Tottenham Hotspur 2 Arsenal 1

Arsene Wenger had stressed the importance of not dropping further points in the Gunners’ quest for continued Champions League football next season. Three consecutive Premiership wins suggested that the team had grasped the enormity of the task, but after Arsenal’s 2-1 loss at White Hart Lane on Sunday, Spurs are sitting on a seven point cushion ahead of Wenger’s side. The gap can be breached, of course there is every chance that may happen and especially given last seasons’s feat with an exact points gap as that at present. The manner of the loss however will be tough to take, and especially in a match where Wenger can count his side to have been unlucky.

Gareth Bale slotted home Spurs’ opener after 37 minutes. It was cruel, and especially more so given that Arsenal passed and moved with purpose and desire, but without actually testing Hugo Lloris. Unable to take their chances, Bale exposed a sleeping Arsenal defence and less then two minutes later, Aaron Lenon virtually repeated the move. For the second time, and pushing with a high line, but without putting pressure on the ball would cost the Gunners dearly.

Per Mertersacker headed in Theo Walcott’s corner for his second Arsenal goal six minutes after the break – the first was against the same opponent and also a header at the Emirates stadium earlier this season. 2-1 down and a composed finish from Aaron Ramsey four minutes from time would have deservedly brought the resurgent Gunners level, but the second Arsenal goal would not arrive. Bale skied a shot when he would have expected to have done better, and substitute Lukas Podolski saw a late strike fly over the bar.

For an under pressure Wenger, the loss was hard to take.

” It’s very frustrating because we had a great attitude but we come out with no points and as well because we were not efficient in the zones where it matters – at the front and at the back. Also, without being at any moment dominated, the only times Tottenham were dangerous today was on counter-attacks. If you are dominated and they create chance after chance, OK you accept it. But today it was a strange game to lose,” he said.

” We put so much effort it and we lost the game when we were on top of the game. If you watch the game again you will see that at the moment we were 2-0 down we should have been 2-0 up. They had a very difficult start, we were on top of the game, and the 2-0 lead of course gave them the confidence to defend well and that’s what they did for the rest of the game, ” he said.

Arsenal find themselves in fifth place in the Premiership, two points ahead of six the placed Everton, and five behind fourth placed Chelsea. What is emerging is that three London sides are battling for two Champions League places, with ten games remaining. Arsenal also face the daunting task of overhauling Bayern Munich’s 3-1 first leg Champions League lead for the second leg in Germany. With the Toffees’ involvement in the FA Cup this weekend, Arsenal will have ten days to come up with a plan that will more than likely cover a few defensive scenarios on the training pitch. The severity of the task at hand is not lost on Wenger and his sides’ quest for a top four place.

” It will be a massive challenge, massive. I said before the game we couldn’t drop these points today and I maintain that after the game. Especially the way the game went, it is difficult to understand how we can lose games like that.

” Ideally you don’t concede goals at all. It is frustrating because we had the best defensive record in the league away from home until today. When you go into a big game like that, once you’re 2-0 down you make it difficult for yourself because you have to come out, open yourself up against a team that is good at counter-attacking.

” But after in the final 20 minutes it was stop and go, they would foul and stop us from going. They stayed down a lot. We couldn’t get the final flow into the game because it was stop and go always.”

Wenger noted of the opening goals, ” It happened to us many times this season and only in big games. It’s difficult to say why, there’s no common thing, in all the games there is a different problem. But after you make it difficult for yourself. I cannot fault the attitude or the effort that the team produced, or the spirit the team has shown, but you give yourself a mountain to climb every time in a game of that magnitude. ”

The Arsenal manager remains committed as ever, and feels the pressure every time his side do not deliver. Emerging reports of a Gulf based consortium’s proposed £1.5 billion takeover of Arsenal were given short shrift by the club, but the added pressure will hardly do anything to lift the mood of a once confident side.

Getting in the quality and not selling your star players has always been the hallmark of genuine winners. Wenger had that knack in his earlier days, but based on the recent inability to challenge for the title, he must now accept that his past proven formula of doing things on the relative cheap has been exposed at critical moments along the way.Perhaps a genuine welcome and dialogue with the Gulf consortium’s proposition could be the first way of resurrecting the Gunners’ fortunes.

The Board would be wise to at least explore what is on the table.