Arsène Wenger has already had cause to lament the manner in which external forces have been dispatched to undermine the noble efforts of his Arsenal players. The manager erupted on the eve of the Champions League tie against Bayern Munich last month when he sensed a media conspiracy to unsettle them and he could now ask similar questions over the timing of the revelation about the mystery consortium of Middle Eastern billionaires that want to take over at the club.

These are no ordinary Middle Eastern billionaires as they have a soft spot for the working man in north London. Reducing ticket prices and firing the atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium with the introduction of a singing section would be part of their £1.5bn push to wrest control from Stan Kroenke.

No populist stone appeared unturned in the story that was leaked to a couple of Sunday newspapers, with another vote-winner being the huge transfer kitty that would be available to Wenger. As though he does not already have one.

The timing was controversial. According to the story, the world record bid would come in the next few weeks, yet the information clearly needed to be circulated on the eve of the pivotal derby against Tottenham Hotspur. It was not a great leap of the imagination to see it as designed to appeal even more readily in the event of a defeat to the section of Arsenal supporters who have grown disgruntled at the lack of trophies and direction.

Which is where we are now. The external forces that made the difference on a frenetic afternoon were the Tottenham central defenders Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson, and the attackers Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. Wenger had said that Arsenal could not afford to drop points but the nightmare scenario of missing out on Champions League qualification now looms, together with the irritation of a first finish below Tottenham since 1995.

The potential takeover bid did not distract Wenger. He had joked to friends before the game that he had been promised 10% of the sale proceeds and he could legitimately wonder why the story had been publicised before the consortium had even approached Kroenke. When Qatar and the UAE took over at Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City respectively, there had been nothing to trail the deals. When unnamed investors from the region were linked to Manchester United and Liverpool, we heard nothing more from them.

Kroenke's position is clear. He has never sold so much as a share in any of the sporting institutions that he controls and he does not intend to start with the 41,581 that he holds at Arsenal. He is in it for the long haul. Wenger made the point that only clubs with no money and who want to sell are vulnerable to takeovers.

Wenger could be more concerned at the prospect of a transfer in the balance of north London power and the observation from André Villas-Boas, his Tottenham counterpart, that Arsenal were mired in a "negative spiral and it's extremely difficult to come out of it".

The manager sought the positives and one of them was the staunch support that he received from the travelling fans in the first half. When the home crowd mockingly told Wenger that they wanted him to stay, following Tottenham's two-goal burst late in the half, those in red reminded them that he had won rather more than them. Arsenal's fans did not turn in the second half, even if they were less vocal in their backing of Wenger. It was less edifying to see one of their number throw a banana at Bale while the abuse of Emmanuel Adebayor, their former striker, was as appalling as ever.

The takeover talk swiftly came to be overtaken by a gripping game, in which Arsenal once again showed their frustrating frailties. Their worst moment in the opening 37 minutes had been provided by Wenger, when the ball came to him on the touchline and his touch in smart leather shoes was heavy. Jack Wilshere drove and Santi Cazorla flickered.

But in what almost passed for the blink of an eye, Arsenal were two down. Wenger was out of his seat to lead the inquest into Bale's goal, gesturing at Wilshere as though to ask him how Gylfi Sigurdsson could have been allowed the time and space to pick his pass while Lennon's second was an even worse one to concede. It was the suddenness of the one-two punch that was so shocking from an Arsenal perspective and it reinforced the criticism of their brittle nature.

Arsenal had controlled the majority of the first half and they did likewise at the beginning of the second period, when Mertesacker's header glanced in off Bale and the club's fans buckled up for the latest wild ride. It is the sort of theatre that no amount of takeover millions can affect. But Arsenal could not create clear chances, they sorely lacked penetration and it was Tottenham who threatened on the counter.

The closing minutes turned the screw still further on Wenger. He flapped in that great, long overcoat of his and he prayed for the decisive break. It did not come and the debate about Arsenal's future will whirr once again. It is one in which the same questions have been asked a thousand times and the answers seem to come up short. The men from the Middle East are a rogue twist.