Arsenal's derby disaster: Gunners capitulate against Spurs to leave UCL dreams on knife edge

Holding Arsenal Tottenham 2022Getty

Two games left, one point in it.

Whatever happens now, it looks like the battle for the final Champions League spot will be going to the final game of the season.

Arsenal had the chance to kill off Tottenham’s hopes on Thursday night in what was billed as the biggest North London Derby in years.

But instead, they saw their advantage in the race for fourth cut to just one point following a dismal evening at the home of their bitter rivals.

Two goals from Harry Kane and another for Heung-Min Son were enough to secure a comfortable win for Spurs against an Arsenal side who had to play for 57 minutes with 10 men following Rob Holding’s red card.

The Gunners are still in pole position and know that wins against Newcastle and Everton in their final two games of the campaign will guarantee them a place in the Champions League for the first time since 2017.

But they now have no room for error following a calamitous performance against their neighbours.

Any more slip-ups and it will be Tottenham who claim fourth, providing they pick up maximum points from their two remaining fixtures against Burnley and Norwich.

The key thing for Arteta now will be how he picks his players up after such a demoralising defeat. There is simply no time for Arsenal to feel sorry for themselves.

They were hammered by Spurs and completely lost their heads, with Holding getting himself sent off after being shown two yellow cards in the space of seven minutes.

But now they must pick themselves up, dust themselves down and go again.

Should Tottenham beat Burnley on Sunday then they will go above Arteta’s side into fourth, with the Gunners not in action until they travel to Newcastle on Monday night.

That will pile the pressure on a group of young players who wilted under the intensity of a hostile North London Derby.

Arsenal actually started well and kept Tottenham at arm’s length during the early stages of the first half. But from the moment the hosts opened the scoring through Kane’s 22nd minute penalty, awarded after a soft challenge by Cedric Soares on Son, there only looked like being one winner.

Arsenal, who had appeared calm up to that point, lost their heads completely, with Holding the chief culprit.

The centre-back had been in a running battle with Son and after some early warnings by referee Paul Tierney, he was booked for tugging back the South Korea international.

A second yellow card followed soon after when the defender blocked off the onrushing Tottenham forward with his shoulder.

It was a moment of madness from Holding, who will now have to sit out the crucial trip to Newcastle due to suspension.

And to make matters worse for Arsenal, they lost Gabriel Magalhaes to a hamstring injury in the second half which will surely rule the centre-back out for the remainder of the season.

That leaves Ben White, who was an unused substitute against Tottenham having just returned from a hamstring problem himself, as the only available senior centre-back for the clash at St James’ Park.

That will be a huge worry for Arteta, as will the way his side crumbled against Spurs.

Kane added to his earlier penalty with a second goal before half-time, stooping low to head in Rodrigo Bentancur’s flick on from a corner.

And Son killed things off with a third just two minutes into the second half, poking home a loose ball after Gabriel had tussled with Kane in the penalty area.

At that point it looked like things could get really ugly for Arsenal, but they managed to limit the damage - although that was largely due to the hosts’ easing off in the knowledge that the game was won.

For Arsenal, now the challenge will be to try and forget about such a bruising night.

They went into the derby knowing they had an opportunity to secure the sweetest of victories, but instead they were left licking their wounds.

Arteta’s side remain in pole position when it comes to the Champions League, however, and know that their fate is still in their own hands.

Two more wins will get the job done.

This is a race that is going down to the wire.

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