close to it.
The home side created the better chances, both in the first half and on the counter in the second, and they deserved the victory despite André Villas-Boas' assertion that a draw would have been fairer. Olivier Giroud's fourth goal in five matches made the difference and while Arsenal had to tough it out in the closing stages, with Wenger finishing with four full-backs on the field, Tottenham struggled to create much of clear-cut note.
Tottenham have experienced another summer of transition and it is obvious that their European and South American signings will need time to gel, to form a unit which is collectively stronger than the one that featured Gareth Bale last season. Bale's loss to Real Madrid is a kick in the guts and there will be times when Tottenham fail to prevail in tight matches when it will feel all the more painful. This was one of those times.
Tottenham were never out of contention but they never truly looked like getting something, even when Arsenal were clinging on at the end.
Wenger said that his team had suffered physically in the final 20 minutes, a legacy of their Champions League play-off exertions against Fenerbahce and, unusually, he made defensive substitutions and sought to close ranks.
The full-time whistle was the prompt for an outpouring of emotion. The clenched fists from every Arsenal player told the story.
"We showed aspects in our game that people are not used to seeing from us; that means commitment, desire, defending," Wenger said. "Overall their goalkeeper was their best player so that shows that we had the chances to win really comfortably."
Giroud's goal was a beauty, even if Villas-Boas would have winced at the space that Theo Walcott was afforded in the inside-right channel or wondered how he did not fall victim to Tottenham's offside trap.
The problem was that, while his team's defenders on the left were high up, those in the middle were not. Walcott accepted Tomas Rosicky's pass and crossed low for Giroud, who worked himself clear of Michael Dawson to execute an instinctive, left-footed flicked finish. Hugo Lloris was beaten at his near post but not embarrassed.
Tottenham had their moments in the first half. Roberto Soldado, whose raison d'être is to come alive inside the area, dropped off into space to meet Kyle Walker's cut-back only to see his shot blocked by Per Mertesacker while Andros Townsend, England's newest call-up, looked lively and inventive. Twice he jinked inside to unload shots that tested Wojciech Szczesny.
Arsenal, though, were proactive and their midfield bristled with verve. Santi Cazorla was brilliant, as usual; Rosicky always seems to save his best for the derby and Aaron Ramsey was powerful and incisive. It feels like a trick of the mind that his career hung in the balance only three years ago after that grisly game at Stoke City.
The blot for Arsenal was Jack Wilshere. He has not looked right this season – even Wenger has admitted that he is not 100% fit – and he was forced off in the 43rd minute, although he was suffering from a virus and not an injury.
On came the re-signed old boy, Mathieu Flamini, who bit Tottenham calves and made his presence felt. The Bosman arrival was a symbol of Arsenal's desire. "I'm just sorry that he didn't cost £25m," Wenger said.
Cazorla went close from two free-kicks in the early running; Walcott forced Lloris into a sprawling save and Ramsey lifted a glorious chance over the crossbar from Walcott's clever ball. Tottenham hearts also raced when Walcott went clean through on 33 minutes and Lloris, outside his area, threw himself into a central defender's sliding challenge. He got the ball. Had he not, the consequences would have been dire.
The onus was on Tottenham in the second half. They played higher up the field; they pushed and they probed. Villas-Boas's team is not one to blow the doors off, rather to remain patient and attempt to get them off their hinges. The manager made changes, including Sandro for the stricken Etienne Capoue, who suffered a horrible-looking shin injury, and the home crowd grew tense.
Arsenal threatened on the break through Giroud and Walcott – Lloris stood tall – so one chance might still have been enough for Spurs.But the substitute Jermain Defoe's deflected shot in the 76th minute drew a smart save from Szczesny, Soldado's rebound was charged down and Walker sliced at a presentable opening in injury time. Tottenham, though, did not do enough.
Man of the match Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)